The Valley of the Kings, even the name conjures up grandeur on a scale that almost boggles the imagination. When most of us think of that place in Egypt, all we can picture in our mind's eye are rich tombs buried in the sides of mountains or underground and filled with mummies, gold and treasures. The valley has long been a busy tourist attraction, but that could come to an end in the not to distant future. The Egyptian government is worried about the deteriorating state of these tombs and with good cause. Its a funny thing, but just the fact that people go there has a bad effect on the surrounding area. I am not talking about people doing things to the tombs like graffiti or anything like that, although no doubt it does happen, I am talking just about the physical presence of people affecting things. People leave traces of water and heat. They wear things out where they walk and erode things that they touch. It is a shame, but it is true.
This photo shows the actual Valley of the Kings. Its hard to realize that there are so many tombs in here.
The Egyptian government has asked American scientists to fix the problem and preserve the valley. They also want to control flash flooding that affects the area. There have been 62 tombs discovered to date in the valley and a map is being drawn up of exactly where they all are along with a plan to preserve them. The preservation plan is scheduled to be completed within a few months.
So how many tourists are going to the valley? Over 9,000 per day visit the tombs of Ramses II, Seti I and Tutankhamun and this is destroying paintings and artifacts and even the tombs themselves. To allow the tourists to see when they get inside the tombs, hundreds of light bulbs are needed and these also affect the surroundings by raising the temperature and sending light to areas that were without light for over 3,000 years. It is said that this is not even a good experience for the tourists because it is hot inside these places and the actual mummies have been removed and many tourists feel that they are not getting their money's worth after seeing the tombs. So giving tourists a better experience should also be part of the makeover.
Unfortunately plaster was used inside many of the tombs and it absorbs moisture from the tourists and eventually gets heavy and falls off. Egypt expects the tourist trade at the Valley of the Kings to reach 14 MILLION a year in the next decade. This is not a misprint. Can you imagine what damage will be done if some way isn't found to protect those tombs? While this is a boon for Egypt the very attraction itself is being threatened. Some of the things that the new plan calls for is a new type of cold light which will eliminate the heat problem from the bulbs. They also want to limit the amount of people that can be in a tomb at any given time. Plans are also in the works to control the flash floods that ravage the valley.
The disintegration has even spread to the ends of Thebes where approximately 36 of 40 temples are disintegrating. Protecting these temples are also part of the new plan. The valley itself is part of this ancient city.
So where do the flash floods come from? When it rains in the valley, sometimes several inches of rain fall at once and the material the valley is made of just can't absorb this much water and it runs through the valley and often reaches speeds in excess of 20 mph. This has been the main source of tomb damage for thousands of years. I guess the old pharaohs thought that they had figured everything out and found a place where they would lie, undisturbed forever. Nature had other plans. Constant battering by the floods just keeps eating away at everything. Look at what water has done over time in places like the Grand Canyon. Water will eventually cut through anything.
Lets hope that the Valley of the Kings and the other temples and monuments in Egypt are preserved for our descendents to enjoy. These treasures are not just Egyptian but belong to the entire human race and should be respected and viewed by all, after all they are markers on the road to how we got where we are now. By the way, the photographs that accompany this article are very old and I thought that was appropriate given the subject matter..