Carter Castle Luxor. Final Part.

On we go…

Dining room.

The next room in Carter’s house is the Dining Room. A lovely, airy room with patio doors leading out onto a small verandah. This room leads both into the kitchen and the foyer. It was surprisingly cool and I wondered how they managed to keep it so during the very hot summers. It was hot here today and yet it felt comfortable.  Although I noticed that they has some very old electric fans in the corner of each room, with blades made of brass so they obviously had some help!

His artist’s easel sits in one corner of the room and a shelf of books is in another. Under glass on the table are photos and copies of his writing and his drawings of the objects found within the tomb. I was interested in his writing as it was very feminine and quite small. Not a man who liked to be very visible and yet he chose a work which made him famous!

The Next room was a spare room for when his family came to visit. It was a large room which looked out onto the tiny garden at the back of the house.

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Each window had lovely lace curtains, which were obviously original as they looked like the would fall apart if you so much as breathed on them!!! They hadn’t been washed for a very long time, but somehow this added to their beauty. I wonder if it possible to get these now as I would love  them!

Spare room for when his family came to visit.

You might have noticed…or not…that I never mentioned a bathroom. The bathroom in the house is a modern bathroom, which was disappointing. I was hoping for a 1920′s bathroom or at least an outhouse!!!! But there you go!!! But they did have one of those old towel racks so I guess that should keep me happy!! Anyway, it would have been lovely no matter what they ate! Interestingly, before the revolution, Zahi Hawass decided that one could sleep in this house on specified nights for $10.000 a night!!!!!  I wonder if that included breakfast…and who got the money?

Carter Castle in Luxor Part 2.

Back to the Carter house in Luxor. 

Water jars.

The next room, which was a lovely surprise, was his darkroom and the room where the water jars were stored to keep the water clean and cool. I’m not sure that it was all this clean and white however when he lived there as his house was surrounded by desert at this time and things never stay that clean for long!!! And he would not have had those beautiful Nubian pottery lamps which shine their beautiful patterns on the prisitine walls. But I love the look! In the reconstruction they have done a great job.

They have a rather huge camera outside his darkroom, which once belonged to Harry Burton, the official Tutankhamun photographer. It must have made photography quite a challenge in those days. He would have had to carry it to the site, set it up and then carry it back to the house again when he was finished. It would have been a major production!!!!

Harry Burton’s camera.

But it is a beautiful piece of workmanship. Made mainly of wood it looks more like a printing press than a camera!!! But it did have wheels, or rather casters, so there was some mobility.  Although not necessarily on the desert floor!! Looking at the photos of the excavation it is also clear that they were not spontaneous photos but well-planned operations!!! Everything is perfectly executed!!!

Carter’s darkroom

His darkroom was painted a dark red and pink. Was this its original colour? It was separated into two rooms and was certainly dark enough for me to use my flash on the camera! It was such a lovely idea to imagine him working in the dark with all his chemicals, slowly developing his photos of the tomb and its artefacts. I could imagine his focus and excitement, and his frustration when everything had to stop for wars, internal ministry issues and money problems. But he was a man with incredible perseverance. He knew it was there somewhere and he didn’t give up looking.

I can identify with his thinking in many ways. All of my adult life I have tried, unsuccessfully, to create a life where I could live like he did. Exploring, digging, recording and writing. As an adult I went to Winchester University to study practical archaeology because, A) I have always loved it and B) my phantasy (as opposed to fantasy!) was to live a life where I could totally focus on my research and discoveries without having to talk or interact with too many people!!! I could be totally immersed in what I was doing, like a laboratory technician and his/her microscope. I yearned for that life. However, the life of a healer is never a solitary one!! But I still yearn for the freedom to be immersed in some creative, exploratory venture which very little disturbance!!!

Carter’s Kitchen

The next room was the kitchen. Oh…it felt so spacious and light. It had a Frigidaire!!! A gas cooker and another cooker. And running water. He created the comforts of home. Power came from a generator outside the house and the running water was housed in a water tank on the roof, which may have been gravity fed! I had never seen a gas cooker this old and was sceptical that they even existed. I was also sceptical about the electric oven and the fridge? But, reality notwithstanding, I decided that I want a kitchen just like it someday! As it turned out however, there was every possibility that the Frigidaire was genuine as they were first put on sale in 1913 and Carter lived in this house until after 1922, which is the year they discovered Tutankhamuns’ tomb. Gas ovens too were in existence since the late 19th century so maybe…

Some of the items were copies of original items but they don’t tell you which is real and which is not. But I guess it doesn’t matter as they are all ‘age-authenic’.

The furniture in the kitchen had all been stencilled too which I wondered about! But perhaps it was done to make it look old?

Carter’s Kitchen Cupboards.

I did love the old cupboard though! It was one of those with the wire mesh to keep the flies off the food! It reminded me of the outdoor cupboards from the which we used to have in the ‘old’ days and which were used to keep the food cool  in. We used to put food that needed to be cool, like cheese,meat etc, in it. It not only kept it cool but kept the flies off too. For people who lived on farms this latter protection was invaluable!!!


All told, I loved this kitchen.  I loved the white, airiness of it and the space!!! It was clean and clear. He must have loved living here although I doubt that he spent much time in here!!!  He would have had other people to cook for him.I also loved the cooker hood. This is a definite Western influence as Egyptian homes do not have these and this one looks more like a chimney breast than a hood but there was a hole in the wall behind this which allowed the warm air from cooking to filter outside. If you have tried cooking in an Egyptian kitchen you will know how important it is to have a air extraction system as it gets pretty hot in there!!! This cooker hood allowed the hot air ‘out’ instead of adding to the already stifling hot kitchen.

But the dining-room? That he would have spent time in! But I will write about that tomorrow!

Carter’s Castle. Luxor 2011. Part 1.

Today we visited the House that Howard Carter lived in when he was looking for the tomb of Tutankhamun. It was beautiful!!!  It has given me lots of ideas of how I would like our flat here in Egypt to look like. The feeling in the house was beautiful and I could easily have lived there. I decided that I would build one like it in the future to live in.

Foyer of Carter’s House.

It was lovely because there were no tourists here so we had the place to ourselves, apart from the guide who works there. My reason for visiting the house was to tune in to the feelings of the man. I wanted to get a sense of him, as I wrote an assignment about him and Flinders Petrie when I was studying archaeology.  But at that point I had only visited Egypt once and had no idea that I would end up living here.

The house was built in the traditional adobe-style, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It felt more like a villa than an Egyptian house but had many elements of both.

I could spend time here reading!!!

It felt cool and airy and spacious and I was completely envious!!!!  I could just imagine living there.   Writing, doing archaeology, working on my photos and painting. Bliss!!!

Carter’s bedroom.

Carter’s bedroom was lovely and most of the furniture was imported from England or built to British specifications. Everything was simple but comfortable but I wondered how much was really here when he was and how much was added later? Much like the National Trust reconstructions!

But I Love it!

Carter’s office was clean and light and led out onto a lovely verandah with large windows.

carter’s office.

It was here that he wrote his notes and corresponded and his typewriter is still here. (If it was really his).  I was itching to look in the photo-albums beneath the typewriter but was too afraid to!!!  If this was the national Trust I would probably be hung, drawn and quartered for even thinking about it!”!!

His type-writer…apparently!

There were lots of photos of him and Carnarvan and samples of his excavation drawings beneath glass on the desk. The entire place felt light. But I wonder what it felt like when he lived there?

Old Irrigation Pumphouse on West Bank, Luxor.

Omar, and his cousin Amer, took me to Omar’s Mother’s old home on the banks of the Nile. We rode, three of us on a motorbike, on small roads through the sugar-cane fields and banana plantations. (The amount of people who can ride a single bike here is a whole other blog!).

The Old Pumphouse.

When we got to our destination, (Omar didn’t tell me where we were going as it was a surprise!) we had to walk through the banana plantation which his uncle owns. I was wearing flip-flops (wish he had told me we were going to be traipsing through mud!) which became a very messy and ‘heavy-footed affair. Wellies would have been the best option but I never thought to take them with me from the UK. Surprisingly enough!

When we reached our ‘surprise’ destination I was shown an old brick building which housed a water pump! This pumped water from the Nile to irrigate all the surrounding fields. It had belonged to Omar’s grandfather and his mother and her brothers and sisters had been born here and lived here until they moved to Al Korna, away from the Nile and close to the valley of the kings.

His grandfather had owned the land around the pump-house and had spent his whole life here, working the pump and keeping his fields.  He built a farm around it with lots of fruit trees and vegetables which fed his entire family. When he died his land was divided up and his brother got this land which he turned into a banana plantation.

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As you can see from the photo the level of the Nile was a lot higher in those days. It has receded a lot and is now quite a distance away from the pump-house.

Inside the pump-house was an old Ruston and Horns-by water pump, made in Britain. Much of the metal had been removed and sold but some remained.

When we got home I did some research to try and find out about the pump and found a really good site about old Ruston pumps. I emailed the photos I had taken to the author of the site to find out where it might have come from and how old it was. I also sent him the serial number. He was unable to find the exact the exact model based on the number but he did give me what he thought it might be. He suggested that:

“Your machine is the Ruston oil engine that would have driven a pump. I am not able to find an entry in the Sales Register for No.420739. However, I found an entry for No.429739. This was a model 3HRO, sold on 28.1.1959, to the Egyptian Engineering Stores,Cairo, for irrigation work. It was rated 18hp at 400rpm. Can you check the plate again, to see if it is stamped 3HRO and No.429739.”

As it turns out, on closer inspection it was indeed the same model!

Serial Number.

When we got home and showed Omar’s mother the photos and the film which Omar had filmed there, she saw one photo of the window which had banana trees growing outside. She still could see the fruit trees in the garden which used to be there when she lived there.  But, in reality, they no longer existed.

We considered renovating the building and the machine so we could preserve it for future generations but we’re not sure if anyone would be interested!!  But who knows? Perhaps its a possibility…