Monday, July 27, 2009

Kent and Susan Weeks - Living on a Dahabiya

New York Times

Kent Weeks and his wife, Susan Weeks, spend most of their waking hours in a 130-room tomb called KV 5 in the legendary Valley of the Kings, the site of many tombs. And at the end of the work day, they come home to a place only slightly less unusual.

The couple lives on a 25-meter-long (85-foot-long) dahabiya, a houseboat moored along the banks of the Nile in this southern Egyptian city of around 400,000, known in ancient times as Thebes. Their closest neighbors are the mummies in the Mummification Museum next door.

“Archaeologists often live on boats because the sites are near the river,” said Dr. Weeks, 67, an Egyptologist. He captured worldwide headlines in 1995 with the announcement that KV 5 had been the burial chamber for the sons of Rameses II and sprawled deeper into the desert hillside than anyone had suspected.

The couple, who have lived in Egypt for much of the last 43 years, first lived on a dahabiya in the 1960s while working with the Unesco team trying to save historic sites after the construction of the Aswan Dam.

The boats, which resemble traditional Arab sailing vessels, became popular more than a century ago when as many as 450 were used for the tourist trade. Only four or five remain from the period and “this handful survived because they had metal hulls,” Dr. Weeks said. “The rest were sunk to get rid of vermin.”

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