Haremhab's "house of eternity"
After a while, the foreman and the two children saw General Haremhab's tomb straight ahead of them. Behind it and a little to the left, in the distance, there was the city of Mennufer. The white sails of boats coming to land in Perunufer, the harbour of Mennufer, were like white specks dotted along the horizon but the river was hidden by the sand dunes and mud-brick houses scattered along its banks.
In the tomb the pace of work had not slackened. Haremhab was one of the most important officials and the country's most famous soldier. He had recently been awarded the title of "the Great General", and it was well-known that among all the courtiers it was Haremhab to whom the young King Tutankhamun listened and whose advice he followed.
It was Tutankhamun's wish that Haremhab chose as the site for his tomb a place which was visible from the royal palace at Mennufer. "When you have gone to join your ancestors," the young king said to him, "I shall be able to see your house of eternity, in which your soul will rest, from the window of my bedroom. And who knows, maybe I too shall have my tomb built somewhere there so that we remain neighbours for ever."
All this was reported in whisper one evening by old Sennufer, one of the servants in the palace who was trusted to such an extent that he was allowed to enter the rooms of Tutankhamun and Queen Ankhesenamun. He had overheard the conversation between King Tutankhamun and General Haremhab while arranging flowers which, on the queen's orders, almost filled the apartment and which were replaced every day.
Sennufer's house was close to where Meryt's parents lived and he often stopped to sample Meryt's mother's beer which was renowned in the whole neighbourhood. Sennufer also added, with a twinkle in his eye, something about a youngster at last trying to stand on his own feet. But at that moment Meryt's mother, who had discovered her daughter's presence, told her not to eavesdrop and go to bed, so Meryt never found out what it was about. Meryt was was going to say that eavesdropping was exactly what Sennufer had done in the palace but then she thought better of it and decided that a wiser course was to stay quiet and obey.
A few weeks later the work on Haremhab's tomb began on the spot suggested by the king. Ipi's father and the men of his "western gang" were moved from the work on a small tomb of one of the royal butlers to the site of Haremhab's planned tomb. And now Ipy and Meryt were able to see with their own eyes the tomb which was the talk of all Mennufer.
The photograph shows Queen Ankhesenamun and King Tutankhamun, on the golden shrine found in Tutankhamun's tomb. Burton photo. 314A. © Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.