The aptly named City of Luxor was the capital of ancient Upper Egypt (then known as Thebes) and quickly became renowned as a centrer for its high social status and luxury and as a center for wisdom, art, and religious and political supremacy.
A beautiful city in Upper Egypt today, Luxor is one of the most impressive open-air museums in the world. With two major temples within the city, Karnak and Luxor, Hatshepsut’s temple among others, and the gateway to the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens, it has been a symbol of wealth and power for thousands of years. As we pulled into Luxor by ship on the Nile, our first view was the city’s elegant skyline, etched by the ancient Luxor Temple.
We first visited the magnificant Karnak Temple. It was built on ancient temple grounds in the Middle Kingdom, the 11th Dynasty, between 2040 and 1782 BCE, and the earliest known artifact found at the temple was from this period.
Major construction didn’t start until the New Kingdom period by Thutmose I in 1492 BCE when Thebes was capital of a unified Egypt. Thereafter, virtually every Pharaoh wanted to leave a legacy at Karnak Temple and the site is covered with impressive monuments.
Kabash path was an ancient processional roadway also later used by the Romans between Karnak and Luxor Temples – it remains evident today.
It is interesting to visit an exhibit showing the restoration of the site before heading outside to the temple.
An avenue of sphinxes leads to the pylon. These sphinxes are ram-headed, symbolizing the god Amun and a small effigy of Ramesses II, in the form of Osiris, stands between their front paws. They once would have joined the avenue of Sphinxes from Karnak to Luxor Temple.
Naturally, Ramses II added his colossal statue with a characteristically tiny image of Queen Nefetari.
The Great Hypostyle Hall was designed by Queen Hatshepsut but constructed by Seti I in around 1279 BCE. There are 134 columns in 16 rows. The architraves on top of these columns are estimated to weigh 70 tons. Ramses II, who also built Abu Simbel, completed the wall decorations on the southern side of the Hall and completed the construction of Karnak Temple.
Hatshepsut had twin obelisks, at the time the tallest in the world, erected at the entrance to the temple. One still stands, as the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on Earth; the other has broken in two and toppled. She later ordered the construction of two more obelisks to celebrate her sixteenth year as pharaoh; one of the obelisks broke during construction, and thus, a third was constructed to replace it. The broken obelisk was left at its quarrying site which we saw in Aswan, where it remains.
Some among us circled the Scarab monument 10 times for luck.
Waleed took us on a little adventure to a small temple currently being restored, and we passed by active archeological operations.
Karnak Temple is one of the most visited sites in all of Ancient Egypt.
We were lucky enough to visit the temple both day and night.
To digitally experience Karnak Temple, UCLA’s digital reconstruction website:
Luxor Temple hovers over the city like an omnipresent queen. Amenhotep III, Ramses II and Tutankhamen all left their imprint. Many pharaohs were crowned here. Alexander the Great claimed he was crowned at Luxor even though he may never have visited. Even more recently, Romans used the temple as local headquarters.
We visited at twilight.
You will by now no doubt recognize this figure (above and below):
Less familiar are statues depicting images of King Tut Ankh Amen:
The interiors of the temple are jaw-dropping:
A portion of “Sphinx Alley,” or the Kabash path between Luxor’s two temples, ends here:
In 2010, several of these sphinxes were discovered:
The magnificant obelisk built by Ramses II was one of a matched pair. The twin was gifted to France by Mohammed Ali in 1833. It first arrived in Paris on December 21, 1833, having been shipped from Luxor via Alexandria and Cherbourg, and three years later, on October 25, 1836, was moved to the center of Place de la Concorde by King Louis-Phillipe.
Surely it cannot be more beautiful than its twin, at Luxor.