Pillars of Karnak Temple, Luxor
Luxor, "Jewel of the Nile", is built amongst the ruins of the ancient city of Thebes, on both banks of the river Nile. This is a truly magnificent setting - with wonderful wide views and fantastic sunsets.
The West Bank was "The City Of The Dead". Out in the desert the tombs and temples of the dead were displayed - or concealed - in The Valley of the Kings and The Valley of the Queens, just a kilometer or two from the verdant banks of the river. Today the West Bank hardly seems to belong to Luxor - it's so peaceful and rural.
The East Bank of Luxor is the main city . In ancient times the East Bank was "The City Of The Living" - and of the gods' temples
Temples and monuments are scattered across the landscape on both banks of Luxor. Their sheer massive scale, their glowing colours and mysterious wall carvings and hieroglyphics, their unimaginable antiquity - all these things enthrall visitors. It's a unique experience of an exotic past dominated by great pharaohs and demanding animal-headed gods.
We have reviewed a great selection of books about Luxor (Thebes) and the surrounding area if you are the kind of person who likes the inside story. There's also a fantastic website at the Theban Mapping Project for anyone who has a detailed interest in the archaeology.
This temple to Amon was originally built by Pharaoh Amenophis III during the New Kingdom. Many pharoahs after that continued to expand over the centuries, until it eventually became known as 'Ipet Reseyet', the 'Harem of the South'.
You enter Luxor Temple from Al-Nil St.
Before Thebes (now Luxor) became the capital of Ancient Egypt, Karnak was simply the home of a minor local god, Amon, represented as a goose. It was also home to his a flock of sacred geese!
These days - or nights - the story of Karnak Temple is told in a contemporary spectacle of sound and light, with separate shows in Arabic, English, French German or Spanish.
The ancient Egyptians fought religious wars to try to increase the power of their gods, and as Amon achieved greater importance he was represented as a ram. Eventually, when he had achieved his full power, he was represented in human form - but wearing goose-feather head dress! Then the high priests of Karnak would crown each new king as "the beloved son of Amon, king of all the gods".
At this time Karnak Temple was called 'Ipet-Isut' or Most Select of Places. As 'the place of the initial rising of the first time' - the place where Amon-Ra made the first mound of Earth rise from Nun - it was a very significant location. Over 2000 years it developed into a vast site - a 'city of temples' dedicated to the three gods of Thebes: Amon, Mut and Khonsu.
Everything about the Karnak Temple complex is huge - built on a scale which is almost too vast to look at. Gazing up at the statues and pillars gives a whole new depth to the phrase 'bending over backwards'. The sacred enclosure of Amon could by itself hold about ten cathedrals. Karnak's breathtaking Hypostyle Hall, even today, holds the record as the biggest room in any religious building in the world.
Karnak, this most special of temples, was the place of coronations and jubilees. The temple's huge sacred lake must have been a real spectacle during festivals when golden barges sailed its waters bearing images of the gods.
The 3km avenue between Luxor Temple and the sprawling Karnak temple to the north was originally flanked by over 2,000 sphinx statues, down its entire length. The avenue is now dsirputed, but traceable in parts, and some sections still make a great photo opportunity - especially at the northern end, approaching the entrance to Karnak Temple.
Luxor Museum is great! If huge museums like the Egyptian Museum in Cairo baffle and exhaust you - then prepare for a treat at Luxor Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art
The museum is fairly small, but don't let that fool you. There are some really terrific exhibits - you just don't have to kill yourself getting around them all. Because it's so uncluttered and the exhibits are well labelled - in English too - it's an interesting and thoroughly entertaining museum!
The majestic gilded head of a cow goddess - recovered from Tutankhamen's Tomb - is on display near the entrance, and his weapons and hunting chariot are further in. So are a couple of blackened mummies - of two great warrior kings, Ahmose and Rameses I - and fascinating artefacts large and small. There's even a 'Talatat Wall', reconstructed from a temple of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten). Why they chose to rebuild a stone wall on an upper floor is a mystery! Another mystery is why the builers of Karnak Temple had used the decoratively carved sandstone blocks - talatat - as rubble infill inside the ninth pylon at Karnak Temple!
This is quite a new museum (opened in 1975), with a fresh feel and good air conditioning. It's easy to find on 'El Corniche' midway beteween Luxor and Karnak Temples - there's likely to be a caleche (or Hantour horse cab) waiting beside the pavement outside.
King Tutankhamun is represented by a cow-goddess head from his tomb (it's on the 1st floor) and his funerary boats (on the 2nd floor). Sadly, almost everything else from King Tutenkhamun's tomb is now in Cairo Museum. Make sure you don't miss the statue of Tuthmosis III on the 1st floor or - especially if you've got children who love anything gruesome - the royal mummies of two pharaohs (Ahmose I and Ramesses I). They've also rebuilt a wall from Akhenaten's Temple in Karnak using the original painted sandstone blocks - 283 of them. Why they chose to do this on an upper floor of the museum is a mystery!
Vast numbers of animal mummies were discovered in the 19th century. Many were shipped to European Museums, but many more were shipped back to England and distributed to farmers for fertilizer. The 19th century book "Description de l'Egypte" (a document published by the French scholars accompanied Napoleon in Egypt) includes pictures and drawings of mummies and details of their wrappings. Human mummies were more highly valued.
The exhibition in the Luxor Museum of Mummification which stands on the corniche north of Luxor Temple overlooking the River Nile, explains everything about ancient Egyptian mummies.
Beautiful mummy-cases and hugely ugly mummies, cat mummies, fish mummies, crocodile mummies and human mummies - all are on display in this unique museum! In this tiny (single-room) museum you'll see surgical instruments and embalming fluids, canopic jars, ushabtis, amulets, the Coffin of Padiamun and the Mummy of Masaherta.
Story boards describe the entire process of mummification - and the religious burial customs.
The building is on the river-edge side of the Corniche - the entrance is opposite the Etap Mercure Hotel.
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