Sitting adjacent to the Nile, on the right bank, the entrance to the
Temple at Luxor is marked by a tall, broad pylon created by Ramesses II (13th century BC) to celebrate a battle with the
Hittites (a people from the area that today we know as southern Turkey and northern Syria). An avenue of the sphinxes leads to
the entrance of the Luxor Temple, which dates from the 18th
dynasty. The temple was enlarged and partially redesigned by Ramesses II of
the 19th dynasty.
In front of the pylon are large statues of a seated Ramesses II on each side
of the entrance to the Grand Colonnade. A smaller sculpted head of the same
Ramesses and a towering Obelisk are positioned slightly to the left and in
front of the statues and the pylon. The obelisk was once part of a pair and
the other can now be found in the
Place de la Concorde Paris. (If you read
you will learn that the clock at the Mohamed Ali mosque is what
the Egyptians were given by the French in this exchange of
gifts. Unfortunately the clock stopped working shortly after it was
Click the image above for a photo tour of Luxor Temple
Once you pass the seven pairs of columns in the Grand Colonnade you will see the court of
Ramesses II in front of you and behind and above you is a rather unusual
mosque (Abbu el-Haggag) sitting on the top of the reclaimed temple.
For centuries the Luxor
Temple had passed from memory, as it
was covered by swirling sand dunes and local debris (trash) that obscured its location. Over
time a village and its mosque were built here on top of the disguised ruins of Luxor
Temple. When it was discovered that an ancient complex was located
directly underneath the
settlement the village was moved to allow excavation of the temple in
the mid-19th century.
However, the mosque was too sacred to relocate and remains in place to this
day, atop the ancient Luxor Temple.
In the Court area there are several small temples and
numerous statues of Ramesses II. In addition, you can observe details and designs on the walls
commemorating aspects of the life of Ramesses II, as well as examine several modest
temples dedicated to Amun, Mut and Khons, the triad of gods who were of
significant importance in Thebes (now Luxor).
Located to the back and behind the Court is the original temple, which is entered by passing through an impressive colonnade. The columns in the
Great Hypostyle Hall are quite beautiful. The capitals of most columns
are topped with a form that
represents the papyrus bud.
Some areas of the original temple were used by early Christians for their
services and you can still see mosaics from this period on the walls
of this section of the Temple.
Luxor Temple is quite stunning at night when illuminated. If you
have the chance to see it around dusk, the views can be quite enchanting.
This is a popular temple, due to the closeness to the Nile and the core of
the city. If you
want to take photos, it might be best to do so early in the morning when the
temple is not quite as busy as it is later in the day.
Karnak is the great temple of the sun god Amun and it
is among the largest of the Egyptian temples from this period. Karnak has been modified and rebuilt numerous times, so its history
and layout are somewhat
jumbled. It is thought that
construction of the original temple began about 2000 BC.
lost to history for over a thousand years when it was covered by drifting
sand. It was rediscovered and excavated in the 19th century.
The Karnak site is the home of numerous monuments, but we will focus only on
the major temples.
Click the left image above for a photo tour of Karnak Temple
The main temple
of Amun is walled and follows the basic temple plan described in our
introduction to Luxor,
although everything about Karnak Temple seems larger and more distinguished
than at any other temple you will visit in this area. The entrance leading to the Grand Pylon is lined
with sphinx, but in this case they bear the heads of rams rather than a lion, as the ram was a
symbol of the god Amun. Note also that these sphinxes include a small statue of Ramesses
II between the paws of the rams to indicate that he was protected by his
path into the temple continues through an area of massive pillars to a courtyard, where you will find a
large statue of Ramesses II that has been partially defaced, followed by
a second and larger pylon. Next is the dramatic Hypostyle Hall, which
contains over one hundred large, decorated pillars. Further along is the
central court and the main sanctuary where the resident god,
represented as inhabiting a revered statue, was worshipped.
Karnak has a number of temples that are quite
interesting. Outside of the north walls is the remains of the temple of Montu, one of the original gods revered in this area of Egypt. Proceeding
through the temple to the south, you will pass several interesting pylons.
Once you leave
temple walls proper, you will find the Temple of Mut and its statuary, which, although
worn, is quite interesting.
There is something interesting in almost every corner
of Karnak. Several obelisks rise over the ruins as do a number of enormous
statues. However, even small statues seem to attract attention, as does the
small granite scarab on pedestal near a recumbent obelisk along the edge of
the lake. Be sure to spend some time in the Hypostyle Hall as the columns
and their designs
are spectacular. Most of your time should be spent exploring the main
temple, but include the
temple of Mut to the south if possible.
A Sound and Light show is presented after dusk, by the lake which was
used for ritual and for bathing. See the
official website for time of the show and details on the presentation,
including languages available.
While in Luxor, if you have any spare time it should be spent touring the
fabulous Luxor Museum. The museum has many masterpieces of pharaonic art
focused on artifacts discovered in Thebes. Its collection includes
mummies and its presentations are top notch, as well as being labeled in English
and Arabic. See the website of the Supreme Council of
Antiquities for more information on the
Continue the Tour of Luxor
Click for other Luxor Attractions.
Our page on the
includes the Valley of the Kings, Medinet Habu, Colossi of Memnon, and hot
air balloon rides over the West Bank of the Nile.
Or, choose to read about an excursion to the impressive
Dendera Temple associated with Cleopatra.
Our index on the upper right of this page provides links to
other destinations from our Egypt Travel Guide
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