The city of Luxor is a pleasant city beside the Nile River, with a population of ½ million people. Right in the centre of Luxor (known as THEBES in ancient times), there is a magnificent temple built by Amenophis III (1417-1370 BC) and Rameses II (1104-1237 BC). It is dedicated to the Theban Triad (Amun-Min, Mut and Khonsu). This is one of the most historic temples of ancient Egypt. The Egyptians called their temples ‘the houses of eternity’. Perhaps this is true, as they have so far outlasted time. The long road leading to the temple is lined with small Sphinx statues. At the entrance gate, workers were preparing seats for an evening light show.
We entered through the gates past a giant Sphinx who greeted us with its enigmatic smile.
I was so excited when our Egyptologist, Hanan, led me into one of the inner chambers and pointed out the hieroglyphics on the wall that told of the arrival of Alexander the Great. Alexander visited there when he was on his Persian campaigns, stopping by Egypt to drive out the Persians who had invaded the country years before. The Egyptians adored and honoured him, naming Alexander after Horus, the Son of God. There on the wall, Hanan pointed out, was Alexander’s cartouche! Below it some Greek visitors from the 1800’s had engraved their own names. Alexander dedicated one of the temple’s antechambers to the Sacred boat of Amun a replica of the god’s solar boat used during religious celebrations.
During the Roman period (284-105 AD) the temple was used as a military camp. There are still some restored paintings from that period at one end of the main building. Later it was used as a church by the Christians and after that the Mosque of Abdul Haggag was built which stands alongside the temple wall.
Mosque of Abdul Haggag
North of Luxor’s city centre is Karnak, one of the largest religious complexes. It was known as Ipet Isut which meant ‘the most select of places’. Over the years it was enlarged by various Pharaoh’s. It covered an area of 247 acres built around the Temple of Amun, and served as a spiritual centre and economic hub composed of temples , obelisks, pylons, courts, colonnades, halls, reliefs and sanctuaries.
As I approached it, down the long avenue of sphinx-like animals, I could not help but feel a bit overwhelmed. The grandest feature of Karnak is the Great Hypostyle Hall which has 135 columns and includes the chapel of Senusert dating back to the Middle Kingdom.
(sorry will fix later)
I was amazed at the massive height of the obelisks that tower over the buildings, one dedicated to Thutmose I and Hatshepsut and one named ‘the botanical garden of Thumose II’ which is decorated with reliefs of plants, tress and animals
After this exhilarating and somewhat exhausting day of touring, we returned to the ship for dinner. We spent a relaxing evening in the bar entertained by a a belly dancer and the most amazing whirling dervish who could spin himself so fast he was a blur like a spinning top!
NEXT: Tomorrow we disembark the ship and begin a cross-desert safari to the Red Sea.