Day Two: The Karnak and Luxor Temples
Luxor Travel Blog› entry 4 of 14 › view all entries
It was a rather special day the day we landed in Luxor. No, not because we landed, but the President of China and Mrs.Mubarak (The President's missus) were ALSO visiting. Mrs.Mubarak was there to inaugurate some new library there. So it made sense that as soon as we landed, we saw a China Eastern B-747 airline parked. And the airport had beefed up security.
Luxor Airport is nice! For an airport that has such a small flight schedule per day, they have nice big departure and arrival lounges, and the baggage area and carousels are so big and spacious. We met our Travco representative at the gate, as usual. I'm getting quite impressed with this company!
We were whisked off as usual in a nice air conditioned minivan to a point near the Nile River where we met our guide, Ahmed.
Our first stop was the Karnak Temple. Or should I say the Temples of Karnak. This was definitely bigger than just *a* temple. It's a collection of sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons and obelisques dedicated to the Theban Gods. There is a huge influence of the Holy Trinity in this area - the holy God Amun-Ra, his wife Mout and their child Khonsu. This complex was built by a host of pharoahs that ruled Egypt, most notably King Ramses III who spent years of labour on the Amun Temple enclosure.
Our entry into the temple began with the much photographed Avenue of ram headed Sphinxes. This picture was a joy to see in travel books and it is equally a delight in real life as well. It's been built so well, with such precision and despite being so old, it's retained it's look and sharp architectural features. The avenue led us past an unfinished pylon into the grand court where Ahmed, our guide took us to each of the individual Chapels - each dedicated to a member of the Holy Trinity. From here, we took pictures of the Great Court before heading into the sacred Temple of Ramses III. This temple, like many other temples we would be seeing in the future followed a very layered structure. You first have the pylon, followed by the Court, Vestibule, hypostyle hall and finally the Chapel.
It was what followed us later that had all of us baffled - the Great hypostyle hall. This is the largest Hypostyle Hall in the world, consisting of some 134 columns that represent the Papyrus flower and built during the "New Kingdom" era. Construction started by King Seti I and was finished by his son, Ramses III. I really cannot say enough nice things about this - it was amazing. 134 pillars, each towering over us...how did they build them so perfectly, so symmetrically, perfectly distanced, perfectly carved, each and EVERY pillar. Overall just totally impressive. This was a highlight for me, suddenly it felt like I'd finished seeing whatever there was to see in the trip, and I could go back home!
The rest of the walk through of the temple was interesting but not as spectacular as this! We saw the Obelisques built for Queen Hatchepsut, the Barque Sanctuary, Hall of Records and a very dull "Sacred Lake" which was apparently used by the Priests for a bath those days before performing any rituals.
We then checked into our cruise - very hep! I was impressed, but more on that later. We were starving and right in time for lunch at the bottom floor of the ship. The food was very international to cater to the European tourists on board. We'd put in requests for vegetarian and there was a good choice. Whenever there wasn't, the chef would have sthg veg made for us.
Our guide said he'd pick us up at 5:30pm in the evening which gave us time for a nice long nap, tea on the docks before heading back to continue the sightseeing. Our next stop was the Luxor Temple. Nowhere as big as the Karnak Temples but equally enticing. This was another temple honouring AmunRa, Mout and Khons and was built during the 'New Kingdom' era by pharaoh Amenhotep III. Like the Karnak Temple, the first thing that strikes you about the Luxor Temple is the avenue of sphinxes. This really is a photographer's delight - the ancient structures, the stone paved pavement and the coconut trees in the background. No doubt we spent a few minutes here clicking away!
The second highlight in this temple is the massive pylon that greets us at the entrance with two statues of King Ramses II and a pink granite Obelisque.
A bit further through the temple was perhaps the most interesting bits. Just when you thought you'd seen everything - a mosque and a Theban place of worship in the same enclosure, it gets more interesting as we go past the Hypostyle hall. In order came shrines for Amun, Mout, then a Christian CHAPEL and then a shrine built for Alexander The Great!!! Seriously, all we needed was a Hindu shrine in here and we've pretty much covered every major religion in the world! I was left speechless and for the first time in my life, I actually appreciated the concept of 'history'.
This temple was undoubtedly a highlight for me, it was a lot smaller than Karnak and hence I found it easier to appreciate. Ahmed then took us towards his car and took us for a nice drive around the town of Luxor. Some parts were cordoned off because of Mrs.Mubarak's visit. We reached our ship well and truly by 8pm, right in time for dinner. We were exhausted and stunned at the same time. It was good to see my father suddenly not talking about the Egyptian heat and summer, but instead talking about the architecture and the history. In a word, GREAT START to a GREAT WEEK! From this point onwards, all I can say is bring it on baby!
Click on Next Entries on the Left to read about Valley of Kings, Queen Hatchepsut Temple and Colossi of Memnon