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Egypt

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          Best Places to Visit in Egypt

Best Places to Visit in Luxor, Egypt

Ramesses II statue at Luxor Temple

Ramesses II statue at Karnak Temple

Luxor Temple

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 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 our Cairo section 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 is was delivered).

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 and 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 then disguised ruins of Luxor Temple.  When it was discovered that an ancient temple 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 that 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 some of their mosaics on the walls of  this area 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 Temple

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. 

Karnak was 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 chosen god.

The 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 pylons once you leave temple walls, 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 several 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.

Luxor Museum  

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 Luxor Museum

Continue the Tour of Luxor

Click for other Luxor Attractions. 

Our page on the  Theban Necropolis: includes the Valley of the Kings, Medinet Habu, Colossi of Memnon, and hot air balloon ride over the West Bank of the Nile.

 Or,  choose our excursion to the impressive and Dendera Temple, associated with Cleopatra.

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