Sorry I couldn’t write since I wasn’t feeling too well the past 3 days.
Day before yesterday, we went to the Temples at Karnak. Our guide Ikram has 27 years experience as a tour guide. She was amazing.
Temples of Karnak, one could say, was the spiritual extravaganza of the ancient egyptians. It is so huge that one has now way of perceiving its size either by reading or by seeing pictures.
These temples were built over a 1500 year period started in the middle kingdom. Most of the work was done in the new kingdom.
At the entrance to the complex is a series of ram headed sphinxes on both sides of the entrance. Apparently, this sphinx studded road all the way to the Nile.
You see the massive pilon (this is the name given to the 2 walls at the front of these temples). This one was done in the 30th dynasty by Nectanebo I.
Once you inside you reach the world’s largest hypostyle hall with 134 columns representing a papyrus forest. The roof has fallen but some are still there including the hieroglyphic inscriptions. Then we saw a temple with a series of Amenhotep III statues standing on either side of the temple corridor. We also a similar set of statues of who else Rameses II. Then we saw one special standing Rameses II which had a smaller statue standing before him – our guide said it is Nefertari his fav queen but another guide said it is his daughter who was also his wife!
But the woman’s statue is still beautiful making us wonder how beautiful the person would have been in real life.
Then we saw the Amun temple – or the Temple of the Theban Triad – Amun, Mut (amun’s wife) and Khonsu (moon god).
We also saw 2 obelisks built by Hathepshut one of which is still very well preserved.
Interestingly the Amun Temple has a big sacred pond (equivalent of a Hindu temple tank). Our guide told us that they also had the tradition of dedicating young girls to the temple.
Cartouche – a signature in hieroglyphic script specifies the name of the king, queen etc. Rameses II’s cartouche is the most seen one because he had the habit of stamping his cartouche everywhere even those that he didn’t build!
Then we reached the Luxor temple. Here in front of the 2 pilons there were 2 obelisks – only one is still standing and the other one is in Paris, France.
In front of the Luxor temple is the avenue of sphinxes – this time with human head. The Luxor Temple was connected to the Karnak complex via a long road a few kilometers long and the entire avenue was lined with these sphinxes.
The pilons I observed for the first time (blame my poor observation) resemble a inverted trapezoid shape with the entrance in the center. It is somewhat like if you just looked at the Gopuram of Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore with an entrance carved to the center of it without the structure below the Gopuram. Our guide said this pilon concept is to symbolize the mountains and the rising sun as the entrance in between.
We then entered the temple and there is a mosque inside but it is at an altitude. It turns out that at the time the mosque was built the temple below had not been excavated.
Inside we have a hypostyle hall with 14 columns. The chapel has a special enclosure built by Alexander the Great – we could actually see Alexander’s cartouche. The temple itself was built by Amenhotep III (the king who is represented by the Colossi of Memnon we covered earlier) from the 18th dynasty.
In the hypostyle hall’s walls you can see reliefs showing the Opet Festival – during this time every year, Amun, Mut and Khonsu (the theban triad) travel to the Luxor temple marked by festivities and dances.
In this temple, we see what is called the Birthing room – the queen is in front of Amun Ra and is touched by Amun Ra and becomes pregnant.
Then she gives birth to the pharoah – god Khnum creates a baby and its shadow on the potter’s wheel. When the boy attains a certain age, a relief shows purification rites being done (a la Baptism rites).
After this we went back to our hotel and took some rest. Then we headed back into the town to see the Luxor Museum.
Lots of artifacts including some well preserved mummies. We saw some artefacts from the Middle Kingdom – in fact Akhenaten’s strikingly different facial features are fascinating. Incidentally, Akhenaten (father of Tutankhamun) tried to move the people to a monotheistic religion with the god Atum. It is still the same Sun God but he wanted only one god. But this religion didn’t last very long because as soon as Tutankhamun ascended the throne he switched it back to the old pantheistic religion.
The museum was pretty good overall.
Yesterday we flew back to Cairo and spent the afternoon in the Coptic Cairo area.
More to come…