Located in the middle of modern-day Luxor, with its main axis running parallel to the Nile, Luxor Temple is the town`s centerpiece.
Largely built by Amenophis 3 (1417-1379BC) and Ramses 2 (1304-1237BC), and dedicated to the Theban Triad (Amun-Min, Mut and Khonsu), this temple has a richly layered history, mush of which can still be discovered in its inscriptions and carvings. Alexander the Great converted one of the antechambers into a sanctuary for the "sacred boat of amun", a replica of the god`s solar boat that during religious celebrations was paraded through town. Under Roman Emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD), the temple became a military camp.
Some rare paintings from this period, located on the south end of the main axis, were recently restored. Diocletian was known for persecuting Christians, but a couple of centuries after his death portions of the temple were converted once more, this time into churches.
Later still, the Mosque of Abul Haggag (named after the 12th century Baghdad-born mystic who lived and died here) was built alongside a temple wall. Luxor Temple was largely covered in sand until the 19th century, and as a result is wonderfully preserved. Like other local monuments, it owes its survival partly to a favorable climate, but above all to the mastery of its builders. The Egyptians called their temples the houses of eternity and they have, so far, outlasted time.
sound and light. Not to be missed, this dramatic narration, offered nightly in several languages, helps make sense of karnak’s long and complicated history. but the best part is the amazing experience of walking around the temple by the light of the moon and stars.
In 1798, Napoleon paid Egypt a visit, hoping to add it to France’s empire. Troops were dispatched to secure Upper Egypt, and on January 27th, 1799, during the long march south along the Nile, the soldiers caught sight of Karnak rising defiantly from the sands. ‘Without an order being given,’ wrote one lieutenant, ‘the men formed their ranks and presented arms, to the accompaniment of the drums and the bands’. Karnak’s aweinspiring power is timeless, a tribute to those who built and understood it as the home of the gods.
Located to the north of the city center, Karnak is perhaps the largest religious complex ever constructed. Its original name was Ipet Isut, meaning ‘the most select of places’. Over the course of two millennia, it was enlarged by consecutive Pharaohs until it comprised an area of 247 acres. Centered on the Temple of Amun (begun during the 11th Dynasty, 2134-1991 BC), it served as a spiritual center but also as an economic hub, containing administrative offices, treasuries, palaces, bakeries, breweries, granaries and schools.
Karnak’s grandest feature is the Great Hypostyle Hall, but its wonders include the Chapel of Senusert, which dates back to the Middle Kingdom, the obelisks of Thutmose I and Hatshepsut, and the socalled botanical garden of Thutmose III, decorated with reliefs of the plants, trees and animals the Pharaoh brought home from his military expeditions. But the massive compound contains countless treasures beyond these. Take a walk around Karnak’s perimeter, where fewer travelers tend to venture. The ground is strewn with inscribed blocks and fragments of statues, where pieces of an age-old puzzle still await reassembly, and treasures await discovery.
Why visit a museum in Luxor, you may ask, when the entire town can be thought of as an open-air museum with antiquities and treasures lying almost everywhere you look? The answer is that every item in this small, permanent exhibit is a priceless masterpiece, lit and displayed to perfection. Here you’ll find key discoveries from decades of excavations, the space and quiet to enjoy them, and the descriptions to understand them. Located on the corniche about half way between the Karnak and Luxor Temples, the museum can be an ideal break on a journey between the two.
One of the recurrent themes in temple art is the Pharaoh in his chariot, with arms extended, his bow and arrow drawn. In the Luxor Museum you’ll see the bows and arrows and a perfectly intact chariot, its leatherbound wheels and wooden yoke looking as ready as ever for a pair of feisty steeds. On a softly illuminated platform in a darkened room lies the mummy of an unknown Pharaoh, whose strange fate was to travel to Canada in the luggage of a 19th century tourist as a souvenir, and is now reunited with his ancestral home.
Across from the Luxor Museum, take the stairs from the orniche down towards the Nile, and spend a lively half-hour contemplating the immortal dead. Aside from humans, some animals sacred to the gods enjoyed the status of mummification, including crocodiles, fully-grown and infant, rams and baboons. The art and science of mummification was an Egyptian specialty, and this tastefully organized little museum shows how, and with what ingredients, it was done.