This pair of time-worn monoliths on the main road from the river, standing guard over the threshold of the Theban Necropolis, are all that remains of a temple built by Amenophis III around 2400 years ago. At 18m high and weighing 1000 tons, they have remained strong and steady despite years of a change in their surrounding landscape. Surrounded by fields, the Nile waters rose each year, until upriver dams ended the annual floods in 1964 to reach the Colossi’s feet.
Legend has it that they could once sing; a whistling sound documented by the ancient Greeks was probably produced as the statues’ stones, warmed by the sun’s early morning rays, gradually expanded and rubbed against one another along an existing crack. Outraged that they wouldn’t sing for him, Roman Emperor Septimus Severus (193-211 AD) repaired the crack and left them silent. A stele at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo poetically describes the temple as being built from ‘white sandstone, with gold throughout, a floor covered with silver, and doors covered with electrum’. It takes a visit to the Colossi to truly understand the experience of this description.