Inside, there are courtyards, columns and fabulous colonnades, one a hundred metres in length and built byAmenhotep III
. Its columns are topped with carvings of the papyrus plant. Along the way there are inscriptions, scenes from ancient Egypt and even Roman stuccoes that can be seen partially covering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. On the outer wall of the pylon are inscriptions that tell of the battle between Ramses II and Hittites. The temple is a glorious celebration of the power of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom and a ‘must see’ sight.
Heading out of the Luxor Temple
towards the next ‘must see’ sight,the Karnak Temples
, you will reach the Luxor Museum on the corniche
. Be sure to go inside.
Quite modern in appearance, it was founded in 1975 to house antiquities dating from the ancient civilizations of the area found in more recent times, including some of the Tutankhamun treasures. While the Egyptian Museum in Cairo displays ancient artefacts to perfection, it is quite moving to see such extraordinary items exhibited in Luxor, the city where they were found.
The Karnak Temples
barely need an introduction, they are so famous. The largest ancient religious site in the world, the complex takes its name from the village of Al-Karnak and, in fact, comprises three distinct temples.
The largest, the Precinct of Amun-Re, is ancient and dedicated to the god Amon. It is the only area open to the public. There is also the Precinct of Montu, the Precinct of Mut and a now dismantled building, the Temple of Amenhotep IV. The triad of Luxor is Amun, Mut and Khonsu.
The site dates from as far back as 2000 BC and although building would have been low key in the beginning it is said that around 30 pharaohs added buildings, temples, chapels and architectural wonders to it over a period of about 2,000 years from the Middle Kingdom right through to Ptolemaic times. The result is a fabulous treasure trove of ancient buildings and structures, columns, courtyards, pylons and obelisks, even a sacred lake, the scale of which is unparalleled anywhere in the world.
At the entrance you pass over what is believed to have been a canal connected to the Nile, complete with an ancient dock. Sadly, there is little remaining of the dock today. The entrance road, dromos, is lined with a row of statues either side and is known as the Avenue of Rams. The statues represent Amon and are beautifully preserved. Once inside the building be sure to see the huge statue of Ramses II
, one of the iconic images of the Karnak Temples.
Other major sights to see on the East Bank of Luxor include the Mummification Museum,
which is located right on the corniche. It has a huge sign outside and is really easy to find. Inside, there’s a graphic display of how the ancient Egyptians would mummify not only humans, but also crocodiles, of which there were plenty in the Nile, household pets and even fish. All are exhibited in mummified form, including the body of Masaharta, a High Priest of Amun in Thebes around 1050 BC.
In the museum you can also see examples of the tools used to remove bodies’ vital organs and drain fluids, and to replace voids with salt, plus artefacts like embalming fluid, canopic jars and coffins. Like the Cairo Mummification Museum inside the Egyptian Museum, this is fascinating place but not one for the faint hearted.
Look out also for the oldest mosque in Luxor, the El-Mekashkesh Mosque
, where it is said to contain the remains of a 10th century Islamic saint, several churches and the great Coptic basilica next to Luxor Temple. For a leisurely way to see Luxor from the river, take a felucca,
which is a wooden sailing boat, or one of the motorboats that can be seen making their way up or downstream at most times of the day. The landing stages along the East Bank are the starting point for many of the cruise ships that run to and from Aswan too.
On the West Bank, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Nobles,
plus many other fabulous temples and structures can be seen. Look out for the Madinet Habu Temple
, which includes temples to Amenhotep I
and Ramses III
, the two huge statues known as the Colossi of Memnon,
the funerary temple of Ramesseum
and the landmark temple to the great femalepharaoh Hatshepsut
, the elegant building known as the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir El Bahari
Carved into the sheer limestone rock face, the beautiful temple has three floors and a long sweep of steps and a walkway as its entrance.
It is said to have been designed by the pharaoh’s own architect Senenmut during the time of the 18th dynasty. It makes an astonishing, almost haunting, sight from the East Bank.
To one side of Hatshepsut’s temple are the ruins of the Temple of Montuhotep II, while to the other is the Shrine to Amun and the Sanctuary of the Sun. A row of statues are said to depict the queen, although appear in a male form. You can also visit the Chapel of Anubis
where the paintings and reliefs on the walls and columns are fascinating and retain much of their original colour. They tell the story of Hatshepsut, one of only three females to have ruled Egypt.