Egypt Part Three: Karnak and Luxor

We docked in Luxor about lunchtime. We were tied to another ship so we had to walk through that one in order to get onto land. We could see in some places the ships were four or five deep. In the afternoon we set out for Karnak on the east bank of the river. In old Egypt, the east side of the river was associated with life as the sun rises in the east. The west side of the river was associated with death as the sun sets in the west. Therefore, generally, temples were built on the east side and tombs were on the west side. In Luxor, the Temples of Karnak and Luxor are on the east side and the Valley of the Kings is on the west side.

Karnak was built about 4,000 years ago. It was a large complex built for the priests and the King, no others were allowed entry. There was a man-made lake in the middle and outside the entrance was a large platform for commoners to gather during festivals. Different kings contributed so it grew over the years. The site was overwhelming, so much to see. The entrance was lined with ram-headed sphinxes. As we entered, the Great Hypostyle Hall was 54,000 square feet with 134 massive columns all beautifully painted. All but 12 columns are 10 meters (33 ft). high with the remaining ones being 21 meters high (69 ft.). The site is considered the largest religious building in the world.

From there we headed into town and stopped at a place where they made papyrus paintings. We had a lesson on how papyrus was made and then were free to spend as much money as we wanted. The prices were reasonable so I bought one and framed it when I got home.

Anubis on papyrus

By this time it was getting dark, apparently the best time to see Luxor Temple. The temple was built about 1400 BC and was used mainly for coronations. In about 395 AD, the Romans occupied Egypt and converted the temple into a fortress and later put a Christian chapel inside. In 640 AD a mosque was added and is still used to this day.
There were originally two obelisks at its entrance. One is now at the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Our guide kept lamenting how many things had been stolen from Egypt. Recently excavated and open to the public, the Avenue of the Sphinxes ran from Luxor Temple to Karnak.

Next time: Valley of the Kings

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