Journey to Egypt, Part 8: Luxor Temple

December 26, 2018

Luxor Temple, in the heart of Luxor city center, is much smaller than Karnak, making it easier to see and digest. We visited after dark, around 6:00 pm. Mohamed said it is more striking at night and he was right. Luxor Temple was almost right across the street from our hotel, Sofitel Winter Palace and we passed it every time we went anywhere.

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1st Pylon with Ramses II colossi in front. The obelisk also represents the king. Originally there were two obelisks; one of them was given to France.

 

Luxor Temple was built mostly during the 18th Dynasty; the construction started in 1390 BCE during the reign of Amenhotep III and added to by Ramses II a hundred years later. Other pharaohs added to it until 323 BCE. It is probable that this temple stands on top of a Middle Kingdom predecessor and the builders may have used some of the materials from that temple to build this dedication to the Theban Triad of Gods -Amun-Ra (a combination of the creator god, Amun and the god of sun and light, Ra), Mut (goddess of queenship) and Khonsu (moon god) as well as to the cult of Ka (the royal spirit).

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On the outer wall of the First Pylon is a barely visible of a scene of the Battle of Qadesh, a campaign that Ramses II waged against the Hittites of Syria.

 

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The ancient Egyptians called this temple Ipet–resyt (Southern Harem) and it was the partner of Karnak four miles away. The late summer Opet festival involved a procession of priests bringing the ceremonial boat of Amun-Ra from Karnak to Luxor. The Avenue of the Sphinxes connected the two temples but was not built until the reign of Nectanebo I, who ruled from 381-362 BCE.

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The statue of Ramses II at left wears the double crown – what is known as the “white crown” is the taller one with sort of a nob on the top; the “red crown” surrounds the bottom of the white crown. The crowns symbolize Upper and Lower Egypt, so the double crown signifies that Ramses II was king of all Egypt.

 

Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE, during the Greek dominance of Egypt) added to it by building a sanctuary for Amun-Ra’s sacred barque.

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In the forecourt beyond the First Pylon is one of originally two seated colossi of Ramses II. The other seated statue is at the Louvre in Paris.

On the side of the seated king’s throne is a partially damaged carving.

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Peristyle Court of Ramses II, a double row of closed papyrus columns with statues in between representing the king. Behind it is a shrine originally built by Queen Hatshepsut which Thutmose III later took credit for, by crossing out her image and cartouches and replacing them with his own.

20181226_182950d.jpgDuring the Roman period, the temple was made into a fortified camp. During the 4th century CE (AD), Christian rule banned all pagan cults and several churches were built inside the temple. One of them survived and became the Abu al-Haggag mosque in the 1100s CE. Locals refused to let it be torn down during the excavation of Luxor temple, so it still stands today and continues to be used as a place of worship and study.

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A seated colossus of Ramses II and the carving on his throne.

At the base of the throne is this carving.

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The Colonnade of Amenhotep III, with two rows of seven closed papyrus columns20181226_182515d
Statues of Amun-Ra and Mut, carved during the reign of Tutankhamun, which Ramses II later usurped.

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Hall of Columns (Hypostyle Hall) of Amenhotep III with closed lotus columns20181226_184739
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Like at Karnak, there are carvings of captives, such as the Nubians – you can tell by their facial features, which in this case are clearly African. The Nubians live in southern Egypt and northern Sudan; they were conquered by Ramses II.
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Syrian captives are also pictured.
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This carving depicts food offerings to the gods. Many kinds of food can be identified in this well-preserved carving.
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These statues are of Ramses II and his beloved wife Nefertari.
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Inside a sanctuary, there are carvings of the sacred barques (boats) of Amun-Ra.
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Traces of color are still visible on this interior wall.
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Well preserved hieroglyphic carvings in granite, including cartouches, which no doubt contain the names of royal rulers. It is difficult to decipher hieroglyphic writing until you know what to look for. The Egyptians wrote from left to right, right to left, top to bottom, bottom to top or even starting in the middle! This was done purposely to make their writing into sort of a code. Only people of high status learned to read and write.
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Next: Valley of the Kings and the tomb of Tutankhamun!

 

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