Fellow Travellers

Friday, March 11, 2011

December 27 & 28 - Luxor

We arrived in Luxor at 7 am and met by our guide and driver, who brought us to the SS Amarco cruise ship where we would spend the next 4 nights. Our bags were deposited in the gorgeous state room (G likes to travel in style) and then we were off to tour the Karnak temple.

"To the ancient Egyptians, Karnak was known as Ipet-Isut, The Most Perfect of Places. Despite being in ruins, it remains spectacular. Possibly the largest temple complex ever built anywhere, it grew in stages over 1500 years, added to by successive generations of pharaohs ,and the resulting in a collection of sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons and obelisks acts as a vast open-air archive of history set in stone"

National Geograpic

I couldn't say it better so I won't try! As you enter the temple you pass through the Avenue of the Sphinx, where you are watched by the mighty stone beasts as you enter. I was in awe of the sheer magnitude of the statues, columns and decoration inside the temple . Amazingly some colourful hieroglyphics remain on the columns and the roof of the temple at the site today, surviving 4000 years. This was my first insight that the world of the Pharaohs was very colourful not simply text carved into unadorned stone.

Egyptian temples survived many centuries and would often undergo additions or changes where the current Pharaoh would embellish his likeness throughout the structure. There are many statures of Rames II, Tutankhamen, their wives and other great figures represented side by side as if they had lived together.

The Great Hypostyle Hall is an unbelievable massive structure of columns which use to support a stone roof. The 134 columns are enormous being 50 feet high and the circumference of each would take 6 adults stretching hand to hand. All the columns are detailed with hieroglyphics from top to bottom. Imagine!

The temple complex was connected to the Nile by a canal (hmmm where the Dutch not the inventors of the canal?) that redirected some of the flow of the river to provide the temple with water. Inside the complex there were two lakes (!) built to act as water reservoirs. The canal also served to transport the Pharaoh from the Temple of Karnak to the Nile and then on to Luxor for an annual celebration of the Opet festival. Once year year the priests of Karnak carrried images of Amun and the other two gods in the local triad in portable barks to Luxor. It was a celebration marking the annual flooding of the Nile. The gods images where placed in the shrine and the people would celebrate with the Pharaoh providing an opulent feast.

Our next stop was the temple of Luxor situated about 2 kms from Karnak, in the middle of the city of Luxor. The temple is well preserved today as it was buried with sand for centuries and the village of Luxor was built on top. It was rediscovered by a vacationing Frenchman, Gustave Flaubert, in 1885 and one of the obelisks from Luxor temple was carried off and now stands in Paris a le Place de la Concorde. "How bored it must be….How it must miss the Nile" Flaubert was said to have commented.

Luxor Temple is smaller than Karnak and we easily visited the site in an hour. It was interesting to see that a functioning Mosque built on top of the temple centuries after it was covered in sand is still visible and more amazingly in use. The approach to the temple is also through the avenue of the Sphinxes which is said to have originally gone all the way to Karnak (2 km). The temple contains a court, processional colonnade, a similar Hypostyle hall, a shrine and a sanctuary. At night the temple is lit up with white and coloured lights and looks spectacular!

We returned to the boat for the afternoon and found all the river cruisers tied together so we had to make our way through to our boat which was tied up last. Seven ships later we arrived and headed for a buffet lunch then went up to the roof top sun deck to bask in the sun with a frosty beer ( or two). We enjoyed our afternoon at leisure knowing full well they would have us up at 6 am the next morning to see the West Bank and the Valley of the Kings!

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