Monday, June 9, 2008

Egypt Trip: Luxor Temple

Even though Cairo is not my favourite city I do recommend you go there. To go to Egypt and not see the Pyramids, Sphinx and the Cairo museum is missing out one of the great sights in Africa.

We were up very early the next morning to catch a flight for Luxor. The flight from Cairo to Luxor only takes 50 minutes. You then wait at Luxor airport for 50 minutes for your luggage at baggage reclaim!

From the airport we were driven to our boat Nile Beauty. To get to the boat we had to walk down a narrow dirt road with shops on either side. This dirt road got called 'Ambush Alley' due to the traders trying to get us to buy their wares. In fact it is worth stopping at one of the shops for bottled water as it it much cheaper there than on board the boat.

Nile Beauty After recovering from the early flight we went out after lunch to the temples of Karnak and Luxor. Firstly to Karnak.

Luxor Temple

The first sight as you approach the temple is the avenue of ram-headed sphinxes. At one time these sphinxes went all the way from Karnak to Luxor. We saw the obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut. Originally the Obelisk was covered with gold and silver. The obelisk is 30 metres high and weighs about three hundred and fifty tons. When Hatshepsut died, Thutmosis III ruled. As we had been told, he hated the memory of Hatshepsut, who had refused to let him rule with her. So he covered the sides of her obelisk with plaster. But as the years passed, the plaster fell off. The Queen's name and deeds can still be seen on her obelisk.
The Karnak buildings cover some 200 acres and consist of several temples built from the time of the Middle Kingdom (2000 B.C.) to the time of Ptolemy. During this period, the pharaohs made Karnak into the national shrine of Egypt. Each king erected some sort of building honouring the gods. The most important temple in Karnak is the Temple of Amun-Ra, which is the largest temple not only in Egypt but also in the world. Smaller temples are those of Khonsu, Mut and Ptah.

We then went on to the Temple of Luxor, which covers four acres. The first things that strike you are two huge seated statues of Ramses II. The most complete of these is the sitting one on the right which bears the double crown of Egypt. An obelisk 82 feet high also stands at the entrance. The exterior walls are covered with reliefs of the battle of Kadesh, a campaign of Ramses II against the Hitties. As we walked around the Temple of Luxor the light was starting to go and the lights came on and made the columns and statues look very atmospheric. We also saw the giant scarab of Amenophis III. The scarab was dedicated by Amenophis III to the sun-god Atum-Kephe, who was pictured in the form of a scarab. The scarab, originally in the funerary temple of Amenophis III, close to the Memnon Statues of the west bank of Thebes, was transferred to its present position after that temple was destroyed.

Ramses II is my most favourite pharaoh, he was a very great pharaoh, a loving husband and a good father as well as being one of the best pharaohs that Egypt ever had.

Next morning saw us at the crack of dawn driving to the Valleys of the Kings and Queens. After being embalmed and mummified, the New Kingdom pharaohs were transported in solemn cortege to the Valley of the Kings. Gorgeously bedecked with gold and jewels, surrounded with treasures and replicas of all they would need in the afterlife, they were buried in their rock-cut tombs. There are 62 of these sepulchres, though only a few are open to the public. In most, long, elaborately decorated corridors lead down through a series of chambers and false doors to the burial vault.

Valley of The Kings

Even though we were out early in the morning the heat in the Valley of the Kings in October is 110 degrees Farenheit.

We went into the tomb of Sethnakht, known as Set the strong. He was not a very nice man. He threw out the mummy of his wife to make the tomb his own. It was very hot in the tombs.

We went into the tomb of Tutankhamum. The famous small tomb of the boy-king Tutankhamen (1333 B.C. - 1323 B.C.) was discovered in 1922, when Howard Carter, under the patronage of Lord Carnarvon, chanced upon it after a search of seven years. A treasure of over 5000 objects was buried with the young pharaoh. The treasures discovered have been exhibited in Europe and America, but its permanent home is in the museum in Cairo. The entrance to the tomb is opposite the rest-house. This is the only tomb to have come down to us intact. Soil and rubble from the tomb of Ramesses VI above it hid the entrance. The sarcophagus is still in position, and the mummy lies in it, protected by four goddesses.

We watched some men digging out a tomb, they were passing up the rubble in canvas buckets, we wondered if another tomb had been found.

From here we went to see Queen Hatshepsaut's Temple. The temple of Hatshepsut (1492 B.C. - 1458 B.C.) is somewhat different from the others, being set back in a spectacular natural amphitheatre of pinkish purple cliffs. Three proportioned and colonnaded terraces are connected by sloping ramps. The sanctuary areas are backed right up against the mountain and partially hollowed out of the rocks. Hatshepsut was a queen of great character. She succeeded her father when she was 24 years old and assumed royal powers and regalia, including the false beard, reigning until her death 34 years later.

This temple which faces Karnak on the east side of the Nile is especially impressive with the mightly cliffs towering above it. It differs in plan and style of architecture from all other temples in Egypt. The temple was erected by Hatshepsut for several purposes. First it was a funerary temple in which the queen was to be worshipped. It contains chapels sacred to Hathor on the left of the temple and another to Anubis, better preserved, on the right. The temple is immediately opposite the burial chamber of her tomb in the Valley of the Kings, so the axis of her temple was placed in line with that of her tomb beyond the cliffs. Thutmosis III is represented as a co-regent, although in a very subordinate position. It is evident that Thutmosis III, after succeeding to the throne, chiselled out and effaced Hatshepsut's figures and cartouches from the reliefs, thus satisfying his hatred and wreaking his vengeance upon her for the subjection to which he had been reduced to during his co-regency.
On the way back to the coach one of the many traders tried to sell me a statue, I tried to ignore him but burst out laughing when he said "Good statue, just made in Hong Kong".

We visited an Alabaster factory. We saw the men making the pots. The shop was owned by an Englishman from Manchester called Stewart.

Last stop of the day was at The Colossi of Memnon. These two impasssive giants, whose gaze is directed above their earthly surroundings, once flanked the entrance to the funerary temple of Amenophis III, which in its day was one of the most remarkable at Thebes. They are figures of the pharaoh. The one on the right collapsed during a terrible earthquake that destroyed the temple in 27 B.C. It then became famous because it was said to emit a musical sound at sunrise, and people came from far and wide to marvel at it. The Greeks, in particular, were much struck by this, so that they identified it with Memnon, the son of Aurora. Two centuries later, however, the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus had it repaired and from then on it stopped singing as he had had the holes filled in and that is what had made the statue seem to whistle when the wind blew through them.

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