Looked out the window this morning from my cabin on board Sun Boat IV and saw many hot air balloons taking off across the Nile on the West Bank of Luxor. I have been wary of hot air balloon rides after the accidents in Turkey and other places. The last time I did it was in the Namibia desert when only two balloons went up at the same time. In any case, the guide said the hot air balloons here mostly fly over the desert landscape, the Valley of the Kings etc., and you have to get special permission to fly over the temples on the East Bank. This time I am happy just watching them go up and come down from the comforts of my balcony.
Luxor Temple was constructed around 1400BC by Amenhotep III and completed by Tutankhamun (1336-27BC) and Horemheb (1323-1295BC) and Ramses II (1279-13BC). It is known as ipet resyt which means “the southern sanctuary”. It is said that Luxor Temple was dedicated to the rejuvenation of kingship and was where many of the pharaohs of Egypt were crowned. It stayed buried under the streets of Luxor for thousands of years until excavation works began in the 1960s. In front of the Luxor temple is one end of the Avenue of the Sphinxes which stretches 3 km linking Luxor Temple to Karnak Temple. The entrance to Luxor Temple was built by Rameses II and is known as the first pylon which is decorated with scenes of his military exploits and triumphs. There were originally six statues of Rameses II here, two seated and 4 standing. There is a 25 meter granite obelisk which is one of a pair with the other one now standing in Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Luxor Temple has been continuously used as a place of worship even during the Christian times when parts of the temple were converted into a church. Then the temple was buried under the city of Luxor for thousands of years with the mosque of Abu Al Haggag built over it. The peristyle courtyard known as the Great Court of Ramses II has 74 papyrus columns and on the southeastern side, you can see the 14th century Mosque of Abu Al Haggag hanging over the wall. The mosque was carefully preserved during the excavation work of Luxor Temple.
The Great Court of Ramses II leads to the processional Colonnade of Amenhotep III guarded by two statues of Tutankhamun but with the name erased and replaced by Rameses II’s own name. There are 32 columns here still supporting huge achitrave blocks. Here you can see decorations of scenes from the Opet Festival where Amun-Re of Karnak Temple was brought along the Avenue of the Sphinxes to meet with Amun of Luxor Temple and there is also a re-coronation of the pharaoh at this time. After the colonnade is another courtyard known as the Sun Court of Amenhotep III with double rows of papyrus columns on three sides. After the Sun Court of Amenhotep III, you will arrive at a hypostyle court with 32 columns leading to the inner sanctum of the temple. On the left is an altar dedicated to the Roman Emperor Constantine. The central chamber was the cult sanctuary of Amun that was built over by the Romans in the 3rd century AD. Past the antechamber where offerings were made to Amun was the Barque Shrine of Amun. This is the shrine that would house the statue of Amun during the Opet Festival and was rebuilt by Alexander the Great portraying him as an Egyptian pharaoh. To the east is Amenhotep III’s birth room with scenes of his symbolic divine birth where the marriage of Amun and Queen Mutemuya, mother of Amenhotep III are depicted. The last chamber is the Sancturary of Amenhotep III where the Amun statue used to stand and was once the most sacred part of the temple.
After visiting the two main cult temples of the East Bank of Luxor, we proceed to the West Bank where the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and mortuary temples stood. Stay tuned!
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