Karnak Temple

After some free time in Luxor, the next stop on the tour was the Karnak Temple, part of the UNESCO World Heritage listing for Luxor. We started by quickly walking through the museum, where in the center there’s a scale model of the entire complex.

Scale model of the temple at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Scale model of the temple

Sem Sem told us it was the largest religious complex in the history of the world (although we know Angkor Wat is bigger). The complex was started by Senusret I around 1950 BC and many pharaohs made major additions throughout the years. We would only be able to see a small part of the complex because there are several areas not open to the public.  It’s still being excavated and reconstructed. I would love to come back in 25 years or so to see the progress.

We walked towards the entrance to the temple, stopping to admire a small obelisk and mosque built among the ruins before coming to a row of sphinxes situated on both sides of the path to the gates.

Obelisk at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Obelisk

Mosque at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Mosque

Row of sphinxes at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Row of sphinxes

Behind the huge walls is the largest part of the complex, the Precinct of Amon-Ra, dedicated to the god Amon-Ra. It contains some small temples as well as many statues. It’s the only part of the complex that’s open to the public.

Precinct of Amon-Ra at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Precinct of Amon-Ra

Precinct of Amon-Ra at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Precinct of Amon-Ra

Precinct of Amon-Ra at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Precinct of Amon-Ra

Precinct of Amon-Ra at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Precinct of Amon-Ra

Immediately to the left through the entrance is the Temple of Seti II, where Sem Sem gave a short lecture. To the right is the Temple of Ramses III.

Temple of Seti II at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Temple of Seti II

Temple of Seti II at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Temple of Seti II

Temple of Ramses III at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Temple of Ramses III

From there, we walked through the imposing Hypostyle Hall. The hall has an area of 5,000m² and contains 134 columns. 122 of the columns are 10m tall and 12 are 21m tall. It was started by Seti I and completed by Ramses II.

Hypostyle Hall at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Hypostyle Hall

Hypostyle Hall at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Hypostyle Hall

Hypostyle Hall at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Hypostyle Hall

If you pay close attention, there are lots of colorful hieroglyphics to be found among the columns.

Hypostyle Hall at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Hypostyle Hall

Hypostyle Hall at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Hypostyle Hall

Hypostyle Hall at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Hypostyle Hall

What’s very interesting is the temple was once submerged underwater. Sem Sem pointed out a black line on a wall that indicates the level of the water in 1887.

The black line above Sem Sem marks the water level in 1887 at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

The black line above Sem Sem marks the water level in 1887

After the Hypostyle Hall, we spotted an obelisk and a column depicting papyrus.

Obelisk at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Obelisk

Papyrus column at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Papyrus column

Wandering further in, we came to the Festival Temple of Tuthmosis III.  It was built in honor of the jubilee of Tuthmosis III.

Festival Temple of Tuthmosis III at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Festival Temple of Tuthmosis III

Festival Temple of Tuthmosis III at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Festival Temple of Tuthmosis III

Festival Temple of Tuthmosis III at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Festival Temple of Tuthmosis III

When Egypt was under Roman rule in 356, Emperor Constantius II outlawed all pagan temples. The Festival Temple was then used by early Christians as a church. You can still see icons painted on the columns and a broken statue that early Christians may have believed was a crucifix.

Icon at Festival Temple of Tuthmosis III at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Icon

Crucifix? at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Crucifix?

Finally, we stopped at the Sacred Lake. Priests would purify themselves with the holy water from the lake before performing rituals. There’s also a very large scarab statue built by Amenhotep III. Legend has it that if you walk around it three times your wish will come true.

Sacred Lake at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Sacred Lake

Scarab statue at Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt

Scarab statue

After our detailed tour with Sem Sem, we were given about 45 minutes to wander around the complex freely.

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