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.
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.
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.
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.
If you pay close attention, there are lots of colorful hieroglyphics to be found among the columns.
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.
After the Hypostyle Hall, we spotted an obelisk and a column depicting papyrus.
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.
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.
After our detailed tour with Sem Sem, we were given about 45 minutes to wander around the complex freely.