Next stop… Luxor, Egypt – frequently known as the ‘world’s greatest open-air museum’. We flew from Cairo to Luxor early the next day after our ‘Light & Sound’ Show at the Great Giza Pyramids.
Luxor’s population is just ½ million people although the Greater Luxor area has a population of 1.3 million. Luxor, known as Thebes at the time, was the capital of Egypt’s Middle and New Kingdom periods off and on from 2135 to 1279 BC.
Our first visit in Luxor, was to the Karnak Temple Complex. Appropriately named as a ‘complex’ since it’s a HUGE, fascinating site with all its temples, pylons, chapels and various other buildings. It’s considered the largest religious building or site in the entire world. The Complex was developed over 1500 years, continuously added to over this period of time by each of the rulers.
Our Egyptologist, Mohamed, explained that you could fit 10 Notre Dame Cathedrals in the Karnak complex. I thought that was a pretty interesting description regarding its mammoth size. The Hypostyle hall, as it’s called, alone is 54,000 square feet with 134 columns.
One of the most fascinating stories related to us by Mohamed was about the amazing process regarding the building, transporting, and finishing of the obelisks. These standing obelisks weigh up to 500 tons and had to be moved great distances from granite quarries without any of the heavy equipment we have today. Moving them from their quarry to the final destination would take up to 7 months. It’s absolutely brilliant what they achieved way back then!
There are only 8 ancient Egypt obelisks left in Egypt while the balance of them reside in England, France, Italy (5 of them), the Vatican, Israel, Poland, Turkey and the United States.
Another fascinating site in Luxor is the Avenue of the Sphinxes that stretches from Karnak Temple to Luxor Temple over one and a half miles long. This 3000-year-old roadway was considered ‘the Path of God’. Over 1300 statues are thought to have lined this historical stretch of road at one time. Currently there are over 600 statues of sphinxes and rams along it now in varying states of repair.
A pretty feature that’s part of the Karnak complex includes the Sacred Lake measuring 393 feet by 252 feet. It’s the largest of its kind, dug out in the 15th century BC, during Thutmosis III’s reign. It’s lined with a stone wall and has stairs descending into the water.
Following our Karnak Temple tour, we finally caught our first glimpse of the lovely Uniworld S.S. Sphinx and were able to board, unpack and get settled for the next 7 nights on board.
We had a beautiful suite, a fabulous butler named Noby, and all the comforts one could possibly wish for with this accommodation. The ship itself was absolutely stunning with so much attention to detail with an Egyptian flair.
We spent the afternoon, following our delicious lunch, cruising north down the Nile River for a brief time to get to Qena City, where Dendara Temple is located. Cruising along the Nile was very interesting with children and adults waving friendly greetings all along the way.
Our next stop was at Dendara Temple, dedicated to the goddess Hathor. She represented love, music, beauty and happiness and its befitting that her temple happens to be one of the best-preserved temple complexes in Egypt. Although there is evidence of structures dating back to 2500 BC, the majority of the temple complex that is seen today was built from 116 BC to 34 AD.
Dendara, in ancient times, was associated with healing with patients traveling there to rest, sleep, and commune with the gods in their dreams. There’s even representation that Cleopatra and her son, by Julius Caesar, were likely there, noted by one of the many carvings on the back wall of the temple.
The ceiling and walls are beautifully carved and the blue colors are vibrant, many of them depicting astrological representations. It’s amazing to think that they used dirt as their scaffolding to get to the ceiling and top of the walls in order to carve them. Mohamed mentioned an interesting fact about one friend of his who earned his PHD by translating 1 room that took him over 40 years in this particular temple. Now, that’s dedication!
Another interesting fact noted, was that this was where the original ancient Egyptian Zodiac Map of the Sky was located before it was removed by Napoleon’s campaign. There’s now a replica at the temple while the original resides at the Louvre in Paris, France.
This leads me to also mention how sad it is that over a million pieces of ancient artifacts were lost from Egypt before a law was enacted in 1983 to prevent this from happening. I suppose the positive of this is that more people around the world are able to appreciate some of this wonderful ancient civilization without having to travel all the way to Egypt.
I hope I haven't gone on too long with this chapter, and I have to tell you that there's still more to come, so stay tuned if you're still interested! Thanks for reading this!