Last week in my weekly blog, I had related that we’d arrived in Luxor, Egypt and visited the huge Karnak Temple Complex, then moved north up to Dendara Temple in Qena City. Well, this week, we’re back to Luxor again visiting the Temple by the same name, that is, Luxor Temple.
As a reminder, the 3000-year-old Avenue of Sphinxes begins at the Karnak Temple and runs for more than a mile and a half all the way along to Luxor Temple at the other end.
We were fortunate to have a late afternoon, early evening visit to Luxor Temple enabling us to see it in different lighting from bright sunlight to the setting sun and with some spectacular lighting. It was breathtaking.
Luxor Temple was built in roughly 1400 BC and was known as the “Southern Sanctuary”. Most of the ancient Egyptian temples were dedicated to one of the gods or a deified version of one of the Egyptian rulers. Luxor was instead dedicated to the rejuvenation of kingship. There’s a belief that many of the Pharaohs of Egypt may have been ‘crowned’ at Luxor Temple, although one such ruler claiming this was Alexander the Great and he never even set foot there himself.
As with many of the other temples, many rulers were involved in building Luxor including Amenhotep the Great, Tutankhamun, more popularly known as King Tut and Ramesses II, who was often referred to as the greatest, most powerful and most celebrated ruler of the New Kingdom. Here at this temple is the only known statue to exist of King Tut and his Queen.
There were once 2 obelisks standing at the entrance, but one of them now resides in Paris at the Place de la Concorde. It was a gift from the Sultan of Egypt to King Charles X of France in 1830 as a gesture of friendship and gratitude for the deciphering of hieroglyphics that was done by Champollion.
A medieval village was built on the ruins of the Luxor Temple and part of that included the Mosque of Abu el Hagag. The mosque remains intact and active making it one of the oldest continuously used temples in the world.
The following day, we had a quick visit to the Colossi of Memnon on our way to the well-renowned, Valley of the Kings, located roughly about 45 minutes from Luxor. The former are 2 massive stone statues of Amenhotep the Great dating back to 1350 BC. They stand in front of the ruins that were part of the largest temple in the Theban Necropolis, namely, the Valley of the Kings.
Also known as the Valley of the Gates of the King, this necropolis spans 500 years of the richest sources of ancient Egypt with a burial ground for the great pharaohs and noblemen of Egypt. It was purposely built, from the 16th to the 11th century BC.
These tombs were hidden away from civilization in the desert with scorching daytime temperatures and freezing cold evenings in hope of avoiding tomb raiders. It was indeed very hot in the valley with the added effect of the limestone surfaces all around it. Unfortunately, most of the chambers were looted although the rich treasure of artwork on the walls remains allowing a glimpse into the lives of the Kings and other noblemen who were buried there.
It was protected for a time by the medjay, an elite order of guards in an attempt to prevent grave robbers. There are 65 tombs that have been unearthed in the Valley of the Kings with the most famous one being discovered in 1922 of Tutankhamun. King Tut’s mummy remains there in the tomb in a climate-controlled glass enclosed display.
Wisely, they limit and rotate the number of tombs open to the public for viewing in order to try to decrease the tourist traffic as best as they can to preserve the sites. Excavation also continues both within revealed tombs and in hopes of locating more tombs as well. The artwork depicted on the walls of these tombs is absolutely incredible and beautiful!
Queen Hatshepsut's Temple is situated very close to the Valley of the Kings and that was our next stop. She was the longest reigning female of Egypt and was highly regarded as a great leader. Her temple is magnificent and is a masterpiece of ancient architecture. It has three massive terraces that rise above the desert floor and are built into the limestone cliffs.
Most statues of Hatshepsut were quite manly in appearance in order to not take away from her power position as a female leader in a male dominated world. In fact, Thutmosis III even attempted to erase her existence from history but fortunately didn't end up finding them all.
Following our Hatshepsut Temple visit, we went to an Alabaster workshop in the same area with an opportunity to shop for some authentic pieces and we also received a great demonstration as well. It was a very interesting visit.
All in all, the experience in the Valley of the Kings and area was incredibly moving and a truly impressive site all the way around!