What Luxor, Egypt attraction is the largest place of worship ever built?
It doesn’t take a wizard to proclaim the magnificence of Karnak Temple in Luxor. After the pyramids at Giza, it’s the 2nd most visited site in Egypt. It’s really a temple complex, with multiple temples added and embellished by a long series of pharaohs over the course of 2,000 years. It was known to the ancient Egyptians as The Most Sacred Place and is reputed to be the largest place of worship ever built anywhere.
Southern Egypt is called Upper Egypt because it’s upriver from northern (Lower) Egypt. The Nile is one of the rare rivers that flows northward, from central Africa to the Mediterranean Sea.
Here are our suggestions of 5 things to see or do there:
Over 60 acres of colossal statues, obelisks, relief carvings of pharaonic adventures and pylon after pylon after pylon (10 in total) make up Karnak Temple. The Hypostyle Hall is Karnak’s most famous feature, where the central aisle is lined with 70-foot columns, backed on either side by a forest of 30-foot columns. It’s literally jaw dropping. Relief carvings cover the columns and traces of original paint are not hard to find, especially if you look up.
TEMPLE OF HATSHEPSUT
The mortuary temple of one of Ancient Egypt’s very few female pharaohs is located at the base of towering cliffs at Deir el-Bahri in the Theban necropolis, across the Nile from Luxor. It’s a stunning setting and the temple design is quite different from other Nile Valley temples.
VALLEY OF THE KINGS
A valley deep within the mountains on the west bank of the Nile, across from ancient Thebes (modern Luxor), holds the burial grounds of New Kingdom pharaohs, their families and members of the nobility. To date, over 60 tombs have been discovered in the Valley of the Kings. In many of the tombs, walls and ceilings are painted in scenes from the life of the tomb occupant, happy experiences to be carried into the afterlife, as well as prayers and spells. The way to the afterlife was treacherous; and tomb paintings envisioned a successful passage, with the help of various gods.
TEMPLE OF ISIS AT PHILAE
The temple of Isis, also known as Philae Temple, was originally located on Philae Island in the Nile. In the 1960s, Philae Island was largely submerged in the new Lake Nasser reservoir, so the temple was dismantled and moved to higher ground on Agilka Island. Nevertheless, the temple is still known as Philae.
We don’t recommend swimming in the Nile. But a quiet sail on a traditional felucca will get you close enough to the water to dip your fingers.
This morning we flew from Cairo to Luxor for a 4-night Nile cruise. Flight time was exactly one hour.
Luxor airport is pretty low-key. We had our bags and were on our way within about 15 minutes of landing. The drive from the airport to the center of Luxor, where our boat was docked, is less than 5 miles.
Although some of the cruise boats were double parked so cruisers had to walk through a boat or two to reach their vessel, we were lucky to find ours parked right alongside the dock. We were cruising on the deluxe 5-star Amarco, in a junior suite.
This is the Great Hypostyle Hall of Karnak Temple. It consists of 134 columns in an area of over 50,000 square feet. Most of the columns are 50 feet tall, but two rows of 6 columns flanking the central aisle are 80 feet tall and 30 feet in circumference. (!)
The hall was built around the 13th century BCE, an addition to the existing temple. Originally, a roof covered the hall, but it is long since open to the sky. (In architectural terms, a hypostyle indicates a space covered by a roof supported by columns.)
Can you name that country?
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The Luxor Museum is perfectly located on the Luxor corniche (Nile-front promenade) between Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple. This museum is much smaller than Egyptian Museum in Cairo but that’s not a bad thing. It’s well-organized and free of clutter, with beautifully displayed artifacts documented in both Arabic and English. (The Cairo Museum is not to be missed, for sure, but the contents seem to have been tossed about with little thought to ease of viewing.) Continue reading