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Karnak Temple

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Karnak – the particular temple experience

"Iput-Isut", the most respected one of all sites, the ancient Egyptian called the holy complex of Karnak (picture top: view to the temple area from the roof of the temple of Chons). The history of the construction started during the 11th dynasty (ca. 2134–1999 B.C.), continued until the Roman times. More than 13. centuries the kings built up the biggest temple complex of the country. Dedicated to Amon, the god of the gods, for every ruler as a devine king it was a heavenly duty, to add a building, to immortalize himself by carving his glorious deeds on pylones and columns. The most famous names of all the "architects": the kings with the names Amenhotep, Thotmes, Rameses and Setoy, but also Akhenaton, Hatshepsut and Tut-ankh-amon belong to this list of constructors. Follow us for a very small roundtrip, just by following the temple's main route.

After passing the small alley of the ram-headed sphinxes, today you enter the complex through the first pylon (actually it is the last, because youngest of a total of ten of this giant portales). Anyhow, the gate from the 30th dynasty (380–343 B.C.), is seized 113 metres width and 44 metres hight, but not finished. This pylon is followed by the great court including two smaller shrines built during the reign of Setoy II. (ca. 1291–1278 B.C.) and Rameses III. (ca. 1182–1151 B.C.) to honor the trinity of the Theban gods Amon, Mut and Chons. Two more attractions of the vestibule: one remaining 21 metre high column of former ten, erected by king Taharqa (ca. 690–664 B.C.), and the colossi statue of Pinodjem (picture right), usurped by Rameses II. (ca. 1279–1212 B.C.).

Passing the second pylon you enter the great temple of Amon. Again and again breath-taking the "heart" of the complex: the columned hall, worth to be added in the list of the world wonders. Out of a total area of 104 by 52 metres 134 pillars decorated from top to bottom with hieroglyphes ordered in 16 rows are "growing" up to 23 metres high up into the Egyptian sky (picture right in the middle, picture bottom: capitals of pillars showing some details). In ancient times this forest of columns carried the temples roof. Built under Setoy I. (ca 1291-1278 B.C.) still today it reminds you in a swamp of papyrus. Reliefs on the outer walls give us reports of battles and its hardearned victories by the pharaohs Setoy I. and Rameses II.

Behind the third (Amenhotep III.) and fourth pylon (Thotmes I.) two obeliskes made of red granit will catch your eyes attention. Queen Hatshepsut gave order to erect these "sky needles" (picture right down), but it was her successor Thotmes III. who ordered to wall the obeliskes in. After this attraction you reach the holy of the holies, where in former times the holy barque of the god Amon had its place. Beside south the water of the large sacred lake up to now shimmers in the sun, but has no more a connection to the river Nile. Behind raising up seats for the "Sound & Light Show", every night celebrated in different languages (see the current timetable below).

With this short description we lead you through the main axis up to the sanctuary and the sacred lake only. Bacause it is really impossible to give you in short words information about all the temples area. Our advise for you: take your time when visiting Karnak, do your own discovery trip and also have a look to the small chapels and temples north and south of the main route. And for every return to Luxor put one day for Karnak in your schedule. Because with every visit to Karnak you are going to discover something new . After all more than 100 Hektar land is covered by pylons and colossi, sphinxes and obeliskes, temples and chapels. And still nowadays Egyptologists from all over the world carry on by researching, digging, restoring. Always they will surprise you with some new findings.

Some of the new "treasures" in the temple complex of Karnak are the temple of Chons (picture below left: wall painting with offering scene of Rameses III.) in the southern part and the "Red Chapel" of queen Hatshepsut in the open-air museum in the north, that is worth a visit, even it needs an extra ticket.

For those with enough time a visit to the temple of Muth (outside the temple's walls in the south) is recommended. And/or who is trained in walking can follow the ancient alley of the sphinxes, starting from the southern gate and leading up to the Luxor temple. For the time beeing archaeologists continue to digg out the huge figures, which lined up the around five kilometres long ancient connection between the two temples, that leads you through densely built-up living areas of the city of Luxor. Some of the sphinxes are in a very good shape. And if you are talented in imagination you nearly can see, hear and feel the glory of the festivals, when the barque of Amon in a procession was carried from the sacred place Karnak to his "southern house", the Luxor-Tempel.

It doesn't matter if it is the first or umpteenth visit, if you stay long or short time: the temples, chapels, pylons, obeliskes, sphinxes, reliefs and wall paintings will touch everybodies feelings, will ask you to come back (Text and Fotos Antje Sliwka)



Opening hours:

winter 6 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Ticket prices:
temple complex 50 LE, open-air museum additional 25 LE
for students 25 LE and 15 LE

Sound & Light Show Karnak (updated Febuary 2007):
ticket price 55 LE

6.30 p.m.  
7.45 p.m.
9.00 p.m.
Monday  English French Spanish
Tuesday  Japanese  English Russian
Wednesday German English French
Thursday English  French Arabic
Friday English French Russian
Saturday French English
Sunday German English Italian


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