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A fortress of the gods in the heart of the city

Where else in the world you find a place where an ancient temple belongs to the usual picture of the modern city life than in Luxor with the Luxor temple? Where else for the inhabitants a monument is the most natural thing in their world, is integrated in their daily life? You can watch it when leaving the "Corniche" at the end of the temple and walk up the street. Nearly anytime the adjoining public garden is crowded by families (see picture top), particularly during feast days. In the shadow of the thousands of years old walls they organise picnics, you find there laughter, singing and dancing. The temple belongs to the life of every Luxorian.For us the most impressive view at this fortress of the gods is from the river Nile, from a boat or the ferry (see picture below). Meanwhile we crossed may be a thousand times from the western to the eastern side, but still the striking outline of the columns and pylons catch our attention every time. Divided from the river by the corniche only, the temple is "topped" by the mosque of Abu El Haggag. Again and again we are astonished and exhilarated, that the Egyptian building craze of the modern times spared the temple, that until today we can marvel at the halls, courts, chapels, statues and reliefs, which are created during the New Kingdom (ca. 1570-1070 B. C.) in such splendour.

Therefore we give our thanks to Amenhetep III. (ca. 1386-1349 B. C.), who ordered to replace a little shrine by his 190 metre long and 55 metre wide temple dedicated to the Theban trinity - the god of the gods Amon, his wife Mut and their son Chons. So the "Southern Harem", the wedding place and the southern home of Amon-Ra rose up. Later Rameses II. (ca. 1279-1212 B. C.), unbeaten in his monumental construction activities, extended the complex to a total length of some 260 metres.Who enters the temple has to do his decision in which direction to start. He propably will be torn between left and right. Because left hand lures the splendid alley, on both sides watched by sphinxes, the "Dromos" which connected once the Luxor and the Karnak temples, or turning right no less than the great Rameses II. invites you in front of the first pylon in all his majestically splendour to give you an audience - in stone only (see picture bottom) but in several versions.

Simply choose the side with the smallest crowd. Then you can enjoy the very special atmosphere of this place - especially after sunset. By the way, the Luxor temple is the only one to be visited during day and night time. And without question both times are really worth to go there. Therefore our suggestion: plan your time for a visit, that you get the temple's "over day face" in the late afternoon. Then search for a quiet corner (our favorite is the second court) to watch the changing to its glittering "night face". Finally take a stroll on the festive illuminated alley, where the human faces of the sphinxes smile even more enigmatic than over day (second picture left). This sensual enjoyment you can celebrate in a perfect way if you are lucky and find the temple not overcrowded.

But now lets have a short roundtrip in the temple itself. In front of the 63 metres wide huge first pylon with its reliefs showing scenes of the famous battle of Kadesh, constructed under the leadership of Rameses II., two enormous sitting and one standing statues from the former six figures of the king are still intact. And also one of the former two obelisks points like a upright finger to the sky. About that we like to mention by passing a short anecdote: Pasha Mohamed Ali (1805-1849) presented the "twin" to the French King Louis Philippe, to thank him for a gift received in 1846: A clockwork tower for the courtyard of his mosque in the area of the citadel in Cairo, which can be seen by tourists till nowadays. The obelisk moved from the silence of the Luxor temple to the centre of Paris, since that time it is sourrounded at the Place de la Concorde by bustling city life and traffic.

Through the pylon we enter the first court (57 x 51 m) with its papyrus columns displayed in two rows and seven metres high statues of the king, worth also to view the back (see first picture left). Give your attention to the relief at the right southern wall. It shows the original temple facade with the pylon decorated with flags, the six statues of Rameses and the two obelisks. Worth a visit also the chapel in the north-western corner of the court. Queen Hatshepsut (ca. 1498-1483 B. C.) ordered the building that is divided in three sections to honour Amon, Mut and Chons separately. After Hatshepsut died Thutmes III. (ca.1504-1450 B. C.) usurped the shrine, the reliefs are done by artists under the reign of Rameses II.. In the north-eastern part of the court rises the mosque of Abu El Haggag out of the temple, where you can listen to the the faithful during the praying times and feasts.

Leaving the court by passing the northern gate you reach the colonnade of Amenhetep III., where we find reliefs showing the celebration of Opet, done under the short reign of the child-king Tutankhamon (ca. 1334-1325 B. C.). Parts of it were usurped by king Horemhab (ca. 1321-1293 B. C.). Also have a look to the beautiful relief with the convoluted stems of papyrus and lily plants, symbol of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, or the enchanting statue of a young couple, probably Tutankhamon and his wife Anchesenamon (see pictures left). The colonnade is followed by the second court (52 x 46 m) with its columns and archetraves, for our opinion a place with an atmosphere of its own. In this court by chance in 1989 some statues and sphinxes were discovered, which are now displayed in the new hall, the "Cachette", of the Luxor Museum, for example a granite statue of Amenhetep III., figures of Horemhab, goddess Hathor and god Amon.

The second court guides you into the temple's heart: into the pre hall with its 32 papyrus bundle columns with rich decorations; into the vestibule, where the Roman Emperor Diocletian (284-305 A. C.) ordered to remove the eight columns and turn it into a Roman temple. This "Sacellum" belonged to his troop camp based in Luxor, where he was worshipped. After this a bit strange looking part you reach the hall with the sacrificial table for the holy barque, then the holy of the holies. Here in reliefs on the front and end sides of the granite shrine Alexander the Great (332-323 B.C.) is shown when doing rites and during his coronation by the god Amon. At the end of the temple complex crosswise to the axis another sacrificial table hall and three small chapels are located.

Not at all you should miss the reliefs in the so-called "Birth Room", located east beside the Roman temple - even they are no more in a very good shape. The scenes are showing the mythe of the birth of Amenhetep III., but also the Genesis that affected our Christian Christmas legend: Amon, the god of the gods, choose queen Mutemweje to give birth to his son. He sends Thot with this message to the queen and orders Chnum to create a spitting image of himself on his potter's wheel. Protected by the gods the boy (Amenhetep III.) is brought into the world, approved by his creator as his son and crowned as a king.

Like everywhere at Egypts sites also at the Luxor Temple work continues. In the moment for example ruins of military buildings from the Roman times are discovered and restorated. If you have enough time stroll around also outside the temple buildings. You will find lots of interesting pieces all around. But also here never forget the hard and fast rule: Don't touch the monuments! (Text Antje Sliwka, Fotos Antje and Wolfgang Sliwka)

Opening hours:
Summer 7 a.m. till 10 p.m., Winter 7 a.m. till 9 p.m.
Ticket Price:
20 LE

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