Luxor was the 3rd city to be named capital of Egypt, after Memphis and Alexandria and of course before Cairo. With just 750,000 inhabitants today, the city is divided into two parts by the river Nile which is wider here than we noticed it in Cairo. Our 550km flight took just under one hour from Cairo.
On the East Side
Although we were given a detailed explaination of the Pharoahs that built this temple over time, Remeses II was the most prominent as he had his statues prominently and majestically displayed against most of the halls. Abdul, our guide was well versed with the stories of ancient egypt as well as the stories of the Gods and Pharoahs, was more than happy to share with us. This enhanced our experience of the atmosphere of Pharonic times. This was a fascinating place.
We spent most of our time in the Hypostyle Hall, perhaps as we both felt most comfortable among the 134 pylons that stood in this hall. Every pylot and the walls of the hall had hieroglyphic carvings, apparently telling the stories of bygone times. These were simply called papyrus. 21 of the pylons stood 20 metres high while the remainder were 15 metres tall. Some pylons were damaged, apparently by a flood which was caused caused by a French archaeologist who redirected the Nile. The tops of some of the pylons snapped as the force of the Nile brought them down.
A muslim mosque stood 3 metres above us at one stage, seemly built on top of one of the temples. We were told where the mosque stood was the ground level at the time Karnak temple was discovered. The rest of the temple was excavated and the mosque left to show where the levels of the valley were in the past.
3 Kilometres away, smack in the middle of Luxor lies the Luxor Temple. The Opet festival was celebrated in ancient times by the King in the image of Amun, his consort Mut and their son Khonsu in a procession from Karnak to the Luxor Temple. Today, this path is densly populated by housing, some shops, schools and small factories. This will soon be destroyed by the Luxor government to make way for the construction of a procession path between Karnak and Luxor similar to that in the bygone era.
We made a short visit to the Mumification Museum where we learnt the process of how ancient Egyptians prepared the body for mumification.
On the West Side
With a stiff sandstorm blowing, our tickets allowed us to view the tombs of Remeses IV, Remeses III and Remeses I. Sandstorm masks provided by our friends in Korea prooved to be extremely useful here! Tombs were burried deep inside the valley, completed with hieroglyphic carvings in the wall - depicting the king' s rein and his judgement day. While the burial chamber would hold the sarcophagus of the king. Plenty of smaller chambers were also built around the main burial chamber. These were used to hold belongings of the king for his use in the afterlife. It was intersting how everybody was incredibly calm when the tomb lost power - plunging the site and its visitors into complete darkness. We imagined someone yelling, "mummy!" at that point... but that was not to be. Nevermind.
In ancient times, the believe that in the afterlife, the soul would live forever but return to the original body. So, the mumification process purified the body and preserved it for the afterlife. Tombs were built and hidden so that it would be safe and secure for the king would live peacefully in his afterlife.
They grandeur of the Valley of the Kings was not prevalent at the Valley of the Queens - in fact the latter was quite modest in comparison. We only visited 2 out of the 3 tombs that was open: that of Queen Titi and Prince Amunherkhopshef (son of Remeses III). The commercial website which are linked to the names provide a vivid description of the contents of the tombs we visited.
We spent some time at the Hatshepsute Temple, which was built by Hatshepsut, the daughter of Pharoah Tutmoses I when she became Pharoah herself . She claimed to be the daughter of God Amun-ra, who asked her to reclaim the throne and rule Egypt as Pharoah - she did so for 20 years. During this time, she brought trade to Egypt, an act that was depicted in the walls of the Hatshepsute Temple. She remained the only Queen with a tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Our tourguide named this the Hot Chicken Soup temple!
Our final stop was to the Colossi of Memnon, which is basically two large statues of Pharoah Amenhotep III representing the Nile God of upper and lower Egypt.
We spent the last evening in Luxor celebrating Jeanette's birthday by the river Nile. Unfortunately, we were placed too close to the river for us to really enjoy the time - as we were afraid crocodiles might invade - but everything ended on a high note. After 4½ days of intensive touring, we were absolutely famished and needed to get back home for a rest. It was one of the best times we've had!
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