Magic Carpet Journals
Story and pictures by M. Maxine George
From Karnak Temple in Thebes, we travelled by bus back to Luxor, to the site of the Temple. Here we saw the other end of the Avenue of the Sphinx, ending in the forecourt of this ancient temple. Built by Nectanebo in 380 BC, this is the avenue down which the processional proceeded from Karnak to the propylon of Luxor. In front today, we see only one of the original pair of obelisks, which once stood in front of the pylon. The second obelisk was presented by Mohammed Ali Pasha to the King of France, in exchange for the clock that is now in the Citadel in Cairo. Two seated statues of Ramses were also given to the French King. At least sixteen obelisks are now outside of Egypt, twelve of these in Italy. Two seated statues of Ramses II still remain to guard the sanctuary of the gods. The great pylon is 65 metres wide and was decorated with bas reliefs showing the military camp of King Ramses II at the Battle of Kardesh. Here, one once could see the text of a poem celebrating the Kingís victories. I no longer saw the decorations on this visit.
The Obelisk and the statues of Ramses
Looking between the pylons, we see the minaret of a Moslem mosque, a most unusual sight within a temple dedicated to the ancient Egyptian gods. High on one wall, sits the mosque. When I first visited Luxor Temple I was told that some of the Arab temple keepers remembered when this ancient site was covered with sand. Many years ago the mosque was built on the sand above the ruins. When the sand was excavated, the mosque could not be disturbed, hence it sits here today amid the temple of the pagan gods.
The Mosque can be seen on this wall.
Standing in the centre of the first open court we saw that the corridor or axis is not straight. A diversion was incorporated to accommodate an earlier shrine, made of granite. The remainder of the temple is built of limestone. This first section of the temple was built for Ramses II, 1300 years before the birth of Christ. Walking through this temple, we came upon a bizarre row of statues, beheaded by time. Their heads sit on the pedestals by their feet.
You can see the diversion caused by a previous temple
The hypostyle hall contains 74 columns. There may be more columns under the mosque. One statue, that we saw, may have been a statue of King Tut, as it has the features of the boy King. It must have been usurped by Ramses, for his name is now on it. Another statue is of the Nile god, with features of both man and woman for fertility. It has the belly and breasts of a woman and the beard of a man.
The statue thought to be King Tutankhamen
The symbol of the scarab, that we saw depicted at Luxor, is a sacred symbol, thought to have mysterious powers. If the symbol was turned twice, we were told, the woman might get pregnant. It was suggested that it might be preferable to turn the scarab seven times, as this would bring good luck.
A colonnade in Luxor Temple
An imposing colonnade, twenty-five metres long, leads to the courtyard of the temple, built by Amenofis III, in 1400 BC. Surrounded on three sides by a double row of columns with closed papyrus capitals. Called Amunís southern harem, this temple was the base for the southern festival of Min, the god of fertility. Legend has it that Amun was coming here to unite with the wives of the King. Here we see the story of the divine birth of Amenhotep, depicted on a wall in the oldest part of the temple. His mother was not of noble birth, therefore it was necessary to invent a story of divine birth. The god Amun-Ra took the form of the father of the King, who is shown sitting in front of the mother.
Look on the wall to see the later day Christians depicted
Egypt has long been known as the cradle of civilization. At the conclusion of our tour of the antiquities of this ancient civilization, I stand in awe of their knowledge and skills. Living in the disposable society that considers planned obsolescence an intelligent goal, I wonder if we can truly appreciate their accomplishments. Can we envision any of our buildings lasting even 100 years, never mind 3000 years? Are any of our domed stadiums any more wonderful than the hypostyle hall at Karnak, which has stood there since before the birth of Christ. Do we know any more today about the after-life, than they did when they wrote the Book of the Dead? The book which proscribes the rules, which the ancient Egyptians believed, one must follow in order to live in eternity.
Luxor Temple at night
Story by M. Maxine George
Pictures by Maxine George and Mario and Julie Bergeron
Now we get to visit the Valley of the Kings