Suitcase and World: Luxor. The grandeur of Karnak.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Luxor. The grandeur of Karnak.

It's still Day 6. At 2pm, Lei and I met back up with the group. It was the first time that they had seen me since I fell on the felucca. From the looks on their faces, I think they were as glad to see us (in one piece) as we were to see them. Poor Kristen opted out of the trip to Karnak - she was in bed battling the "bug" that was going around.

The rest of us, along with Daniel, piled into a mini-van for the short ride to Karnak. Ahmed was our local guide for the day. Daniel got us our tickets....

.... and then left us in Ahmed's care.

Karnak is a complex of temples that comprises three separate temple enclosures and covers over 100 acres. Our tour would take us through the largest and grandest of these enclosures - the Precinct of Amun which is dedicated to the supreme god Amun who was the lord of all: king of the gods and patron of the pharaohs.

Entry into the Precint of Amun begins with a walk down the Processional Way which is flanked on both sides by ram-headed sphynxes.

A tiny statue of Ramses II sits between the forelegs of each sphynx.

At the end of the Processional Way is what is referred to as the First Pylon - a walled gateway that measures 113m wide and 43m high.

Beyond the First Pylon is the Forecourt. The Colossus of Ramses II, with a smaller statue of Queen Nefertari between his legs, stands in the Forecourt, positioned beside the vestibule to the Second Pylon.

Just beyond the Second Pylon lies the Great Hypostyle Hall.

The Hall was started by King Seti I (1313 - 1292 BC) and completed by his son, Ramses II (1292-1225 BC). The hall contains 134 columns - 14 line the processional avenue - each is 23m high and 15m in circumference. To this, Seti I and Ramses II added 122 smaller columns in two flanking wings. The smaller columns are 15m in height. At one time, these columns supported a roof with small clerestory windows. While the roof is gone, some of the windows remain.

The smaller columns have calyx capitals....

....and the larger columns, papyrus bud capitals.

The columns constructed by Seti I are decorated with raised reliefs; the columns constructed by Ramses II are decorated with sunken reliefs. The reliefs show the Kings making offerings to Theban deities, most notably Amun.

Wonder how the ancient Egyptians built 29m high columns without a crane? The theory is that the columns were built up in sections. To start, columns of a "manageable" height were placed into the ground. The spaces that separated the group of columns was filled in with sand to the height of the column sections. The process was repeated with each column section until the top was reached. Once the stone roof was placed on top, the sand was hauled away - essentially unearthing the columns. Pretty smart, huh?< Just beyond the Third Pylon is the 23m high, pink granite obelisk of Tuthmosis II.

Beyond the Fourth Pylon is yet another pink granite obelisk. This one stands 27m high and is significant because it belongs to Queen Hatshepsut, the only woman to rule as pharoah.

Ahmed guided us to a wall that was constructed by Hatshepsut but was deliberately defaced by Tuthmosis II. In the picture below, you can see that her image has been scratched out. Tuthmosis II also replaced her cartouches, which border the wall, with those of his father's and grandfather's names.

A short walk from the Obelisk of Hatshepsut lies the Sacred Lake. Next to the Sacred Lake is a giant scarab, dedicated by Amenophsis III to the God Khepri. The Egyptians believed that the Sun was pushed by a scarab on its daily crossing of the sky. It came to symbolize eternity. It is said that if you walk around the scarab one time, you will have good health, three times will give you wealth and seven times for love. It was too crowded so I didn't even go one round :-(

Lei and I managed to convince a guard (1 EG helped) to let us up onto a grandstand. From there, we took these shots of the complex.

On the way back through the complex, we came across this relief wall. I don't know what it's named but it's remarkable.

We retraced our steps back to the entrance and when we were all there, piled back into the mini-van and headed back into the hotel.

If Abu Simbel is awe inspiring and Philae breath taking then Karnak can only be described as being simply magnificent! It is a truly incredible sight and visiting it was definitely a highlight of my time in Egypt. Words and photos cannot do it justice - you have to be there to really appreciate its majesty and grandeur.

Here are Lei's reflections on her visit to Karnak.