Luxor Tourist Attractions
The town of Luxor, the great tourist center of Upper Egypt, Iies on the right bank of the Nile in an extensive depression bounded on the east by the rock walls of the Eastern Desert Plateau.
The modern town occupies part of the area of the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes, which extended much farther north beyond the temples of Karnak, with its necropolis on the west bank of the Nile reaching far into the hills of the Western Desert. The present name is derived from the Arabic El-Qusur (the "Palaces": plural form of El-Qasr) referring to the mighty temple which was occupied until the end of the 19th century by the houses of the village.The town's main traffic artery is the Shari el-Bahr el-Nil, the corniche road, with the landing-stage used by the Nile cruise ships and the cross-river ferries, which runs north and south from the temple. Between the temple and the river are the remains of a Roman forum. To the south are the Winter Palace and New Winter Palace Hotels, and in the immediate vicinity of the temple the Tourist Bazaar, shops, banks and travel agencies. To the north of the temple are other hotels and the Museum. On the eastern outskirts of the town is the station; to the northeast, outside the town, the airport.To the north of Luxor is the great temple complex of Karnak, reached in ancient times through the streets of the city but now approached by a broad tree-lined avenue. Even in the time of the Pharaohs the Temple of Amun, the chief god of Thebes, was regarded as the finest creation of an age rich in architectural achievement. To the north, at Medu, present-day Medamut, was another group of temples.
Temple of Luxor
At the south end of the modern town, close to the Nile, stands the imposing Temple of Luxor, and within to the northeast, the little Mosque of Abu el-Haggag, a much revered Muslim holy man. The temple was built by Amenophis III on the site of an earlier sandstone temple and was known to the Egyptians as Apet Amunresyet, the "Southern Harem of Amun". It was dedicated to Amun, his consort Mut and their son the moon god Khons. Like all Egyptian temples, it comprised the chapels of the deities with their vestibules and subsidiary chambers, a large hypostyle hall and an open peristyle court, which was approached from the north by a great colonnade.The temple was 623ft/190m long and 180ft/55m wide at its broadest part. Opposite the temple was a granite chapel built by Tuthmosis III. During Amenophis IV's religious revolution the figures and names of Amun were obliterated and a sanctuary of the Aten, the Sun, was built near the temple. When Tutankhamun moved the royal residence back to Thebes he had the walls of the colonnade embellished with reliefs, in which Horemheb later substituted his own names for those of his predecessor. The Temple of the Aten was destroyed, and in the reign of Sethos I the reliefs of Amun were restored. Ramesses II, the great builder, also extended the Temple of Luxor, adding a new colonnaded court at the north end, usurping Tuthmosis III's chapel and replacing the old reliefs by new ones, and erected a massive pylon with its doorway adjoining Tuthmosisill's chapel. These later structures involved a slight displacement of the axis of the temple, and increased the total length to 583ft/260m. Thereafter the temple underwent little alteration. In Christian times it was converted into a church.
Temple of Luxor - Pylon
Temple of Luxor - Great Court of Ramesses II
Beyond the pylon is the Great Court of Ramesses II, 187ft/57m long by 167ft/51m wide. Owing to the presence of the mosque at the northeast corner it has not been completely exposed. It was originally surrounded on all four sides by colonnades, with a total of 74 papyrus columns, with bud capitals and smooth shafts. At the northwest corner is the chapel, decorated with reliefs, which was built by Tuthmosis III and usurped by Ramesses II. Along the front of the chapel was a small colonnade of four elegant papyrus cluster columns of red granite. It has three chambers, which housed the sacred barques of Amun (center), Mut (to the left) and Khons (to the right).The walls of the court are covered with reliefs and inscriptions representations of offerings, hymns to the gods, scenes showing conquered nations, etc. mostly dating from the reign of Ramesses II. The relief on the southwest wall shows the facade of the temple and the pylon with its flagstaffs, colossal statues and obelisks; from the right approaches a procession headed by the Princes and followed by garlanded sacrificial animals (continuation on west wall). In the west wall is a doorway leading out of the court, in front of which are two statues of Ramesses II (upper parts missing).
Colossal Statues of Ramesses II
On the south side of the Great Court of Ramesses II, between the front columns, are colossal statues of Ramesses II, with an average height of 23ft/7m, all of red granite except one which is of black granite. The finest of these figures, whose crown, carved from a separate block, has fallen off, was 17.5ft/5.30m high; on the base and the apron are carved the King's names. On each side of the south doorway is a colossal seated figure of the King with the Queen seated on his right.
Temple of Luxor - Colonnade
Adjoining the Great Court of Ramesses II on the south is the Colonnade, which is well preserved and makes a major contribution to the imposing effect of the ruins. Seven papyrus columns with open capitals, almost 52ft/16m high, still support heavy architraves borne on high abaci. They were erected by Amenophis III, but also bear the names of Tutankhamun, Horemheb, Sethos I, Ramesses lI and Sethos II. The fine reliefs on the walls the upper part of which is destroyed at some points date from the time of Tutankhamun, whose name was later replaced by that of his successor Horemheb. They depict in vivid detail the great Opet (New Year) festival, when the sacred barques of the gods were taken out of the Temple of Karnak, sailed up the Nile to Luxor, where they were borne into the temple, and then returned to Karnak in the evening. The scenes, full of fascinating details, begin at the northwest corner and end at the northeast corner.
Temple of Luxor - Court of Amenophis III
Beyond the colonnade lies the Court of Amenophis III, 148ft/45m long by 167ft/51m wide, which was surrounded on three sides by a double colonnade of papyrus cluster columns. The columns and architraves on the east and west sides are excellently preserved. On the fourth (south) side is the Vestibule or pronaos of the temple proper, the roof of which was borne by 32 (4 x 8) papyrus cluster columns. On the east wall are reliefs showing Amenophis III in the presence of the gods of Thebes; below, personifications of the nomes of Egypt bearing gifts. On the south wall, to the right and left of the apse, is the coronation of Amenophis by the gods. To the left is an altar dedicated to the Emperor Constantine, with a Latin inscription. On the rear wall, to the right and left, are two small chapels, the one on the left dedicated to the goddess Mut, the one on the right to the moon god Khons, with a staircase (destroyed) adjoining it. The central door in the rear wall leads into a smaller hall, originally with eight columns, which in Christian times was converted into a church. The old entrance to the inner rooms of the temple then became a kind of apsidal recess, flanked by two red granite Corinthian columns. At some points the later coating of whitewash has peeled off, revealing the fine reliefs of Amenophis Ill. Adjoining the church are a number of smaller rooms.
Temple of Luxor - Birth Room
From the vestibule in the Court of Amenophis III a door in the east wall leads out of the temple. Going out through this and turning right to re-enter the temple, we pass through three doors and come to the Birth Room. This room, with three cluster columns, is named after the reliefs on the west wall referring to the birth of Amenophis III; those on the south wall depict his accession to the throne.West wall, lower row, from left to right: 1. the god Khnum shaping two infants (Amenophis III and his guardian spirit) on the potter's wheel, with Isis seated opposite; 2. Khnum and Amun; 3. Amun and Mutemuia, mother of Amenophis III, seated on the hieroglyph for "sky" and supported by the goddesses Selkit and Neith; 4. Amun and Thoth; 5. the King and Amun (badly damaged); 6. Isis (destroyed) embracing Queen Mutemuia, with Amun on the right. Middle row: 1. Thoth foretells to Mutemuia the birth of a son; 2. Mutemuia, pregnant, conducted by Khnum and Isis; 3. confinement of Mutemuia, attended by Bes, Thoeris and other spirits; 4. Isis (destroyed) presents the newborn Prince to Amun; 5. Amun holds the infant, beside him Hathor and Mut. Top row: 1. left, the Queen, with the goddess Selkit behind her; right, two goddesses suckling the Prince and his guardian spirit; below, the Prince and his guardian spirit suckled by two cows; 2. nine deities holding the Prince; 3. the god Hekaw (in blue) holding the Prince and his guardian spirit, behind him the Nile god; 4. Horus giving the infant to Amun; 5. Khnum and Anubis; 6. the Prince and his guardian spirit sitting and standing before Amun; 7. Amenophis as King.
Temple of Luxor - Sanctuary of Alexander the Great
Beyond the birth room is a side room with three columns and poorly preserved reliefs, from which an arched doorway inserted at a later date leads into the Sanctuary of Alexander the Great, a room largely rebuilt in the reign of Alexander. The four columns supporting the roof were replaced by a chapel for the sacred barque of Amun, the walls of which were decorated internally and externally with reliefs depicting Alexander in the presence of Amun and his fellow deities, while the walls of the original chamber still show Amenophis III in the presence of the various Theban gods. A door in the north wall of the chamber leads into a small square room with four papyrus cluster columns. The reliefs in this room, in three rows, show Amenophis III in the presence of the Theban deities, in particular Amun.The rooms at the far end of the temple contain no features of particular interest. A gap in the wall of the Sanctuary of Alexander the Great leads into a hall with 12 columns, adjoining which are three chapels. The roof of the central chapel was supported by four papyrus cluster columns. To the left is a relief showing the King being conducted into the sanctuary by Atum and Horus; the other reliefs show him in the presence of Amun. The south chapel, also accessible from outside the temple, was dedicated to the ithyphallic Amun-Kamutef.
Temple of Luxor - Military Reliefs
On the way back to the pylon it is worth looking at the reliefs on the outer walls on the west side of the temple, which depict Ramesses II's campaigns in Asia.
Temple of Luxor - Poem of Pentaur
On the outside of the SE wall of the Court of Ramesses II, in large vertical lines, is the famous "Poem of Pentaur" celebrating the King's war with the Hittites.
Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art
The Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art contains a good assortment of artifacts from the nearby region. The building, designed by Mahmud El-Hakim, is of architectural significance.
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