Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day 13: The Last Temple

Our final tourist destination was the famous temple of Luxor, only a mile and a half from the complex at Karnak. By the way, the temples we're seeing today are around a thousand years older than the ones upriver: the oldest parts of Karnak still in place date from around 1500 BC, and the Luxor temple dates from about 100 years later, 1400 BC or thereabouts.

Luxor Temple is dedicated to the same gods - Amun, Mut and Khons - as much of Karnak, and during the annual Opet festival they would carry a statue of Amun over from Karnak to "visit" Luxor for a while.

We got there almost at sunset, and since the temple faces north, the light was usually coming from "behind and to the right". As we approached
you can see the obelisk to the left of the main entrance. There used to be a pair of them; the right-hand obelisk is now in Paris. This is one of those times that Ihab sounded just a little bitter when he talked about it.

The statues flanking the entryway are Rameses II, the Great Chiseler himself:
The fact that the temple had already been there for a hundred years didn't stop him putting his statues all over it! Though, to be fair, he did expand it a lot.

The base of the obelisk is surrounded with carved baboons:

I finally asked Ihab what the deal was with the baboons - there were a dozen baboons painted on the wall of King Tutankhamun's tomb too - and he said the Egyptians thought that baboons worshiped the sun like they did, since in the morning, they face East and stand up and hoot.

To the left of the gateway we see the Big Head of Ramses II:
This originally was on top of a statue, but the statue is long gone and only the Big Head remains. Seems curiously appropriate!

Once past the outer pylons, you see this ginormous colonnade:
and if you go in a ways and turn back, you see a mosque built right into the wall on top of a temple court! See the arches?

Rameses II is everywhere!

Oddly enough, I don't think these guys are Rameses II...

You find many interesting things in little nooks to the sides:
(These are Roman-era wall frescoes!) The view down the colonnade in the other direction looks gorgeous in the evening light:

At this point, however, the photographic record thins: my chest cold suddenly morphed into horrible bronchitis and I had a hard time walking back to the entryway. Fortunately there are a lot of big slabs of rock there - I unashamedly sat down frequently to catch my breath.

We did pause for one more photo shoot with the Big Head
and to admire the dramatic night lighting:
and I couldn't resist the allure of the Avenue of Sphinxes, even if I was gasping like a fish!
Back at the dock, I spotted a sign I had missed up till now, one in which I have a professional interest:
I'm sure it's spelled properly in Arabic...

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