The Temple of Luxor and Karnak Temple in Luxor

Photo of The Temple of Luxor and Karnak Temple in Luxor, Luxor
Photo of The Temple of Luxor and Karnak Temple in Luxor, Luxor
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Photo of The Temple of Luxor and Karnak Temple in Luxor, Luxor
Photo of The Temple of Luxor and Karnak Temple in Luxor, Luxor
Photo of The Temple of Luxor and Karnak Temple in Luxor, Luxor
Photo of The Temple of Luxor and Karnak Temple in Luxor, Luxor
Photo of The Temple of Luxor and Karnak Temple in Luxor, Luxor
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The Temple of Luxor and Karnak Temple

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One of the grand constructions of ancient Egypt, this temple stands today as a reminder of the lavish civilization that once thrived on the banks of the Nile River. Unlike in the north where the Nile Delta provided for the people, It was the river alone that gave this region life, and all life existed close to its banks. It is for that reason that this temple is oriented on a north-south axis, rather than facing the sun like the temples in the comparatively bountiful north. But what the river gives, it also takes away. When archaeologists began excavating this site it lay almost completely buried under centuries of silt brought by the annual Nile floods. You can see how deep the temple was buried because crystallized salt still clings to the uppermost reaches where the water deposited its last load of nutrient-rich loam. It wasn't just the Egyptians who appreciated this place. Both the Greeks and the Romans were drawn here, and the ruins of a once-thriving Roman town still surround the area. The temple is fashioned out of several distinct types of structures -- colonnades, open courts, covered formal entryways, halls, shrines, corridors, and storage areas. The most famous view of the temple is from the outside where the Avenue of Sphinxes once greeted royalty. They stand across from a granite obelisk. This is one half of a set of twins. The other is now in Paris, given to the French in exchange for a clock (See the Cairo page for more details on this). The Sphinxes were built for Nectanebo the First, but he wasn't the first or the last emperor to put his special stamp on this holy place. In fact, some of the later rulers actually carved their own messages, boasts, and tales of triumph over the war legends of those who preceded them. We know what the temple must have looked like in its heyday because there is a relief showing the building with its flags fluttering in the breeze. We can also tell from this picture what's was old and what was added by subsequent kings. Over time they added on to the temple, increasing its size and majesty. However, like any institution built over the span of generations, the intentions of one king were often disregarded by the next. Imagine any large university campus you've visited. Parts and sections seem planned out well enough, but the whole never works as well as it should, and instead of staying on the cobbled or cement walkways the students soon beat their own, more efficient, goat paths through the grass ruining the landscaping and illustrating the way the campus should have been laid out in the first place. It's the same principle here and the result is a jumble of corridors and holy halls in redundant clusters. Those corridors and colonnades are often flanked by great columns carved in the shape of papyrus buds. Follow them enough and you will eventually run into one gallery that has never been excavated. Its silt is still in place because a mosque was built on the site. It was one of a series of mosques built by Badr al-Gamali to celebrate his victory over the Nubians in 1077. The government antiquities board has built a new mosque, but sentiment dies hard and the worshipers refuse to give up their history.

Quick Facts
  • July, 2001: After 2,500 years standing in the Egyptian desert, mother nature may finally be ready to reclaim the famed pyramids and other runes of Luxor. Groundwater is seeping upward and has come dangerously close to the ancient structures. In some places it us just six feet below their foundations. Irrigation and leaking sewage are believed to be responsible for the rising water problem. Luxor's director of antiquities is discounting Egyptian media reports that indicate the monuments are in immediate peril. Still, the Egyptian parliament was concerned, and the American government spent US$40,000,000 to build a sewage treatment plant that will help reduce the threat.
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