Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Luxor Temple is on the other side of the road of Nefertiti Hotel where I was staying so no sweat getting to the place. After a 3-hour train trip from Aswan, I had a good sleep and woke up early in the morning to avoid too much tourists swarming the area, though there were already bunch of early visitors inside but just enough to truly enjoy the place.  I always hated the long queues and chaos, I’m a bit greedy with tourist sights, I want it all by myself.  That’s the reason why I like to do it on my own, I’m a huge fan of DIYs, I don’t like the idea of being herded in group by a tourist guide. 
As I was looking for the entrance, the military guard pointed to me the way, you'll find it at the back of the big mosque right near the town square where families congregate and have picnics during the evenings.
The mosque built on top of the temple can be seen on the left top side.

Luxor Temple is the first sight that got me thrilled, the massive columns, lofty statues, colossus, pylons, the peristyle court, the wall inscriptions – they were all in impressive condition and walking along the temple gives you the ancient grandiosity feel of the place and you'll start to wonder how these huge pieces of rocks were brought and assembled. Amazing how the ancient Egyptians did such marvelous temples, not only the painstaking labor but also the amount of artistry and intelligence.

The temple was built in succession by several ancient Egyptian dynasties between 1500 – 1200BC and was dedicated to the king of the Egyptian gods Amon-Re.  Started by Amenhotep III, completed during the reign of Tutankhamun and Horemheb, then some developments from the time of Ramses II .  It also became a legionary fortress and the home of the Roman government in the area during the Roman era.
Highlights to watch out for:
  • Obelisk 
  • Pylon of Ramses II 
  • Court of Rameses II
  • Amenhotep III Colonnade
  • Court of Amonhotep III
  • Avenue of Sphinxes
The main pylon gate is accessible through the backside of the mosque of Abu'l Hajjaj and immediately after the entrance gate is the striking Court of Rameses II, at the southern part of the court were a number of standing colossi of the great pharaoh.  I paraded along the seven pairs of towering columns of the Colonnade of Amenhotep III.  There used to be two obelisks flanking the main pylon, only one is left standing to date, the other once was given to King Louis V in 1874 and presently can be found at Place De La concorde in Paris.
Only the Obelisk on the left side is left standing at the main pylon, the other one is in Paris.

After the colonnade is a hypostyle hall and at the rear were 4 rooms and an antechamber leading to the birth room, chapel of Alexander the Great and the sanctuary.   There was some work going on the wall when I was there. And just behind it are the sanctuary chambers of the temple and the birth shrine of Amenhotep III.
Exiting or entering the temple complex is the epic Avenue of the Sphinxes. These several statues lining up near the hotel I was staying at and just few meters from the first pylon (main gate) of Luxor Temple is also the view at the rooftop breakfast hall of our hotel.  The statues have human heads built during the time of Nectanebo, the face wearing headdress with a cobra, most probably resembles him. Luxor Temple and Karnak used to be connected by less than 3 kilometers avenue of 1,350 sphinxes where ancient Egyptians paraded along it to celebrate the annual Opet festival. At present, there are only 34 sphinxes on the west side and 38 on the east side, others can be found at Karnak, the rest are believed to be buried under the building structures of the modern city of Luxor. 
Avenue of Sphinx.
Avenue of Sphinx with the Nile in the background, as seen from the terrace of Nefertiti Hotel.
On the day I went to Luxor Temple, I hurriedly entered the mosque near the town square thinking that it was the entrance because I was trying to avoid this pushy driver who kept following me offering his private car tour service, he annoyed me for several minutes starting from the main street of the hotel.  To avoid him, I immediately entered the mosque for no reason. Whilst there, I probed inside it's not that big, very modest and has a village-mosque feel to it. The old man who I supposed is the caretaker of the mosque spoke with the dodgy driver, as I speak a bit of the local language I told the old man that I don't need a driver and I don't know him. He may have told the guy to leave me alone as he left hurriedly. That is how to avoid touts in Egypt – use another righteous Egyptian to shoo a tout Egyptian. Good riddance, right? 

The Mosque of the Sufi Shaykh Yusuf Abu al-Hajjaj was built over the ruins of the temple of Luxor. When archeologists unearthed the reliefs of the temple, they did not touch the mosque, it was preserved and still is a working mosque.  It became a part of the whole Luxor temple sight.  There was a tomb housed in a modest structure right after the entrance.  I’ve seen local people offering prayers in front of the tomb.  I'm not sure, so please correct me if I'm wrong – Al-Hajjaj was the controversial Arab administrator and politician of the Umayyad caliphate?
Inside the Mosque of Abu Al-Hajjaj.
I finished my Luxor temple visit exiting the first pylon and strutting my way along the avenue of the sphinxes before taking a caleche (horse-drawn carriage) to the Karnak Temple by noontime.

Entry fee to Luxor Temple is EGP50.


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