Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Egypt - day 5 : Karnak and Luxor

A more leasurely start, 9am, thankfully as our tummies were feeling decidedly peaky! A short drive up to Karnak, lots of buses as people had come all the way from Hurgade (miles away on the red sea) to do the whole Luxor region experience in a day...

The entrance to the Karnak temple is lined with sphynx type rams leading up the 1st philon, which is infact not finished, although it is 25m high - behind which is the open court. To the left are 3 small chapels to Amut, Amun and Khans and to the right are remains of the construction piles used to gain access to the top of the philon for laying stone and then decorating. walking through the 2nd philon brought us to the extremely impressive "great hypostyle hall", with some 134 columns dominating the room - perhaps the most impressive "room" of the trip, everything was heavily decorated with many stories of offering and festivals - many photos taken ;-) We walked through the 3rd philon and saw immediately the immense obelisque of Hatshepsut, originally there would have been 3, but Tuthmosis III as usual knocked one down. After walking further through the central court we came to the festival hall of Tuthmosis III which had been subsquently used and modified by the copts, with the ceiling showing signs of fires, all the usual stars had been scratched away, along with all the faces of the pharoic gods :-( To the right hand side of the temple, the remains of Hatshepsuts 2nd obelisque lies next to a huge scarab beetle form, but the sacred lake. The beetle form representing the rising sun and good fortune if you were to walk round it 6x!! BARAKA

On walking out there is a great view across to Nile to the temple of Hatshepsut - on the "dead side" in between the valley of the kings and the valley of the queens.


Only 5 mins down the Nile from Karnak temple we popped into Luxor temple - the 2 were originally linked by a road lined with ram form sphynx, now obliterated by urbanisation; these remaining ram forms were changed to sphynx style. The enormous 1st philon constructed by Ramses II shows a battle preparation scene to the right and the actual battle scenes to the left. Guarding the entrance are 2 dominating statues of Ramses II coupled with what would have been a pair of obelisques, however, 1 of these now stands in Paris! The temple itself was under sand until the early 1900s and a mosque was built on the sand in the area of the open court, with its 1st floor windows some 10m above the open court floor, post removal of the sand. Like Karnak you are met by 3 chapels on the right as you enter the court of Ramses II, also lined with columns. A tight collonaid of 14 columns took us via a sculputre of Tutenkhamoun and his young wife in a alabaster and another Ramses II statue to the 2nd open court, that of Amenhotep III, the outside of which was originally double lined with columns many of which havent stood the tes of time. From here a great view of the Nile is afforded, being only a stones throw away across the now main road. By this time Soaz was feeling rather under the weather, but we managed to stagger onto the Amun temple at the very back of the Luxor temple complex where much renovation was ongoing. The temple walls to the left have been overpainted with frescos by the copts who used this as a coptic chapel. On the way out, in between the multitude of Ramses II statues, we limped back to the hotel for a lie down, not really up for any lunch; we jotted a few postcards to the rellies and eventually made it down to the pool for the habitual 4pm swim and read before the 2nd highlight of the day!!


A personalised dinner cruise on the Nile awaited us - 5pm was our schedule departure, and the "queen Mary" was waiting for us on the water...a table set for 2, we jumped on board as the sun slipped behind the trees as orange turned to red and then dark purple. The table was lavishly laid by our waiter with huge quantities of mezha, lovely babaganoush and humus etc...which we wished we were more hungry for - we also had a captain and a 1st mate aswell as a cook who looked after the main course of lamb, chicken, rice, veggies and of coure pita. We watched the birds head back to their roosts as the lights came on in houses along the banks. A few miggies joined us as we stopped in at a sand bar where we finished up our mains which looked as if we'd made no progress with as there was so much of it. We were invited to spend dessert on the boat roof while our waiter cleared the table, cushions were brought up for us - lots of bisous ;~))

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