Published: July 14th 2012July 14th 2012
Set off today after a hearty breakfast for the 20 min. walk up the Nile to the famous Karnak Temples. This is one of the absolute largest religious centers in the entire world. To put it into perspective, St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London could easily fit side by side, and there's still be plenty of room to spare.
In its hey-day during the New Kingdom period of Egypt (1500-1000 BC) Karnak was one of the wealthiest and most important centers in all of Egypt. The reason why Karnak is so massive is because each successive pharaoh wanted to leave his mark (or her mark - the one great Egyptian woman-pharaoh, Hapshetsut) in such an important area, and of course try to out-do in size and slendor the additions of past rulers. So what you're left with is a sprawling complex that basically is a history lesson in New Kingdom pharoahs as you walk through the place. The most famous names here are Ramses, Amenhotep, and Thutmosis.
Spent most of the day at Karnak. The only downside: the absolutely brutal heat. It topped out at a little over 100 F today. But that's why you go
The Avenue of the Ram-Headed Sphinxes
This is the grand walkway that leads into the temple. What's shocking is how far the Nile has migrated. The Temple was originally right up against the banks of the river.
to a museum in the afternoon, which I did - the Luxor Museum. This is, after the Egyptian Museum, the best museum in the country, and definitely the most organized (there's a joke that the chaos of the Egyptian Museum is the best archeological dig waiting to happen). But, again, no photos allowed. The highlights of the museum, though, and the two royal mummies and the excellent statues. One thing about the mummies, though. I saw more in Cairo at the Egyptian Museum, and I've since realized that while it's awesome to literally look face to face with some of the most powerful rulers in all of history, it's also very gross and disturbing, and I think just plain wrong. Would you want your preserved body to be gawked at and secretly photographed day after day? Maybe they should've reburied them after they'd dug them up. It's seems more decent and humane somehow.
The key in this type of heat is to be done with going around town by noonish. Tomorrow for instance a driver is taking me across the river to the Valley of the Kings and the other temples at 8. One major temple, the one to
the female pharoah, Hapshepsut, is actually on record as being one of the hottest places in the world. Only go around in the morning, and escape the heat in the afternoon in this dark and cool hotel.
Also, I asked today about other famous figures that have stayed here - Richard Gere was just here, Princess Diana and Charles stayed in the Royal Suite right next door, Jackie Kennedy, Jane Fonda, and oddly enough, Al Gore. There are others, but I can't remember them right now. I had a five-course dinner for 180 Egyptian Pound.
There are more photos below