Goodbye Felucca – Hello Luxor


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Africa » Egypt » Upper Egypt » Luxor
March 4th 2020
Published: March 5th 2020
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Our leader Khaled keeps telling us that the next thing we do will be the best ever, and I keep wondering how that could be so.

We got up early, had breakfast at 6, and left the Feluccas. We traveled by support boat to the dock where our bus was waiting. This bus driver’s name is Abraham. We are still traveling north, this time by bus. We stopped at the Temple Kom Ombo.

It was originally an Egyptian city called Nubt, meaning City of Gold (not to be confused with the city north of Naqada that was also called Nubt/Ombos). Nubt is also known as Nubet or Nubyt (Nbyt). It became a Greek settlement during the Greco-Roman Period. The town's location on the Nile, 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of Aswan (Syene), gave it some control over trade routes from Nubia to the Nile Valley, but its main rise to prominence came with the erection of the Temple of Kom Ombo in the 2nd century BC.

In antiquity the city was in the Thebaid, the capital of the Nomos Ombites, on the east bank of the Nile; latitude 24° 6' north. Ombos was a garrison town under every dynasty of Egypt as well as the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Roman Egypt, and was celebrated for the magnificence of its temples and its hereditary feud with the people of Dendera.
Sobek at the Temple of Kom Ombo.
Ombos was the first city below Aswan at which any remarkable remains of antiquity occur. The Nile, indeed, at this portion of its course, was ill-suited to a dense population in antiquity. It runs between steep and narrow banks of sandstone, and deposits but little of its fertilizing slime upon the dreary and barren shores. There are two temples at Ombos, constructed of the stone obtained from the neighboring quarries of Hagar Silsilah.

The more magnificent of two stands upon the top of a sandy hill, and appears to have been a species of Pantheon, since, according to extant inscriptions, it was dedicated to Haroeris and the other deities of the Ombite nome by the soldiers quartered there. The smaller temple to the northwest was sacred to the goddess Isis. Both, indeed, are of an imposing architecture, and still retain the brilliant colors with which their builders adorned them. However, they are from the Ptolemaic Kingdom, with the exception of a doorway of sandstone, built into a wall of brick. This was part of a temple built by Thutmose III in honor of the crocodile-headed god Sobek. The monarch is represented on tress, the doorjambs, holding the measuring reed and chisel, the emblems of construction, and in the act of dedicating the temple.

The Ptolemaic portions of the larger temple present an exception to an almost universal rule in Egyptian architecture. It has no propylon or dromos in front of it, and the portico has an uneven number of columns, in all fifteen, arranged in a triple row. Of these columns, thirteen are still erect. As there are two principal entrances, the temple would seem to be two united in one, strengthening the supposition that it was the Pantheon of the Ombite nome. On a cornice above the doorway of one of the adyta, there is a Greek inscription, recording the erection, or perhaps the restoration of the sekos by Ptolemy VI Philometor and his sister-wife Cleopatra II, 180-145 BCE. The hill on which the Ombite temples stand has been considerably excavated at its base by the river, which here strongly inclines to the Arabian bank.

The crocodile was held in especial honor by the people of Ombos; and in the
NilemeterNilemeterNilemeter

Used to measure the flooding season of the Nile.
adjacent catacombs are occasionally found mummies of the sacred animal. Juvenal, in his 15th satire, has given a lively description of a fight, of which he was an eye-witness, between the Ombitae and the inhabitants of Dendera, who were hunters of the crocodile. On this occasion the men of Ombos had the worst of it; and one of their number, having stumbled in his flight, was caught and eaten by the Denderites. The satirist, however, has represented Ombos as nearer to Dendera than it actually is, these towns, in fact, being nearly 100 miles (160 km) from each other. The Roman coins of the Ombite nome exhibit the crocodile and the effigy of the crocodile-headed god Sobek.

In Kom Ombo there is a rare engraved image of what is thought to be the first representation of medical instruments for performing surgery, including scalpels, curettes, forceps, dilator, scissors and medicine bottles dating from the days of Roman Egypt.

At this site there is another Nilometer used to measure the level of the river waters. On the opposite side of the Nile was a suburb of Ombos, called Contra-Ombos.

From here we drove 4 hours to Luxor, arriving about 1:30 p.m. We checked into the Hotel Susanna showered and had a small lunch, then went to Karnak Temple.

The Karnak Temple Complex, commonly known as Karnak (/ˈkɑːr.næk/, from Arabic Khurnak meaning "fortified village"), comprises a vast mix of decayed temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings near Luxor, in Egypt. Construction at the complex began during the reign of Senusret I in the Middle Kingdom (around 2000-1700 BC) and continued into the Ptolemaic period (305 - 30 BC), although most of the extant buildings date from the New Kingdom. The area around Karnak was the ancient Egyptian Ipet-isut ("The Most Selected of Places") and the main place of worship of the eighteenth dynasty Theban Triad with the god Amun as its head. It is part of the monumental city of Thebes. The Karnak complex gives its name to the nearby, and partly surrounded, modern village of El-Karnak, 2.5 kilometres (1.6 miles) north of Luxor.

The complex is a vast open site and includes the Karnak Open Air Museum. It is believed to be the second most visited historical site in Egypt; only the Giza Pyramids near Cairo receive more visits. It consists of four main parts, of which only the largest is currently open to the general public. The term Karnak often is understood as being the Precinct of Amun-Ra only, because this is the only part most visitors see. The three other parts, the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Montu, and the dismantled Temple of Amenhotep IV, are closed to the public. There also are a few smaller temples and sanctuaries connecting the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Amun-Re, and the Luxor Temple.

The Precinct of Mut is very ancient, being dedicated to an Earth and creation deity, but not yet restored. The original temple was destroyed and partially restored by Hatshepsut, although another pharaoh built around it in order to change the focus or orientation of the sacred area. Many portions of it may have been carried away for use in other buildings.

The key difference between Karnak and most of the other temples and sites in Egypt is the length of time over which it was developed and used. Construction of temples started in the Middle Kingdom and continued into Ptolemaic times. Approximately thirty pharaohs contributed to the buildings, enabling it to reach a size, complexity, and diversity not seen elsewhere. Few of the individual features of Karnak are unique, but the size and number of features are overwhelming. The deities represented range from some of the earliest worshiped to those worshiped much later in the history of the Ancient Egyptian culture. Although destroyed, it also contained an early temple built by Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), the pharaoh who later would celebrate a near monotheistic religion he established that prompted him to move his court and religious center away from Thebes. It also contains evidence of adaptations, where the buildings of the Ancient Egyptians were used by later cultures for their own religious purposes.

One famous aspect of Karnak is the Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun-Re, a hall area of 50,000 sq ft (5,000 m2) with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows. 122 of these columns are 10 meters tall, and the other 12 are 21 meters tall with a diameter of over three meters.

The architraves on top of these columns are estimated to weigh 70 tons. These architraves may have been lifted to these heights using levers. This would be an extremely time-consuming process and also would require great balance to get to such great heights. A common alternative theory regarding how they were moved is that large ramps were constructed of sand, mud, brick or stone and that the stones were then towed up the ramps. If stone had been used for the ramps, they would have been able to use much less material. The top of the ramps presumably would have employed either wooden tracks or cobblestones for towing the megaliths.

There is an unfinished pillar in an out-of-the-way location that indicates how it would have been finished. Final carving was executed after the drums were put in place so that it was not damaged while being placed. Several experiments moving megaliths with ancient technology were made at other locations – some of them are listed here.

In 2009 UCLA launched a website dedicated to virtual reality digital reconstructions of the Karnak complex and other resources.

The sun god's shrine has light focused upon it during the winter solstice.

The history of the Karnak complex is largely the history of Thebes and its changing role in the culture. Religious centers varied by region, and when a new capital of the unified culture was established, the religious centers in that area gained prominence. The city of Thebes does not appear to have been of great significance before the Eleventh Dynasty and previous temple building there would have been relatively small, with shrines being dedicated to the early deities of Thebes, the Earth goddess Mut and Montu. Early building was destroyed by invaders. The earliest known artifact found in the area of the temple is a small, eight-sided column from the Eleventh Dynasty, which mentions Amun-Re. Amun (sometimes called Amen) was long the local tutelary deity of Thebes. He was identified with the ram and the goose. The Egyptian meaning of Amun is, "hidden" or, the "hidden god".

Major construction work in the Precinct of Amun-Re took place during the Eighteenth Dynasty when Thebes became the capital of the unified Ancient Egypt. Almost every pharaoh of that dynasty added something to the temple site. Thutmose I erected an enclosure wall connecting the Fourth and Fifth pylons, which comprise the earliest part of the temple still standing in situ. Hatshepsut had monuments constructed and also restored the original Precinct of Mut, the ancient great goddess of Egypt, that had been ravaged by the foreign rulers during the Hyksos occupation. She had twin obelisks, at the time the tallest in the world, erected at the entrance to the temple. One still stands, as the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on Earth; the other has broken in two and toppled. Another of her projects at the site, Karnak's Red Chapel, or Chapelle Rouge, was intended as a barque shrine and originally may have stood between her two obelisks. She later ordered the construction of two more obelisks to celebrate her sixteenth year as pharaoh; one of the obelisks broke during construction, and thus, a third was constructed to replace it. The broken obelisk was left at its quarrying site in Aswan, where it still remains. Known as the unfinished obelisk, it provides evidence of how obelisks were quarried.

Construction of the Hypostyle Hall also may have begun during the Eighteenth Dynasty (although most new building was undertaken under Seti I and Ramesses II in the Nineteenth).

Merneptah, also of the Nineteenth Dynasty, commemorated his victories over the Sea Peoples on the walls of the Cachette Court, the start of the processional route to the Luxor Temple.

The last major change to the Precinct of Amun-Re's layout was the addition of the First Pylon and the massive enclosure walls that surround the whole precinct, both constructed by Nectanebo I of the Thirtieth Dynasty.

In 323 AD, Roman emperor Constantine the Great recognised the Christian religion, and in 356 Constantius II ordered the closing of pagan temples throughout the Roman empire, into which Egypt had been annexed in 30 BC. Karnak was by this time mostly abandoned, and Christian churches were founded among the ruins, the most famous example of this is the reuse of the Festival Hall of Thutmose III's central hall, where painted decorations of saints and Coptic inscriptions can still be seen.

Precinct of Amun-Re



Main article: Precinct of Amun-Re
This is the largest of the precincts of the temple complex, and is dedicated to Amun-Re, the chief deity of the Theban Triad. There are several colossal statues, including the figure of Pinedjem I which is 10.5 metres (34 ft) tall. The sandstone for this temple, including all of the columns, was transported from Gebel Silsila 100 miles (161 km) south on the Nile river. It also has one of the largest obelisks, weighing 328 tonnes and standing 29 metres (95 ft) tall.
Panoramic view of the great hypostyle hall in the Precinct of Amun Re Panorama of a frieze in the Precinct of Amun Re

Precinct of Mut



Main article: Precinct of MutMap of Karnak, showing major temple complexes and sacred crescent lake of Mut
Located to the south of the newer Amen-Re complex, this precinct was dedicated to the mother goddess, Mut, who became identified as the wife of Amun-Re in the Eighteenth Dynasty Theban Triad. It has several smaller temples associated with it and has its own sacred lake, constructed in a crescent shape. This temple has been ravaged, many portions having been used in other structures. Following excavation and restoration works by the Johns Hopkins University team, led by Betsy Bryan (see below) the Precinct of Mut has been opened to the public. Six hundred black granite statues were found in the courtyard to her temple. It may be the oldest portion of the site.

In 2006 Betsy Bryan presented her findings about one festival that included apparent intentional overindulgence in alcohol. Participation in the festival was great, including the priestesses and the population. Historical records of tens of thousands attending the festival exist. These findings were made in the temple of Mut because when Thebes rose to greater prominence, Mut absorbed the warrior goddesses, Sekhmet and Bast, as some of her aspects. First, Mut became Mut-Wadjet-Bast, then Mut-Sekhmet-Bast (Wadjet having merged into Bast), then Mut also assimilated Menhit, another lioness goddess, and her adopted son's wife, becoming Mut-Sekhmet-Bast-Menhit, and finally becoming Mut-Nekhbet.

Temple excavations at Luxor discovered a "porch of drunkenness" built onto the temple by the pharaoh Hatshepsut, during the height of her twenty-year reign. In a later myth developed around the annual drunken Sekhmet festival, Ra, by then the sun god of Upper Egypt, created her from a fiery eye gained from his mother, to destroy mortals who conspired against him (Lower Egypt). In the myth, Sekhmet's blood-lust was not quelled at the end of battle and led to her destroying almost all of humanity, so Ra had tricked her by turning the Nile as red as blood (the Nile turns red every year when filled with silt during inundation) so that Sekhmet would drink it. The trick, however, was that the red liquid was not blood, but beer mixed with pomegranate juice so that it resembled blood, making her so drunk that she gave up slaughter and became an aspect of the gentle Hathor. The complex interweaving of deities occurred over the thousands of years of the culture.

Precinct of Montu



Main article: Precinct of Montu
This portion of the site is dedicated to the son of Mut and Amun-Re, Montu, the war-god of the Theban Triad. It is located to the north of the Amun-Re complex and is much smaller in size. It is not open to the public.

Temple of Amenhotep IV (deliberately dismantled)



Main article: Temple of Amenhotep IV
The temple that Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) constructed on the site was located east of the main complex, outside the walls of the Amun-Re precinct. It was destroyed immediately after the death of its builder, who had attempted to overcome the powerful priesthood who had gained control over Egypt before his reign. It was so thoroughly demolished that its full extent and layout is currently unknown. The priesthood of that temple regained their powerful position as soon as Akhenaten died, and were instrumental in destroying many records of his existence.



I’ve had to learn the hard way that when what looks like the employees of the Temple, or whatever site you are visiting, offer to take your picture or show you something special, they will expect a tip. Marion and In were looking at the section of Karnak that has restoration of Amun, except it’s not done yet. A guy said he would show us Amun, and took us behind a barrier. He asked us to be quiet because Amun was sleeping. Then he asked us to put our hands and head on the wall and meditate for 10 seconds. It was weird and I should have known better. We left him without giving a tip.

In the evening Caroline and I went to the market and haggled just the way Khaled told us to. We were quite successful too. Khaled told us to reduce their price by 80%, and walk away until they agreed to the price. The problem I found is that they will bring you into the shop and block your way out so it’s difficult to walk away. I had to force my way past some of them so that I could leave, and then they would follow you and reduce the prices. I got a Pashmina scarf, t-shirt, dress, 2 blouses, and frankincense to burn like incense. Caroline and I also had dinner in a restaurant that looked over the market.


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