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Published: November 12th 2008
Day 25: Dakhla to Luxor
Sleep is starting to become a tradeable commodity - one that I would gladly soon want to start paying for. One draw back with any organised tour is your inability to select your own itinerary and most importantly your own leaving and arrival times. Today was certainly no exception.
Given the long drive day that was ahead of us today, we had no alternative but to head off at the ungodly time of 4 am to get to Luxor. The only positive thing about that early morning experience was that there was no need for me to set my alarm. I was given my very own wake up call courtesy of the early morning call to prayer that jolted me up and out of bed in just enough time to organise myself and jump on the truck.
Sitting on a truck for hours on end does nothing towards providing me with a sunny disposition. Neither does the stuffiness of the truck created by the 35+ degree heat. It was a very, very long and drawn out day - the only highlight of which being squabbles over cheese & crackers in the hope that
bickering would make the truck go faster. (It didn't!!)
Stiff and tired from doing nothing but sit on my arse, I was immensely glad to see the city-scape of Luxor when we eventually got there at 2pm. I was even grateful for the opportunity to do something active by our group task of dismantling the truck and giving it a complete complete cleaning overhaul, something I'm almost certain I would have dreaded doing otherwise.
Luxor was going to be our base for the remaining days of our tour. We would effectively be staying a total of three days here over the next few days in between visits to other parts of Egypt. On that basis - I didn't see the need to do the usual mad dash through the town to take in as much of the city as I could, content in the knowledge that I would have plenty of time to explore the area in a few days time.
Finished with my truck cleaning chores, showered & laundered - The next question was what to do until our allocated group dinner - sit by the pool or go for a walk and explore the sights?
The entrance to the Temple of Karnak
The entrance is located on the west side of the temple. It was once a quay built by Ramsees II to give access via a canal to the river Nile. The avenue of ram-headed sphinxes holds leads you to the first pylon.
I eventually decided to go for a walk with Mel & Cameron along the Corniche (the main thoroughfare of Luxor's East Bank). Our campsite was located in a guarded compound behind a service station a few meters walk from the Corniche and very close to the other main tourist attractions of the East Bank.
It wasn't long after leaving the compound that usual hordes of opportunistic locals descended upon us with cries of “postcard, Calesi, scarf…..hashish? For you special price with 100%!d(MISSING)iscount only today….”
. It made such a difference walking with Cameron - 'Our husband' (the proud owner of five wives). Instead of hassling us, the men would focus their attention on him, congratulating him on his prowess while we walked and was even offered Viagra to keep up his performance levels (He didn’t need any more as he had already received some from a local shop owner in Dahab).
We walked past rows and rows of cruise ships, lit up & docked for the night along the Nile. Lined along the promenade were groups of tourist guards, protecting the ships passengers and of course the usual galibiyah dressed groups of men that are always ready
The Great Hypostyle Hall
Temple of Karnak - consisting of 133 columns
to pounce on any tourist that crosses their path. At the same time Calessi's trot along the street beside the cars, with the Calessi driver yelling out for rides to anyone that walks past with pleas of “excuse me! hello! where you from? ……want a calessi, 5 pound for you Mr and free for the lady….”
Ignoring their calls doesn’t always work as they usually end up following you a fair way down the road with even more outlandish pleas and even more significant reductions in the price of their wares. Our most favourite cry of the night went to a guy who claimed that we were very lucky today. "Why?
we asked. "You are lucky today, Madam because I can take you to a Government Sponsored shop that is only open for one day of the year. Today only!. If you are interested I would be happy to take you there and show you where it is..."
Umm!! Let me think - "No thanks"
was the eventual reply. Day 26: The Temples of Ancient Thebes
Today was going to be all about the Temples. The Temple of Karnak & The Temple of
"The Temple of Karnak is a vast open air museum that consists of three main temples, smaller enclosed temples and several outer temples located approximately 3 kms north of Luxor that was built and enlarged upon over the course of a thirteen hundred year period. It is the largest temple complex ever built by man and represents the combined achievements of generations of ancient builders....."
These words alone are not enough to describe the magnificence of Karnak. As I stood amidst the 134 columns of the Great Hypostyle Hall, dwarfed by the sheer size of them (many of them are over 21 meters tall with a diameter of over 3 meters), I was dumbstruck by the fact that I was actually here. I was immediately taken back to high school, sitting in a class room with all my classmates listening to our teacher talk passionately about the Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs; recalling Herodotus’ tales about Queen Hatshepsut and writing about her conquests for my Ancient History High School Certificate exam. Here I was walking around, actually looking & touching these Temples, taking in all the history that I had previously only read about in books. I may no
Scene of Queen Hatshepsut
This carving was later destroyed by her stepson Amenhotep III when he ascended the throne
longer remember my teachers name, but I was still able to remember some of the tidbits of information that she passed on to me as I listened to our guide recalling the history & importance of the Temple of Karnak and of the Pharaohs that built it.
It took over a thousand years to build the complex that is known as Karnak, with over 30 pharaohs contributing to its development. There are three main precincts at Karnak (i) Precinct of Amun-Re, the largest of the temple complexes & dedicated to the sun god Amun (ii) Precinct of Montu, dedicated to his son, the war god (Not open to the public) and (iii) Precinct of Mut, dedicated to the wife of Amun & mother of Montu (Not open to the public).
Once you enter the Temple and make your way through the pylons to the forecourt you are instantly hit with a view of the Great Hypostyle Hall that was originally built by Seti I and then subsequently completed by his son Ramsees II. The outer walls of this hall depicting various scenes of battle for Seti & Ramsees during each of their reigns. There are several obelisks past
The Great Hypostyle Hall
with views of the obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut - Temple of Karnak
the Hyspostyle Hall through a narrow courtyard. The most significant for me being the one built by Hatshepsut (30m high) commemorating her reign as Pharaoh (Egypt's only female pharaoh - hence my most favourite). Most of it was later blocked out of view by her stepson Amenhotep III who did what he could to erase all existence of her from the hieroglyphs within temple itself upon his ascendancy to the throne.
The remaining sections of the Temple grounds are too numerous to account for and consist of various pylons & smaller temples built & decorated by numerous Pharaohs over the ages.
The next Temple on our tour was the Luxor Temple, founded in around 1400 BC and located closer to the town of Luxor's East Bank. As you enter the Temple complex, you once again see a causeway lined with sphinxes which in Ancient times led all the way to the Temple of Karnak. According to our guide the area is currently undergoing major reconstruction work to reconnect this causeway of sphinxes all the way to the Temple of Karnak, used historically as a means of official & religious processions between the two temples. As many as 1,200
The first ever excel spreadsheet
Carving like these were used by the Ancient Egyptians to calculate the offerings made to the Gods. It depicts the quantities of each item (meats, vegetables etc) that have been provided.
sphinxes once lined this area and many of the houses, buildings & shopfronts that are currently in the path of the two Temples (ie most of the town) are currently under review for relocation (including our guides own home - or so he said). How long this work will go on for I am not certain, but once completed tourists will then be able to walk along the causeway between the two temples which would certainly be a magnificent experience.
The entrance to the Temple itself is flanked by two enormous seated statues of Ramsees II (approx 24m high) followed by a processional colonnade corridor built by Amenhotep III lined with 14 columns. The friezes of the walls of the corridor describing the stages of the 'Opet Festival' that took place from The Karnak Temple to the Luxor Temple.
As we continued wandering further into the Temple itself, we entered into an antechamber that was later used during Roman times as a chapel. It is here that we could clearly see where the Romans covered over and re-painted the walls of the chamber with Roman stuccoes of the last supper.
Our last point of interest inside the
temple were the shrines built by Alexander the Great in honour of the god Amun as a means of ingratiating himself with the Egyptian people and their gods following his conquest of Egypt. Cartouches of himself have been included in the walls to re-enforce his power over the Egyptians and show his divinity.
After absorbing all of this history the time had come for all of us to head off to the main town of Luxor to search for food. It is at this point that I hate to have to report that our first destination was the ever famous ‘Golden Arches’ of McDonalds. Yes!! I can already hear the screams of disapproval from everyone except Ryan but tired, hungry and for most already queasy from the somewhat dubious cuisine we had eaten in certain establishments, it was the only option that was considered a safe bet - that and the free Wi-Fi access that enabled me to catch up on my latest blog.
An interesting sideline to this story…
Our trip to Luxor also coincided with a visit from the President of Egypt himself. As it turned out he too was here for a visit, although
unlike us, I'm he was far more concerned with affairs of state rather than sightseeing. It was exciting to witness the mad scramble of hundreds of black clothed Presidential guards lining the streets and securing the shopfronts in readiness for his cavalcade. Everywhere we went, groups of these guards were marching around, machine guns in hand - looking all serious and deadly. Sadly we didn't get a glimpse of the President himself but we were still given a treat in a more secured environment thanks to the presence of his guards.
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