Visiting the Karnak Temple in Luxor
We saw many temples and tombs when we visited the Luxor area of Egypt. The first temple we saw in-depth was the Karnak Temple. Our visit to Luxor was an overnight tour for 2 days. This gave us a great chance to see the Karnak Temple day and night. During the day we saw the detail and could wander into the nooks and alleys. At night we were led through the temple with narrated stories told with lights and music. Between the day and night visit, we saw the Luxor Temple.
The Karnak Temple is the largest temple ever built. This great temple of Amun-Ra which was begun by Pharaoh Ramses II over 3,000 years ago. Each pharaoh added his own contribution to the temple over 2,000 years. Throughout the temple you will find images of the pharaohs and their queens.
It felt like a sprawling open air museum. As you moved through the temple, you could discover one wonder after another.
Avenue of the Sphinxes
Entering in the visitor centre, we headed off with our guide. Mervat provided great detail as we went from section to section.
We entered the Karnak Temple day and night on the Avenue of the Sphinxes. In ancient times, this avenue linked the Karnak Temple with the Luxor Temple. Sphinxes generally have the body of lion and the head of a human. The Sphinxes at Karnak had ram heads symbolizing the god Amun.
Below the ram head you could see a small statue of the god Amun-Ra. This use of small statues as part of larger ones would be seen over and over again as we toured the temples.
The Large Hypo-Style Hall
We found two huge statues of Ramses II guarding the entrance to the massive hypo-style hall.
This large hypo-style hall is the largest hall of any temple in the world, spanning over 50,000 square feet. It contains over 134 massive columns representing the papyrus flower.
The columns were decorated with stories and hieroglyphics all the way to the top.
At night we got story images projected on the columns.
Coming towards the end of the hall, we got our first glimpse of the obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut. We were lucky to catch this view in the Karnak Temple day and night. This 97 foot high obelisk is carved in one piece of solid pink granite.
The smaller obelisk (65’) still standing is one put up for Thutmosis I.
The twin to Queen Hatshepsut’s obelisk is now lying on its side. The hieroglyphics are in great shape and you can see them all the way to the top of the obelisk.
The Sacred Lake
At the far end we found the sacred lake where ceremonial boats took part in the worship of Amun. During the day it was a calm, tree lined sight.
When we came back at night, we were seated in the amphitheatre at one end of the lake. We were treated to a narrated story that lit up the temple site. Story images were projected on the buildings and reflected in the lake.
Hieroglyphics and Stories
While we toured the Karnak temple day and night, we were amazed at how well preserved much of the hieroglyphics were. The told a continuous tale on almost every surface.
The hieroglyphics were augmented by story walls that told the tales of the ancient Egyptians.
Karnak is an outdoor site, open to the elements. Much of the colour has been bleached out over the years. But every now and then we got surprised by remnants of what must have been brilliant colours.
When we later visited the Valley of the Kings, we would find that the outer areas of the tombs were also bleached of much of their colour. Most of the tombs have been open to the air for some time. Going deeper into the tombs often gave us a much more colourful view. The tomb of Tutankhamen when discovered had never been opened. It provided a great view of colour and was filled with magnificent treasures.
Visiting Karnak Temple Day and Night
It was great to visit this massive sight both during the day and again at night. We have often found that day and night visits offer different perspectives on a site. In this case, we got some additional insight and a magical light show. The Luxor Temple visit gave us yet a different perspective on these massive temple for the pharaohs.
If you have a chance to visit the Luxor area, make sure that Karnak is on your plans. We almost bypassed the temples to visit only the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. That would have been such a mistake! Visiting Karnak Temple day and night will add a little extra to your visit if you are staying in Luxor overnight.
Did you visit Karnak day and night? What was your favourite site in the massive temple?
Thank you for this Linda! You took me back to wonderful memories of our trip!
Luxor, Karnak and Abu Simbel(hope you get to go there!)were our top 3 if I had to pick but they were all amazing!
I remember Karnak was the largest in the world and Luxor was among the most beautiful. The avenues of rams and sphinxes blew us away as did the sky high columns and colonnades. We really loved the obelisks. I can’t believe I finally got to see the other one that remains at the Luxor temple gateway as I have seen the one gifted to Paris(my favorite city!)many times.
And you mentioned how well preserved the hieroglyphics are and the vibrancy of some of those colours still today astounded us too!
We enjoyed a night light and sound show as well but at the Pyramids of Giza. What a wonderful perspective!
Aren’t we sooo blessed to be able to see all these wonders in the world?
Continued happy travels!
Grace, Glad this is bringing back good memories for you. We are so sorry to have missed Giza. We will plan to do a return trip to visit Cairo and go for there. We figure we should be able to get a flight from many places when we are in Europe for an extended stay. We are indeed blessed to be travelling so much. But as I watched many people struggle on tours, I am so glad I am doing some of this trip now and not 10 years from now. I am very far behind in my blog and pics but they will keep coming! Thanks for watching. Linda
Thank you dear Linda. You did it again. Wonderful pictures and eloquent explanation. Your words are like love poems to my country and it makes me so proud.
Mervat, I am glad you enjoyed this first instalment in my series on the temples and tombs of Egypt. I am glad I got most of the story right! Watch for 3 more to come. Linda
Re your comment:”But as I watched many people struggle on tours, I am so glad I am doing some of this trip now and not 10 years from now” my travel motto has always been to start travelling from the furthest out first when I was younger and make my way in as I get older. So I did the way out there places already-Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific, etc and plan to do the Caribbean cruising in my later years when I’m not as mobile anymore. Already, I can’t handle the very long flights and challenging stuff-for ex. climbing Mt.Sinai. The downside to my motto is people we meet in other countries always ask about the Rocky Mountains for ex and I say it’s on my future bucket list but I haven’t been there yet and can’t advise you but I was in the Himalayas!
Get in as much as you can of the active, adventure travel now Linda as we’re doing while we’re “younger” as it will only get more challenging!
Grace, We too are making the most of our heath and energy to see as much of the world as we can. On our first cruise, we saw so many people hauling oxygen tanks and using walkers. That really reinforced for us the need to get on it and really do the travelling we wanted to do. As you said, there is lot of travelling we can still do when we slow down, but much we want to do while we can do the more energetic stuff. Thanks for following. I am slowly trying to blog and do pictures as we travel – but are far in arrears 🙂 Linda