The Temples of Karnak in Luxor
The word Karnak is derived from the name of a nearby village which holds the same name that means the fortified walls. This area in which the complex of temples lies nowadays was the center of religious and economical life during the period of the New Kingdom.
The temple was originally dedicated to the god Amun, the king of gods. He was associated with the sacred triad of gods; Amun, Mut, his consort, and Khonsu, his son.
The very first section that was built in the Karnak complex was erected by Senusert I who ruled Egypt from 1964 till 1919 BC. The king built the first shrine for the statue of Amun and also constructed another section which was called the Middle Kingdom court. This consisted of a white limestone shrine that was called afterwards the White Chapel.
In the beginning of the 18th dynasty, Amenophis I, ruling from 1525 till 1504, built the first bark chapel of Amun and then his son Tuthmosis I was the king who enlarged the temple. This process was carried out to the west of the temple at the period.
In the same period of Tuthmosis I and then his ancestor Tuthmosis III the first two pylons in the Karnak were built to mark off a sacred area that was called the Verdant. The papyrus columns that supported the ceiling of this section were used during the coronation process.
Tuthmosis was also responsible for building the first two obelisks in the Karnak which were erected in front of his pylon but only one of them remain in the Karnak today as the other one was transferred to Paris during the reign of Mohamed Ali.
Hatshepsut, the famous Queen who ruled Egypt from 1479 till 1456, built a new sacred barks chapel inside the Middle Kingdom court. This chapel, due to the colors of its walls, was called afterwards the Red Chapel. Many tourists visit the Karnak Complex as part of their Egypt packages everyday.
The Queen has also constructed two high obelisks in Karnak; one of them is still standing tall while the top section of the other was positioned near the Sacred Lake of the complex after the rest of the obelisk was destroyed.
Hatshepsut has also added a new pylon to the temple that started a new stage in the enlargement of the complex from North to South this time.
During the reign of Tuthmosis III, the stepson of Hatshepsut, the construction and enlargement process at the temple of Karnak went on with a quick pace that the complex has never witnessed before in history. The king was able to erect some of the most notable structures that people from all around explore as part of their Egypt vacation nowadays.
Tuthmosis III had a new pylon built in front of that of his mother and he also built two other obelisks; one of them is still in Karnak while the other was transferred to Istanbul in 330 AD.
To the west of the Middle Kingdom court, Tuthmosis III has also added a monumental structure that was called "the most splendid of monuments". This was a shrine to celebrate the power of the king and the divine power of the god, Amun Ra. This part is considered to be the most touristic section of the Karnak that is often visited by many travelers as part of their packages in Egypt.
The main section of this complex is Festival Temple which is richly decorated and painted. The ceilings of this temple are supported with columns that had the shape of a tent holder. This temple also hosted the Botanical Garden that contains bas reliefs of animals and plants brought from Asia, where Tuthmosis III had many successful military campaigns.
The large sacred lake of the Karnak complex had two functions, a symbolic one; it evoked the primeval marsh from which the world was born. The practical function of the sacred lake was that it was used as water reservoir and a place for ablutions and rituals.
The area to the north of the lake was declared with offerings scenes and it was where the Ethiopian Pharaoh, Taharqa, who ruled Egypt from 690 till 664, has built a sanctuary. This section was used to celebrate the creation of the world by Amun Ra.
The most remarkable section of the Karnak complex and the part that is mainly visited by tourists spending their vacations in Egypt is the hypostyle hall that consisted of a surface area of around 5300 meters and it was built during the ruling periods of many pharaohs; Sethos I, Ramses II, Amenophis III, and Horemoheb.
The hypostyle hall is divided into two section; the northern and the southern with a central section that consists of 12 columns that are 22 meters high. The hypostyle hall is the most magnificent section of the complex that is visited by thousands of tourists everyday who came on Egypt tour.
One hundred and twenty two columns that have carvings symbolized the unification of the king with his people and this section also marks the public areas of the temple.
The ancient Egyptian used to celebrate the King's royalty in the construction that was first built by Sethos I and Ramses II. The walls contain scenes of the two major festivals in ancient Thebes; the Opet festival and the festival of the valley.
The first part the guest enters in the Karnak is the first court, after passing by the huge first pylon built by Nectanebo I in 370 BC. The first court is bounded to the East with the second pylon and to the portico constructed during the 22nd dynasty.
The northwest side of the court has the shrine of the barks of Amun, Mut, and Khonsu, which was built by Sethos I who ruled Egypt from 1201 to 1195 BC.
In the middle of the courtyard, there are the ruins of the chapel built by Taharqa. Opposite to it, there are the famous huge granite statue of Ramses II and his favorite wife, Nefertari, standing between his knees. This statue was found deep inside the complex and it was positioned in that location during the 20th century.
On the Southern side of the first courts, lies the Temple of Ramses III which is a smaller version of his great temple of Madinet Habu that is located in the West Bank of Luxor. Although this temple is considered to be one of the best preserved Pharonic structures in Egypt, it is rarely visited by tourists who spend theirEgypt Holiday in Egypt.
The Karnak Cahse
In the 20th century exactly in 1903, a French archeologist, Georges Lergian, discovered a huge hiding hole where the ancient Egyptian priests have buried a huge number of statues and other items.
This discovery has unearthed more than 20,00 finds and a large number of statues with many of them are on display in the Luxor Museum and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Cairo.