City of Luxor – Karnak Temple Complex, Papyrus & Carriages

Continued from yesterday”¦ We back tracked and went through the opening that we had shown you. It leads into another courtyard area outside the Temple of Mut. In the courtyard is the top portion of a fallen, broken obelisk (tall rectangle with a pencil point tip) and a statue of a scarab beetle. It was believed that the scarab beetle had lots of powers, including good luck and fertility. If you circle the statue once, you will have good luck. If you circle it three times, you will get a baby. A British couple in our group said that after 5 years of infertility, they walked around the beetle statue three times and got pregnant. They swore by it. We only walked around it once.

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The formal tour concluded with the beetle statue and we were free to roam the grounds and look at the rest of the temples on our own. All were amazing, some better preserved than others. The Temple of Mut is mostly ruins, but here is a shot of the statues flanking the entrance.

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We spent quite a bit of time at the Festival Temple of Tuthmose III, which is directly behind the Great Hypostyle Hall. It had a lot of fairly well preserved carvings and quite a bit of paint still remaining. The first picture is the Festival Temple, and the second picture is of the Great Hypostyle Hall taken from the entrance to the Festival Temple. In the courtyard between the Hall and Temple are two obelisks that are still standing. The obelisk eventually replaced the pyramid in holy symbolism, and the tallest obelisk in Egypt still stands here at 100 feet tall. You can only see one of the obelisks from this angle.

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Here are a few close up shots of the carvings. Each are different walls, both in exterior courtyards.

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On the downside, scattered around the temple complex were a bunch of men who lurked in rooms with only one entrance/exit. They would point out a particular etching and say something about it, then demand money for their efforts, and escaping was difficult. We were unhappy about the men harassing us for money.

We had more time than most of the rest of the tour groups, but we still didn’t have nearly enough time to fully explore the grounds. We would have needed another couple of hours to see it all. As the other groups left, the crowd quickly thinned out.

The Temple of Khonsu in the remote southeast corner of the complex was our last stop. We were the only ones in there and we only had a few minutes before we had to be back at the bus. A tourist policeman led us in there, showed us a few highlights (one pictured below), then unlocked a door to a staircase and told us to go up. We emerged on the roof, which had a spectacular view of the surrounding grounds. We had to stay hunched down so no one could see us, but we managed to get a few good pictures. The second shot is of the interior of Temple Mut. In the foreground you can see all the artifacts archeologists have recovered and are actively trying to piece back together as the restoration process of the temples continues. This is only a small fraction of the pieces scattered about.

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Then the policeman took us into another locked room where we could see some exceptionally well preserved paint on the walls. This room doesn’t get any sunlight, and they keep the tourists out to keep it from being vandalized. We were delighted that our tour group stayed longer than most, because he wouldn’t have let us into those off limit areas if anyone else was around. Needless to say, we were happy to tip him for taking us into those off limit areas.

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The next stop was lunch at a restaurant along the Nile, but had no view. It was a buffet, and we arrived at the tail end of it. The food was OK, but buffets aren’t our favorite. There was a black eyed pea dish in a red sauce that was really good.

After lunch we went to a papyrus paper shop and saw a demonstration on how papyrus paper is made, believed to be exactly the same as it was done in the ancient times. They cut the stalk of the papyrus plant the length they want the paper to be, then thinly slice it lengthwise. They soak the slices for 6 days to two weeks, depending on desired color. The longer it soaks, the darker the slices get. They lay the slices side by side, with the edges touching, until the desired width is achieved. Then they lay cross sections in the same manner. They put the slices in a vice (in the old days under a rock) for a couple of weeks until the slices are bounded into paper. The paper can get completely wet, even squeezed to get the water out, and will not fall apart. The shop had a variety of art on papyrus paper, and the sales guys were very, very pushy. Since Christi has “sucker” tattooed to her forehead, the guys surrounded her, gave her food and started calling her Nefertiti in an effort to butter her up for a big purchase.

Then we checked into the hotel and had a two and a half hour break. The hotel is situated on a small island in the middle of the Nile. It looks like it has a lot of amenities, including a zoo, but we were too tired to look around. We took a nap and had to drag ourselves out of bed for dinner. Dinner was a buffet in the hotel restaurant, and the food was really good.

After dinner, we all piled into horse driven carriages that took us back to Karnak temple. We lucked out and got a really fancy carriage with a quiet driver who graciously accepted our tip. Most of the rest of the people had run down carriages and drivers that harassed them for money. We did get harassed by a small boy who handed us some flowers he picked off a nearby bush, then demanded money. We gave him some, and he demanded more. Lord, they start young here. The carriage ride was nice, but we wouldn’t have chosen it if we planned our own itinerary.

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The carriages dropped us off at Luxor for the sound and light show. Sound show would have been a better description, since the lights consisted of a spot light going on the particular statue they were talking about, then moving to another statue when the subject changed. The audio was a very melodramatic telling of history, and a little hokey. However, seeing the temple complex at night was awesome. You would think that you wouldn’t be able to see anything in the ambient lighting, but in reality, you could almost see the carvings better in the soft light. It felt even bigger, older and more impressive in the dark, and we think it was well worth the night visit. The moon was full and bright, which probably helped the setting.

We got back to the hotel at 2300 and went to sleep. It had been a long day, but a good day.

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