Luxor, Karnac and Thebes

Thebes is the ancient Egyptian name for the area which is comprised of Luxor and Karnak, on the east bank of the Nile, and the Valley of the Kings and the mortuary temples which are located on the west bank.

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As Weset it was the capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom; as Thebes it was described by Homer as "the hundred-gated city." Its later name, al-Uqsur, means "City of the Palaces."
Testaments to a desire for immortality, built for eternity in sandstone and granite, the temples, tombs and palaces still stand, surrounded by souks and hotels.
On the east bank of the Nile, in the City of the Living, Luxor and Karnak Temples greet the sunrise. The sunset on the west bank throws shadows through the City of the Dead: the Tombs of the Nobles, the Valley of the Kings, Queen Hatshepsut's temple.
Today, you can walk through history; past statues with the heads of gods and animals, beneath carved lotus buds and papyrus. Ride in a horse-drawn caleche, sail in a felucca, take a sunset cruise or see the city from a hot-air balloon.

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Map of the West Bank at Thebes
Map of the West Bank at Thebes

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Sights in Thebes

The Temple of Abydos

On the west bank of the Nile, 90 miles (145 km) north of Luxor, lies the Temple of Abydos. Abydos is linked to the earliest dynasties recorded, and in 1993, the earliest known tomb was found here, along with some of the oldest hieroglyphics ever discovered. The Temple dates to around 3150 BC, and the records have provided scholars with much of what is known about the earliest periods of recorded history. This area, sacred to Osiris, was a very powerful location to those who believed in the next world. The ancient Egyptians said that at sunset, the area looked like a golden staircase leading to the afterlife, and thus many people wished to be buried here. It was here, too, that Osiris, after being killed by his brother Seth, returned to power. Seth had killed Osiris and scattered the pieces of his body all over Egypt. Osiris' wife and sister, Isis, gathered the pieces one by one, put them back together, and restored life to her husband. It was said that Abydos was where the final piece, his head, was buried, and so it was here that Osiris was brought back to life to become the judge of the dead and lord of the netherworld.

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The Temple of Osiris

The original Temple of Osiris was built by Seti I, who came to power 29 years after the collapse of the regime of Akhenaten. Seti wished to restore the beliefs in the traditional gods and so built this temple to show his devotion. The way leading into the temple had two courts and a pylon, which were built by Ramesses II. The way these courts and pylon were positioned gave the entrance the illusion of sloping upwards. Sadly, this entrance has been mostly destroyed. The front of the temple is now 12 rectangular pillars, covered with sacred images welcoming Osiris, Isis, and Horus. The first (outer) hypostyle hall was built by Ramesses, but the quality of the decorations on the columns are not as impressive as those found in the second (inner) hall, which Seti built. It is widely thought that Ramesses used the best craftsmen in building his own temple, but used lower quality workers on this temple after the death of Seti. Just beyond the second hall are the seven separate sanctuaries dedicated to Seti I, Osiris, Isis, Horus, Amen, Mut, and Khensu. Originally, seven doors led to the sanctuaries, but Ramesses, for reasons still unknown, had all but one covered over. When the temple was in use, each of the sanctuaries would have contained the god's barque (sacred boat), and would have had a stele placed in front of a false door. The sanctuaries were locked and only the high priests of each god could enter, as the Egyptians believed that the gods actually lived inside their sanctuaries. The sanctuaries are highly decorated with bas-relief paintings dedicated to the several gods of the temple. Many of the bas-reliefs in the sanctuaries still have their coloring, but the best decorations are the masterful unpainted moldings. One scene in Seti's sanctuary shows him being crowned by the goddess of Upper and Lower Egypt, but by far the most incredible paintings are the ones found in Osiris' sanctuary. The temple also possesses a King's Gallery, a room that lists all over its walls the names of the gods along with over 70 of Seti's predecessors (minus some omitted for political reasons such as Akhenaten and Hatshepsut), making it an invaluable resource for historians.

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The Osirieon

Through the rear door of the temple is the Osirieon, the only visible tomb at this site, which was built before the main temple. Much of the damage to the Osirieon has been from flooding, as it was built at water level, yet it is not much diminished. Red Aswan granite pillars, each weighing about a hundred tons apiece, support equally massive archways. This temple was built as a symbol of Seti's closeness to Osiris and contains a sarcophagus, though Seti was not buried here. Seti's actual tomb is in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. This was a fairly common practice among many of the pharaohs, having "public" tombs in one location, but actually being buried in another. The Osirieon is currently inaccessible because of the rising sand and the flooding that has occurred. Excavation has been done on the south side passage, which revealed texts from The Book of the Gates and The Book of What is in the Duat. This section was begun by Seti and finished by his grandson, Merneptah. It is a complete tomb structure, all ready to receive the mummy of a king, yet it does not appear ever to have been used so.
Abydos does have a reputation for these "false tombs" or cenotaphs. Some theorists state that Abydos does not even have a single actual tomb in it, but that all the dead who have tombs at Abydos are actually buried elsewhere. The cemeteries of northern Saqqara certainly have a great number of royal mastabas, of which many have been linked to the Archaic rulers. It is very possible that actual burials of kings and high-ranking officials were carried out at Saqqara, which is near Memphis, the new court city. Thus the monuments at Abydos are precisely that: monuments. It is fairly simple to see why this might be so. The rulers would no doubt have a desire to be buried near the place they ruled, but Abydos was also a powerful site because of its religious ties, as well as being deep in the ancient homelands. Thus, the rulers arranged to have themselves "buried" in both places. The body at Saqqara or another site, and a cenotaph built at Abydos. Of course, the reverse could be true, with Abydos as the true burial site and all the tombs at Saqqara are cenotaphs. Or perhaps the explanation involves a little bit of both, with some rulers desiring to be buried near Memphis, and others at Abydos, but each ruler building two tombs, one in each location.
It would be rather unusual for the rulers to remain as visible as possible in their new capital during life, and then at death, simply passing from view. Thus much of the current consensus is that Saqqara is the actual burial site and that Abydos is the site of the royal monuments. The tombs at Saqqara as a whole are larger and more luxurious than those at Abydos (with the exception of the valley "temples" of Abydos which are immense and have no known Saqqaran counterparts), suggesting that Saqqara is the true burial site. Yet there are a large number of subsidiary tombs at Abydos, such as those used by officials of state, but very few at Saqqara.

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The Temple of Ramesses II

The temple of Ramesses II is a small temple that is northwest of the Temple of Osiris about 300m. The temple was built in 1298 BC for Ramesses' spirit to give him a close association with Osiris. It was originally built very well and contains work that is better than most of Ramesses' other monuments. The craftsmen were probably trained during his father's, Seti I, era. The temple is mostly in ruin except for the limestone walls which still contain brightly colored works. Napoleon's archaeologists reported that the temple was almost intact when they first saw it.

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The Temple of Dendera

The approach path to the temple is between two Roman fountains that end at the massive entry gate.The enclosure walls are mud-brick and date to the Roman era. Within the walls are the temple, two birth houses, a Coptic Basilica, a sanitorium, a sacred lake, and a temple to Isis. The temple has a long history. There is evidence that Pepi I (Old Kingdom) rebuilt the temple while other texts refer to reconditioning by Thutmose III, Amenhotep III and Ramesses II and III (of the New Kingdom). Additions were made during the Greek, Roman and Ptolemy periods.

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Map of the Temple at Dendera
Map of the Temple at Dendera

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The Hypostyle Hall

The facade of the hall is closed by a screen wall that exposes the ceiling and the capitals. Unlike previously seen capitals, these are square and are carved to resemble Hathor's face. The king is depicted on the interior walls wearing the crown of Lower and Upper Egypt.

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The Astronomical Ceiling

The ceiling is decorated with vultures, winged disks, and the union between Hathor and Horus. The colors are beautiful and are mostly still original. The rest of the ceiling is a symbolic representation of the north and south halves of the sky, the hours of day and night, and the regions of the moon and sun. The bays to the right show the northern stars while the left shows the southern stars. The figures of Nut dominate each end of the hall. The continuing cycle of a day is represented by Nut. Her dress is the sky; between her legs is the birth of the sun, which disappears at night as she swallows it. The second band shows the stars, planets and symbols of the Roman zodiac. The bands on either side of the center show the course of the moon and sun.

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The Hall of Appearances

The hall was built by the Ptolemies. Scenes on the walls show the king emerging from the temple, breaking the earth for the foundation, and placing the first stone. He then dedicates the foundation deposit bricks to Hathor. The hall is surrounded by six rooms. The treasury room contained holy objects made of metal. The Nile room provided an exit for the priests to go out and bring in water. A smaller room was for the convenience of the priests. This room allowed them to move between rooms easier. Another room was for the priests to make and store incense and perfumes. Room number five was for storage and room number six had an outside exit. This room was for bringing in food and drink for festivals.

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The Hall of Offerings

This hall was actually the entrance into the temple proper. Lighted only by four ceiling vents, the priests would lay out the offerings for the gods. The back wall displays the items required for the offerings, while the opposite side displays the king offering Hathor drinks. The Hall of Offerings contained a small chapel used for sacrificial offerings.

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The Hall of Ennead

This room is immediately in front of the sanctuary and contained statues of the gods and kings that took part in the ceremonies. The south wall contains texts of the hymns of awakening.

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The Sanctuary

This room contained the statues of Hathor, her barque, and Horus. The walls depict the awakening, bathing, anointing, and feeding of the goddess. Miniature barques (that were placed in real ships) are also featured on the walls.

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Sights in Luxor

The Temple of Luxor

Many festivals were celebrated in Thebes. The Temple of Luxor was the center of the most important one, the festival of Opet. Built largely by Amenhotep III and Ramesses II, it appears that the temple's purpose was for a suitable setting for the rituals of the festival. The festival itself was to reconcile the human aspect of the ruler with the divine office. During the 18th Dynasty the festival lasted eleven days, but had grown to twenty-seven days by the reign of Ramesses III in the 20th Dynasty. At that time the festival included the distribution of over 11,000 loaves of bread, 85 cakes and 385 jars of beer. The procession of images of the current royal family began at Karnak and ended at the temple of Luxor. By the late 18th Dynasty the journey was being made by barge, on the Nile River. Each god or goddess was carried in a separate barge that was towed by smaller boats. Large crowds consisting of soldiers, dancers, musicians and high ranking officials accompanied the barge by walking along the banks of the river. During the festival the people were allowed to ask favors of the statues of the kings or to the images of the gods that were on the barges. Once at the temple, the king and his priests entered the back chambers. There, the king and his ka (the divine essence of each king, created at his birth) were merged, the king being transformed into a divine being. The crowd outside, anxiously awaiting the transformed king, would cheer wildly at his re-emergence. This solidified the ritual and made the king a god. The festival was the backbone of the pharaoh's government. In this way could a usurper or one not of the same bloodline become ruler over Egypt.

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Map of the Temple at Luxor
Map of the Temple at Luxor

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The Pylons

On the face of the great pylon are carved episodes from the Battle of Kadesh, when Ramesses and his army defeated the forces of the Hittites and their allies. The obelisk is one of a red granite pair which Ramesses erected in front of the pylon; its twin now in the Place de la Concorde, in Paris. On the pedestal are carved the four sacred baboons who were the first to greet the morning sun. Three lines of vertical inscription on every face of the obelisk repeat the names and titles of Ramesses the Great: The Horus, Mighty Bull, Exalter of Thebes, Favorite of the Two Goddesses, establishing monuments in Luxor for his father Amun, who placed him upon the throne; Golden Horus, seeking excellent things for him who fashioned him; King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Usermare, Chosen of Re." It is of interest to note that when the one obelisk was lowered, in order to be transported to France, Ramesses name was also found inscribed on the bottom. Pharaohs were notorious for usurping other pharaohs monuments, and Ramesses was determined that this was to remain his own. The pyramidal tip of the tall shaft was covered in sheet gold which flashed in the sunlight, symbolizing the sungod Re in his brilliance. Colossal seated statues of Ramesses flank the gateway.

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The Court of Ramesses II

The south end of the Temple of Luxor was an addition constructed by Ramesses II during the XIX dynasty. The great court is surrounded with well proportioned papyrus bud capital columns. Reliefs cover the interior walls. Within the court can be seen the tip of the minaret of the mosque of Abu'l Haggag.

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The Mosque of Abu'l Haggag

Located in the northeast corner of the Court of Ramesses in the Temple of Luxor is the Mosque of Abu'l Haggag. The Sufi sheik spent the last fifty of his ninety years in Luxor. Though Abu'l Haggag died in 1243, the mosque was only built this century.

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The Court of Amenhotep II

The Colonnade
Originally built by Amenhotep II, the court was later decorated by Tutankhamen and Horemheb. The Colonnade consists of 14 columns with papyrus capitals. In the entrance to the Colonnade are two statues bearing the name of Ramesses II but the feathers of Tutankhamen. What is left of the walls bear wonderful reliefs of Tutankhamun reign and a celebration of the re-establishment of the Amun orthodoxy.

The Court
The east and west side of the court has well preserved double rows of papyrus columns with bud capitals, though originally the columns were on the north side as well. The Hypostyle Hall, on the south side, had four rows of eight columns. Reliefs are on both side of the south wall depicting the coronation of Amenhotep II by the gods. A roman altar, dedicated to Constantine, is located to the left of the central aisle.

The Antechambers
The reliefs of Amenhotep II were whitewashed and painted over in the 3rd or 4th century. The stucco is crumbling, and just recently, beginning to show the reliefs underneath. The second antechamber has four columns (versus eight in the first antechamber) and reliefs of Amenhotep II offering incense to Amun.

Sanctuary of the Sacred Boat of Amun
The chapel inside the chamber was rebuilt by Alexander the Great and bears his reliefs, while the chamber walls bear the reliefs of Amenhotep II. A small hall is to the east which opens onto the Birth Room, which was built because of Amenhotep II's claim that he was the son of Amun. Amenhotep II claimed that Amun disguised himself as Tuthmosis IV, entered the queen's chambers and breathed the child into her nostrils.

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Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu

The entire Temple of Ramesses III, palace and town is enclosed within a defensive wall. Entry is through the Highgate, or Migdol, which, in appearance resembles an Asiatic fort. Just inside the Highgate, to the south, are the chapels of Amenirdis I, Shepenwepet II and Nitoket, wives of the god Amun. To the north side is the chapel of Amun. These chapels were a later addition dating to the 18th Dynasties, by Hatsepsut and Tutmose II. Later renovations were done by the Ptolemaic kings of the XXV Dynasty.
To the west is the temple proper, which was styled after the Ramesseum. On the north wall of the temple are reliefs depicting the victory of Ramesses with the Sardinians, Cretans, Philistines and the Danu. This was perhaps the greatest victory in ancient Egypt. Pharaoh watched as the invaders crossed the plains, destroying everything in their path. The multitude came with oxen-drawn wagons, laden down with all of their possessions, their families and their newly discovered iron weapons. No tribe or settlement was able to survive their passing. The horde came over the land and the sea heading straight for Egypt. Ramesses gathered together his army and defeated the land invaders. He then proceeded to the shore to meet the ships. Ramesses archers released their arrows against the landing ships. (The Egyptians's had an advantage over the enemy; the Egyptian's ships had both sails and oars, while the invader's had only the sail.) The Egyptian army then rowed out to sea and overturned the invaders' ship, drowning all that survived the archers' attack. These are the only know reliefs of a sea battle in Egypt. The Egyptians were excellent accountants and counted everything that was taken from the enemy and all that were slain. The reliefs show the bookkeepers counting the spoils. Entering through the massive Pylon (27m high and 65m long) is the First Court where athletic sporting events, such as wrestling, were held. Reliefs on the south wall are of Ramesses' victory over the Libyans and the Window of Appearances is on the west wall, flanked by eight columns. Behind this lies the audience hall with the kings' shower room nearby. The stone tank is still intact. On the east side are seven Osiride pillars.
The Second Court, accessed via ramp up and through the Pylon, is made up of eight Osiride pillars and six columns. Of the scenes in the Second Court are the Feast of Sokar and the lower part of the back wall being dedicated to Ramesses children. Of interest in the entrance at the right end of the hall is a relief of Ramesses kneeling on the symbol of Upper and Lower Egypt and a defaced scene of Ramesses before Seth, with the Pharaoh changed into Horus. The Hypostyle Hall through the west entrance was badly damaged in 27 B.C. by an earthquake. Originally, The Hall would have opened into many rooms but none remain due to the earthquake.
Close to the temple is the remains of a Nilometer. These 'flood warnings' were positioned strategically along the river to determine the position of the river every year. Not only did these register the height of the river, but also determined the amount of silt that was being deposited. With this information, the governors could, in advance, determine which crop would thrive and thus base the tax levy.

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The Temple of Deir el-Bahari (XVIII Dyn)

The mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut is one of the most dramatically situated in the world. The queen's architect, Senenmut, designed it and set it at the head of a valley overshadowed by the Peak of the Thebes, the "Lover of Silence," where lived the goddess who presided over the necropolis. A tree lined avenue of sphinxes led up to the temple, and ramps led from terrace to terrace. The porticoes on the lowest terrace are out of proportion and coloring with the rest of the building. They were restored in 1906 to protect the celebrated reliefs depicting the transport of obelisks by barge to Karnak and the miraculous birth of Queen Hatshepsut. Reliefs on the south side of the middle terrace show the queen's expedition by way of the Red Sea to Punt, the land of incense. Along the front of the upper terrace, a line of large, gently smiling Osirid statues of the queen looked out over the valley. In the shade of the colonnade behind, brightly painted reliefs decorated the walls. Throughout the temple, statues and sphinxes of the queen proliferated. Many of them have been reconstructed, with patience and ingenuity, from the thousands of smashed fragments found by the excavators; some are now in the Cairo Museum, and others the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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Valley of the Kings

Tombs of the Pharaohs

The Egyptian belief that "To speak the name of the dead is to make him live again" is certainly carried out in the building of the tombs. The king's formal names and titles are inscribed in his tomb along with his images and statues. Beginning with the 18th Dynasty and ending with the 20th, the kings abandoned the Memphis area and built their tombs in Thebes. Also abandoned were the pyramid style tombs. Most of the tombs were cut into the limestone following a similar pattern: three corridors, an antechamber and a sunken sarcophagus chamber. These catacombs were harder to rob and were more easily concealed. Construction usually lasted six years, beginning with the new reign. The text in the tombs are from the Book of the Dead, the Book of the Gates and the Book of the Underworld.

Ramesses IV
Three white corridors descend to the sarcophagus chamber. The chambers ceilings depict the goddess Nut. The lid of the pink granite sarcophagus is decorated with Isis and Nephthys, which were meant to serve as guardians over the body. Their duties fell short, however, as the tomb was robbed in ancient times. Originally the priests placed the sarcophagus in Amenhotep II II's tomb in order to hide the body, which was a common practice.

Ramesses IX
Two sets of steps lead down to the tomb door that is decorated with the Pharaoh worshipping the solar disc. Isis and Nephthys stand behind him on either side. Three corridors lead into an antechamber that opens into a pillared hall. The passage beyond that leads to the sarcophagus chamber.

The steep descent into the tomb is typical of the designs of the XIX Dynasty. The entrance is decorated with Isis and Nephthys worshipping the solar disc. Text from the Book of the Gates line the corridors. The outer granite lid of the sarcophagus is located in the antechamber, while the lid of the inner sarcophagus is located down more steps in the pillared hall. Carved on the pink granite lid is the figure of Merneptah as Osiris.

Ramesses VI
Originally built for Ramesses V, three chambers and a 4th pillared chamber was added by Ramesses VI. Complete texts of the Book of the Gates, the Book of Caverns and the Book of Day and Night line the chambers. Portions of the Book of the Dead are located in the pillared chamber, along with scenes of the skygoddess, Nut.

Ramesses III
The tomb is sometimes referred to as the "Harpers Tomb" due to the two harpers playing to the gods in four of the chambers. Ten small chambers branch off of the main corridors. These were for the placement of tomb furniture.

Seti I
The longest tomb in the valley, 100m, contains very well preserved reliefs in all of its eleven chambers and side rooms. One of the back chambers is decorated with the Ritual of the Opening of the Mouth, which stated that the mummy's eating and drinking organs were properly functioning. Believing in the need for these functions in the afterlife, this was a very important ritual. The sarcophagus is now in the Sir John Soane Museum, London.

Tuthmosis III
The approach to this unusual tomb is an ascent up wooden steps, crossing over a pit, and then a steep descent down into the tomb. The pit was probably dug as a deterrent to tomb robbers. Two small chambers, decorated with stars, and a larger vestibule are in front of the sarcophagus chamber, which is uniquely rounded and decorated with only red and black.

Amenhotep II
A steep flight of stairs and a long unadorned corridor lead to the sarcophagus chamber. Three mummies, Tuthmosis IV, Amenhotep II III and Seti II, were found in one side room and nine mummies were found in another.

This tomb's construction is identical to that of Seti I's with the exception of some of the inner decorations.

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The Tombs of the Nobles

The vizier under Tuthmosis III and Amenhotep II II was responsible for taxation, justice and foreign policy. The reliefs depicts tribute being brought to Egypt, a procession of African beast and goods and Rekhmire's coronation a vizier.

Sennufer was mayor of Thebes and overseer of the gardens of Amun during the reign of Amenhotep II II. The antechamber is decorated with reliefs of grape arbors.

Hunting and fishing scenes adorn the chambers of this XVIII estate inspector.

This tomb contains well preserved reliefs of everyday country life.

Ramose was governor of Thebes during Amenhotep II IV's reign. Work was begun on this impressive tomb in the classical Egyptian style, but on into the tomb, changed to the Amarnan. This was because Amenhotep II IV had become Akhenaton. When Akhenaton went to Amarna, Ramose followed, thus leaving the tomb unfinished.

The royal scribe and tutor decorated his tomb with hunting scenes and barbers cutting hair.

The royal scribe and granary inspector's tomb bears reliefs of harvests, unloading of boats, a market scene, and cattle herds. Of interest is a relief of a complete set of instruments employed in the Opening of the Mouth ritual.

There are some scholars that have long believed that Yuya was Joseph of the Bible. Like Joseph, Yuya was a non-royal descendant that became the highest ranked official during the reign of Tuthmosis IV and Amenhotep II III. The contents of the tomb can be seen at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

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The Palace of Amenhotep III

Located in Thebes, this is the largest remaining royal residence in Egypt. Throughout Egypt homes and palaces were built of mud bricks and have long ago been destroyed by the elements. This was the home of Amenhotep III, his wife Tiy and his harem of 317 Hittites that he received as a dowry when he married a Hittite princess. His apartments were separate from the Queens and included a large hall for celebrations. To the east of the palace Amenhotep dug a lake measuring 370m by 1940m for his wife Tiy. There they sailed on their imperial barge named Aton Gleams.

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The Ramesseum

Ramesses II built the fabulous mortuary temple on the site of Seti I's ruined temple. This great temple reportedly rivaled the wonders of the temple at Abu Simbel. However, Ramesses built the temple too close to the Nile and the flood waters took their toll. Only a single colonnade remains of the First Courtyard. In front of the ruins is the base of the colossus of Ramesses that once stood 17m high. The statue would have weighed more than 1,000 tons. The statue fell into the Second Court and the head and torso remain there, but the other broken pieces are in museums all over the world. The ceiling in the Astronomical Room is still intact with the illustration of the oldest known 12 month calendar.

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Colossi of Memnon

Amenhotep III (18th Dyn) built a mortuary temple in Thebes that was guarded by two gigantic statues on the outer gates. All that remains now are the 19.5m statues of Amenhotep. Though damaged by nature and ancient tourists, the statues are still impressive. Long after Amenhotep the Greeks decided that the statue represented their hero, Memnon, son of Tithonus, and Eos, who fought in defense of Troy and was slain by Achilles. The north statues, of Amenhotep's mother Mutemuia and Queen Tiy, were shattered by an earthquake. The fallen remains produced a musical sound under certain weather conditions. The Eqyptians thought that this music came directly from the gods. To be granted a song meant that you were very much in favor of the gods. Visitors came from miles around to hear the music, including Emperor Hadrian, in 130 A.D. The music stopped in 199 A.D. when the statue was repaired.

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Deir el-Medina

The workmen who built and decorated the royal tombs used to live there. The entire village has been completely excavated. The master quarries, painters, masons and sculptures who worked on the royal tombs used to live in this village with their family. The workers used to reach the Valley of The Kings by walking each day through a mountain path which passed over the cliff of Deir el-Bahari. The remains of the village lie on the path between Deir el-Bahari and the Valley of the Queens. Almost all the houses are similar in size and design. All of them are small and share common walls. Each house used to have an entrance supported by one column from the inside. A main chamber lay behind the entrance. Stairways at the end of the chamber leads to long, vanished roof. The house were made of mud bricks, a common way of building in the Egyptian country side. The kitchen was a court behind the stairs. A visitor can see larger houses in the village. These houses used to belong to the chiefs of the crews.

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Sights in Karnak

The Temple of Karnak is actually three main temples, smaller enclosed temples, and several outer temples. This vast complex was built and enlarged over a thirteen hundred year period. The three main temples of Mut, Monthu and Amun are enclosed by enormous brick walls. The Open Air Museum is located to the north of the first courtyard, across from the Sacred Lake. The main complex, The Temple of Amun, is situated in the center of the entire complex. The Temple of Monthu is to the north of the Temple of Amun, while the Temple of Mut is to the south.
The Second Pylon of Karnak was built by Ramesses II. The Ptolemies did some extensive repairing and some new building on the center section. Curiously enough, they left the columns and the facade of the First Pylon unfinished and left the mud-brick ramp where it was at. The reason for the work left unfinished is not clear.
The Hypostyle Hall is found after passing through the Second Pylon. The hall is considered to be one of the world's greatest architectural masterpieces. Construction began during Ramesses I's reign. He was the king who founded the Nineteenth Dynasty and was king for only one year. The work continued under Seti I (1306 - 1290 BC). Seti I also built the Temple of Abydos and many other temples. The hall was completed by Seti's son, Ramesses II. The effects that are produced inside the hall are much different than they were originally. The huge architraves are not above the capitals that tower above. Towards to center of the hall several architraves and windows that have stone latticework still remain. This small area can give you an idea of the builders' intent for the lighting effects. Some imagination is required here to appreciate what it must have looked like. The walls, ceilings and columns are painted with the natural earth tones. The light that was allowed in originally kept most of the hall in shadows. The hall ceiling was 82 feet high and was supported by 12 papyrus columns. The columns are made of sandstone and set in two rows of six. Each row is flanked on either side by 7 rows of columns that are 42 feet (12.8m) high. Each row has 9 columns, however the inner rows have 7 columns. The reliefs throughout the hall contain symbolism of Creation. The reliefs in the northern half are from the time period of Seti I and are obviously better done than those done by his son Ramesses II, which are in the southern half. Ramesses II's reliefs are cut much deeper than those of Seti's. This gives a much more dramatic light and shadow effect.
The outer walls of the Hypostyle Hall are covered with scenes of battle. Again, Seti I is to the north and Ramesses II is to the south. The scenes have long since lost their color that was painted and the outlines of the scenes have been blurred by the centuries of wind and sun. It is unsure whether the scenes of battle are based on historical fact or of ritual significance. It is thought that when the battle details are very precise, real events are most likely involved. Seti's battles take place in Lebanon, southern Palestine and Syria. The southern walls of Ramesses II have hieroglyphic texts which actually record details of the Hittite king and Ramesses II signing a peace treaty in the twenty-first year of Ramesses reign. This is the first evidence found for a formal diplomatic agreement and is certainly historical.
The Transverse Hall lies beyond the rear wall of the Hypostyle Hall. The wall is mostly ruined. With the Transverse Hall is a partially reconstructed Third Pylon of Amenhotep (Amenophis) III. The Transverse Hall has remains of the earliest sections of the Karnak complex that are still in existence.
Leaving the hypostyle hall through the third pylon you come to a narrow court where there once stood several obelisks. One of the obelisks was erected by Tuthmosis I (1504 - 1492 BC) who was the father of Hatshepsut. This obelisk stands 70 feet (21.3m) tall and weighs about 143 tons. During the centuries between Tuthmosis I and Ramesses VI, the kings of the time did more than their share of destroying and dismantling. This obelisk was never touched. The original inscription was left in its place. However, two kings did add their inscription on either side of the original. Beyond this obelisk is the only remaining Obelisk of Hatshepsut (1473-1458 BC). It is 97 feet (29.6m) high and weighs approximately 320 tons. Besides the Lateran obelisk in Rome, this is the tallest standing obelisk. The one in Rome is 101 feet (30.7m) high. Hatshepsut was a woman who dared to challenge the tradition of male kingship. She died from undisclosed causes after imposing her will for a time. After her death, her name and memory suffered attempted systematic obliteration. The inscription on the obelisk says, "O ye people who see this monument in years to come and speak of that which I have made, beware lest you say, 'I know not why it was done'. I did it because I wished to make a gift for my father Amun, and to gild them with electrum." Tuthmosis III (1479-1425 BC) was Hatshepsut's successor. When he came to power, he built a high wall around her obelisk. This wall hid the lower two-thirds but left the upper towering above. It has been thought that this was an easier and cheaper way of destroying her memory than actually tearing it down and removing it. If Tuthmosis had really wanted to destroy the obelisk, he would have certainly torn it down and removed it. Perhaps that was another reason for his building the wall. The top of the obelisk was visible for 50 miles (80 km). The pink granite for the obelisk was quarried at Aswan, which is several hundred miles south of Karnak. The stone was moved several miles over to the river and shipped down to Thebes. The setting of the stone is shown on reliefs as the pharaoh raising it with a single rope tied to its upper extremity. This is most probably symbolic, but may have been done this way with several hundreds of people pulling together. To the south of the standing obelisk is its companion which has fallen. It was also make of a single block of granite but is broken now.
The Sixth Pylon, which was built by Tuthmosis III, leads into a Hall of Records in which the king recorded his tributes. Very little remains of this archive beyond two granite pillars. Just beyond these pillars lies the Holy of Holies or sanctuary. Originally it was the oldest part of the temple. The present sanctuary was built by the brother of Alexander the Great, Philip Arrhidaeus (323-316 BC) who was the King of Macedonia. The present sanctuary was built on the site of the earlier sanctuary built by Tuthmosis III. The present sanctuary contains blocks from the Tuthmosis sanctuary and still contain Tuthmosis' inscriptions. The sanctuary is built in two sections. Why this was done is not known.

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