Having returned home from Belgium & the boat on 14th Oct we repacked our bags and headed off to Egypt for a short trip (25th – 30th Oct 2019).
My sister had told us that Aida was to be performed in front of the Queen Hatshetpsut Temple on the Nile. And that Jules Verne were doing a 5 day trip for it, including a 3 day cruise on the Nile from Aswan to Luxor. Adrian had never been to Egypt and so we thought we would just do it! Frankie was due to be in Luxor (on another Egyptology course) and so we booked the Jules Verne trip and arranged to meet her at the Winter Garden Palace Hotel in Luxor at the end of the cruise. How special to arrive at this splendid hotel to see my sis waiting on the steps to meet us!
The Winter Garden Palace Hotel Luxor from the Nile
We arrived at the Movenpick MS Hermes in Aswan late at night & the cruise started early the next morning, so we really didn’t see anything of Aswan. A pity because it is lovely town on the Nile in front of the famous dam that was built to form lake Nasser in the 50’s. Back in 2007 I did a cruise on lake Nasser with Frankie and Greg. Cruising into Abul Simbal at night and then queuing at the temple in the early hours in order to see the sunrise on the winter equinox ……… memorable – but I digress!
The cruise from Aswan to Luxor only really took a couple of days. We visited a couple of sites – temple at Kom Ombo – along the way and we both enjoyed cruising along the Nile. There were few tourist boats – our boat was only half full – although Egypt was working hard to rekindle their tourist industry.
It was lovely to return to Luxor – I’d only been there a year previously – and to visit the temples of Luxor and Karnak. The modern town of Luxor is the site of the famous city of Thebes (Waset, in ancient Egyptian), the City of a Hundred Gates. It was the capital of Egypt from the twelfth dynasty on (1991 BC) and reached its zenith during the New Kingdom.
Avenue of the Sphinxes
An avenue of human headed sphinxes of over one and a half miles (3 km) once connected the temples of Karnak and Luxor. This road was used once a year during the Opet festival when the Egyptians paraded along it carrying the statues of Amun and Mut in a symbolic re-enactment of their marriage.
Approx 1,350 sphinx statues are thought to have lined this road together with barque chapels stocked with offerings. The Avenue is being excavated and exposed but is not yet open to tourists. It is very impressive & it will be wonderful to be able to walk between the 2 temples.
As with many sites in Egypt, the area had been covered by sand and then built on top over many thousands of years. Whole neighbourhoods have had to be relocated & demolished in order to excavate the sphinxes beneath. Everywhere we went you can see that excavations are ongoing and that more and more of the sites are becoming visible.
The temple of Karnak was known as Ipet-isu—or “most select of places”—by the ancient Egyptians. It is a city of temples, the largest religious building ever made, covering about 200 acres (1.5 km by 0.8 km), and was a place of pilgrimage for nearly 2,000 years. The great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big that St Peter’s, Milan, and Notre Dame Cathedrals would fit within its walls.
The Hypostyle hall, at 54,000 square feet (16,459 meters) and featuring 134 columns, is still the largest room of any religious building in the world. In addition to the main sanctuary there are several smaller temples and a vast sacred lake. The sacred barges of the Theban Triad once floated on the lake during the annual Opet festival.
Although the mud-brick houses and palaces of Thebes have disappeared, its stone temples have survived. The most beautiful of these is the temple of Luxor. It is close to the Nile and laid out parallel to the riverbank.
The temple was built by Amenhotep III (1390-52 BC) but completed by Tutankhamun (1336-27 BC) and Horemheb (1323-1295 BC) and then added to by Rameses II (1279-13 BC).
The temple has been in almost continuous use as a place of worship right up to the present day. During the Christian era, the temple’s hypostyle hall was converted into a Christian church, and the remains of another Coptic church can be seen to the west. Then for thousands of years, the temple was buried beneath the streets and houses of Luxor. Eventually the mosque of Sufi Shaykh Yusuf Abu al-Hajjaj was built over it. This mosque was carefully preserved when the temple was uncovered and forms an integral part of the site today.
Before the building works by Rameses II the northern end of the court was originally the entrance to the temple. It was an enclosed colonnade of seven pairs of 52-foot (16m) high open-flower papyrus columns. It was begun by Amenhotep III and completed by Tutankhamun and still support its huge architrave blocks.
The Colossi of Memnon stand in front of what was the Temple of Amenophis which is now being excavated. More and more is being exposed from what was fields for hundreds of years.
The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, “Holy of Holies”, was built for the pharaoh Hatshepsut, who died in 1458 BC. It is located beneath the cliffs at Deir el-Bahari on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings & is dedicated to Amun and Hatshepsut & is considered one of the “incomparable monuments of ancient Egypt.”
The approach to the temple is stunning.
The temple with the sheer stark cliffs of Deir el-Bahari behind formed an amazing backdrop for the opera. The lighting effects were superb. The wind added sound and costume movement effects. A bit spooky at times…..
Tomb of Seti I
There are over 60 tombs in the Valley of the Kings. They vary from small tombs that are little more than a large hole in the ground to very large tombs with over 100 underground chambers. We decided to visit the most amazing tomb – Seti I – and concentrate on that rather than rush around trying to see several in a relatively short visit. It was very well worth it! Absolutely amazing.
On our last day in Luxor we went out in a felucca which was great fun! We even saw a tourist boat named the Titanic!!!