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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Egypt - Luxor, Karnak

My days at Cairo were over. I flew into Luxor in the morning and checked into the Nile cruise. The tour started in the afternoon.
Luxor and Karnak was very close by. Once it had been connected by the avenue of sphinx. Even after spending several days in Cairo, the site of Karnak temple still inspired me. The ram statues that leads to the temple entrance, the colossal columns that supported the inner structure...the shadows created by these structures were a blessing. The heat was unbearable, but still it did not diminish the sights. Somehow it was fitting to be there in heat. The ancient Egyptians had done it, why could we not with all the modern advantages? 

Entrance to the Temple of Karnak
We had most marvelous guide. He had once worked with the U Chicago Archeology team. One is always amazed that all the guide one meets at Egypt had all really majored in Egyptology and some even excavated with top archeologists.
He explained to us that Karnak and Luxor are female and maletemples, connected by the avenue. I could only imagine. Who would havetraveled down that path?

The Ram Statue

Once inside temple, one founds oneself in the midst of sea of these colossal columns. Columns are surrounded by the walls of the temple. All are marvelously carved with hieroglyphics depicting the name of the pharaohs and stories of old.
In some column bridges, you can still discover the colors, preserved through time. The vividness of it will surprise you. It certainly surprised me. I had never thought the colors could be preserved for thousands of years.
The columns of Karnak temple

I was wandering through the columns feeling the occasional cool breeze when suddenly all around me became silent. There were tourists about, but I was in the midst of silence. A sudden cool breeze surrounded me and I sat, surrounded by the columns. I was transported to another time, same place yet there was absolute silence, perhaps a far away music.

Karnak temple columns with colored hieroglyphics

Karnak temple columns with colored hieroglyphics

As you walk through the ruins of temple, you come face to face with the obelisks at a random place. It is like someone randomly threw these colossal artifacts in one place and they were left at a spot where they settled. It is almost hard to believe they've actually excavated this place.

Obelisk at Karnak

Of course, the excavation is still constantly on-going. I doubt if there is any site in Egypt that is not still being excavated. In that sense, I can see the cause for such disarray, yet...I wanted to know what it felt to see the temples at the time it had been built. It is an unrealistic desire of course...especially since these temples had taken hundreds of years to build and never had they ever been in pristine condition due to that.
Obelisk at Karnak

The columns are not the only ones with intricately carved hieroglyphics. There are the actual temple walls. It will probably take forever to see all of them in detail and possibly one could end up with heat stroke if one tries to. I thought I could take a picture of at least few of them so that I can try to interpret what stories they were telling us. 
Wall reliefs at Karnak

From the sea of columns, past the obelisks, we find ourselves in front of a large pond. The Nile had once connected here and they'd raised the sacred geese. Strange, priests taking care of geese and geese being sacred animal, but that is where we were...the sacred pond of Geese.

From there, I roamed back to the sea of columns. I wanted to capture the wistful feeling I felt standing in the midst of it.

Yet more columns of Karnak temple

Luxor temple was very close, yet by the heat index, it was too far to walk there. More incredible colossal statues stood in front as well as the continuation of the avenue of sphinx. There was a relief of River god Hapi where we were told the stories of the reunion, the upper and lower Egypt, the harmony...I think Egyptians knew better than us what life was about.         
Relief at Temple of Luxor

Luxor temple had also taken several hundred years to complete. As you walk in, you can find each period of its history, including the one of Alexander the Great and its life as a Christian hiding place.

Luxor Temple

I don't know much about the story of Alexander in Egypt...something to explore. It is hard to imagine that this country had been occupied by many. These colossal temple and pyramids seem to always indicate to us that Egypt had been forever just that, but the story tells us otherwise.
Columns at Luxor was somewhat different from those at Karnak. There were no beautiful hieroglyphic decorations nor colors. They were simply nice columns of different design surrounding the main courtyard. There were no cool breeze, no sea of columns...I was slightly unhappy. I think it was more due to the extreme heat.  
Columns of Luxor

Another sound and light show...held at Karnak. There are numerous sound and light shows, but not one is same as another. At Karnak temple, we gathered together in front of the temple near dusk. Each stage of the show lighted different parts of temple. We followed the light and sounds.
It was inspiring to stand surrounded by those columns once more, but in darkness with only moonlight for the company.

Night at Karnak Temple

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