After 3 days in Cairo, Leah and I were on the move!
We boarded a chartered prop jet with our fellow river cruisers and flew to Luxor,
to greet the Viking Ra–currently tied up alongside the Nile’s east bank. Ra was to be our floating hotel through the following week.
After attending an obligatory safety briefing aboard Ra,
we were soon exploring Luxor and it’s ancient counterpart, Thebes–home to kings and queens from the Middle Kingdom (c. 2000–1700 BC) through the Ptolemaic Kingdom (305–30 BC)–spanning 15 centuries of rule, until Egypt surrendered to the Romans.
Our tour of Luxor began with a visit to the Karnak Temple Complex, encompassing 247 acres, and considered the largest religious structure ever built.
Ram-headed sphinxes (called criosphinx) adorn both sides of the avenue leading to the unfinished, first pylon to honor Amun-Ra, Egypt’s most powerful god and Thebe’s patron deity of the Great Temple of Karnak.
The criosphinxes continue inside the Ethiopian Courtyard (IX Dynasty)–each one cradling an erect statue of Ramses II (c. 1279-1213 BC) between its forelegs.
It flanks the entrance to the temple of Ramses III.
The most impressive feature of the temple of Amun-Ra is the Great Hypostyle Hall, a forest of 134 sandstone columns centered by 12 colossal columns soaring 69 feet,
which supports the remains of a stone roof enclosed by massive walls,
and features intricately carved relief sculptures and hieroglyphs of religious and historical significance…
to honor each of the 30 kings who once ruled the imperial city.
After 3300 years, the site remains substantially intact, yet benefits from painstaking restoration.
After listening to commentary from our onboard Egyptologist, Leah and I strolled the grounds of the ancient temple trying to imagine the enormity of its scope:
while realizing that 3 other sections–the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Montu, and the Temple of Amenhotep IV–are also part of Karnak, and still under excavation and reconstruction.
Next stop–Luxor Temple after dark.