Luxor Temple

This magnificent structure, know in ancient times as the “Harem of the South” is
connected to the Temple of Karnak by a 3Km processional Avenue of Sphinxes, like
Karnak, Luxor’s temple was dedicated to the Theban triad of Amun, Mut and Khonusu,
whose statues stood here during the Opet festival.

Even though Luxor Temple was expanded several times throughout the ages, it’s much
more compact and coherent than Karnak, perhaps because its core was built by just one
pharaoh, Amenhotep III. The walls are decorated with some of the finest carvings in
Egypt, protected because much of the temple was buried until 1885. Before excavations,
only the heads of the Ramses II colossi and the tips of the obelisks stuck out above the
pile of debris on which Luxor village was built. The village was removed bit by bit as the
excavations started.


Luxor


Luxor at night


Luxor temple

 

Luxor temple (at Night) 


Luxor temple (entrance)


Avenue of Sphinxes leading up to Luxor Temple


Courtyard of the Luxor Temple
 

The Avenue of Sphinxes leads to the monumental fist pylon built by Ramses II, which
was once fronted by two obelisks and six colosii of the man himself. The pylon is
decorated, as so many other Egyptian temples, with Ramses II’s favorite story the battle
of Qadesh. Beyond the pylon, the large Court of Ramses II is surrounded by two rows of
papyrus-bud columns, interspersed with more statues of the king.

Beyond the second pylon the impressive Processional Colonnade of Amenhotep III, with
huge papyrus columns, was the model for the Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak. The
craving on the walls was added by Tutankhamun and gives a picture of the Opet
celebration: One wall shows the outward journey, the other the return of the procession.
At the end of colonnade is the temple’s most impressive part, the Great Sun Court, also
built by Amenhotep III, its fine decorations developed over the millennium between the
reigns of Amenhotep and Alexander the Great.

Unfortunately this court has suffered badly from the rising water level and a major
restoration project is underway. Behind a columned portico, used as a chapel by Roman
soldiers, lays the temple’s inner sanctuary, with Alexander the Great’s Sanctuary of
Amun’s Barge and Amenhotep III’s Birth Room, and his nurturing by goddesses. The
bedrock on which this part of the temple was built was believed to be the site where
Amun was born.

Salvage Operation of Abu Simbel Temple

The rescued Nubian temples were moved and re-assembled in new locations: the  temples of Philae on the island of Agilika, near the old Aswan Dam ; the temples of Beit al-Wali,  Kalabsha and the kiosk of Qertassi a few hundred meters south of the High Dam; the temples of Wadi El-Sebuâ, Dakka and Maharraqa, 140 km south of the High Dam; the temples of Amada, Derr and the tomb of  Pennut, 180 km from the High Dam ; and the two temples of Abu Simbel, 270  km  from  the  High  Dam. Four  Nubian  temples  were offered to countries that had provided significant assistance in the salvage operation: the temple of El-Lessiya to Italy; that of Debod to Spain the temple of Taffa to the Netherlands; and the temple of Dendur to the United States. Other monuments were offered to  other  participating countries such as France, Poland, Germany, etc.

Several schemes had been presented to save the temples of Abu Simbel The one which was selected in 1963 had been submitted by a Swedish company called VBB. The work cost nearly 40 million USD. It took one year (August 1965 - July 1966) to cut the two temples into 1042 enormous blocks weighing over 15000 tons. The blocks were then re-assembled around a concrete superstructure, surrounded by a dome to mimic the topography on which the temple was originally located, over 200 m north and 65 m above its original location. The new site was inaugurated on September 22, 1968, but work on the final elements lasted until 1972.

The Great Temple of Abu Simbel was completely carved out of the rock. Its facade, trapezoidal in form to mimic the pylon, is preceded by a terrace decorated with a series of  upright  statues  of  Horus  and Ramses II. The  facade is adorned with four colossal statues carved into the rock representing Ramses II seated and looking eastward. Around the king’s legs are statues of queens, princesses and princes. The facade is  dominated by a row of baboons greeting the rising sun. Above the entrance is a niche containing a statue of hawk-headed god Ra-Horakhty. The entrance leads to a large hall, the ceiling of which rests  on two  rows  of  four  Osirian  pillars. In  this  hall,  the  reliefs  are exceptionally  well  preserved. The eastern reliefs  represent two nerely symmetric scenes of the Pharaoh smiting his  enemies. On the northern wall, one can admire a detailed composition of the famous Battle of Qadesh, in which Ramses II  confronted  the  Hittites in the fifth year of his reign. As for the scenes of the southern wall, they show, from left to right, the king on his chariot attacking an Asian fortress, killing  a  Libyan enemy, and, finally, triumphant, atop his chariot. Off of the grand hall are a series of rooms called « treasure  rooms». Most likely, it was here that the most precious articles of the temple had been stored. The  back door of the hall leads to a room with four pillars. The north and south walls of this room are decorated with scenes of worship of the divine boats. It then leads to a rectangular vestibule containing three sanctuaries. In the middle one, four statues are carved into the rock representing, from left  to  right,  Ptah,  Amon-Ra, Ramses II and Ra-Horakhty. As Amelia Edwards, who visited the site in 1874, noticed for the first time, the three statues on the right are completely illuminated by rays of the sun from the entrance of the temple on October 21 and February 21 every year (Currntly on October 22 and February 22).

The small temple of Abu Simbel is located 150 m to the north of the Great Temple. Its facade, 12 meters high, is decorated  with six  colossi,  each  reaching  nerely 10 meters high: four represent Ramses II and two represent  his royal wife, Nefertari, to whom the temple  is  dedicated.  Statues of  the  royal  couple’s  children  are carved on both sides of their legs : the princes on the king’s side, and the princesses on the queen’s. The entrance leads to a hall with six Hathorian pillars. Its walls are  adorned with scenes of offerings and worship to the deities honored in the  temple. To the west of the hall are three doors  leading to a vestibule from which  the  sanctuary is  accessed.  The latter is decorated on the back wall with a sculpture of the cow goddess Hathor protecting Ramses II.

The temples of Abu Simbel were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979, and they enjoy  special  treatment  in terms of conservation and preservation.  You too can help us to protect these two prestigious historical monuments by respecting these guidelines.

Stages of the transfer of Abu Simbel Temples:

View  from  the Nile  of the Small Temple on its  original  site (old site) 


In November,  1964, a steel culvert through the sandfill in front  of the Great Temple waserected, to form an  access to the temple rooms

 

Dismant'ing  of the Hypostyle  Hall  (Great Temple)

 

The originial site after the process of cutting the temple' stones

 

-Using saws in the cutting process

 

Queen Nefertari as now temporarilyosened from her place at the leg of her royal consort

 

The statue of Ramses the Great


 
Pharaoh's knees being lifted after being cut loose

 

In February 1966 the dismantling of the temples was not far from completion

 

On arrival at the Storage Area, every block is carefully  lifted by a gantry crane and moved to its provisional place while  awaiting re-erection

 

Pharaoh regains his face

 

Behind the re-erected statues of King Ramesse the first arch element of the great dome above the temple rooms is under construction

 

Sky view of the Great Temple

 

The two Abu Simbel temples as they can now be seen from Lake Nasser on their new sites

 

When approaching the Great Temple, the visitor  feels almost overwhelmed by its beauty and grandeur


Temple of Abu Simbel

The oldest Nubian temples date back to the eighteenth dynasty (Buhen, al-Lessiya, Amada, etc.) while the most recent were erected during the Graeco-Roman period. However, of all the Egyptian Pharaohs, it was under Ramses II (thirteenth century BC) that Lower Nubia witnessed its most intensive period of temple construction. He erected seven temples therein : Beit al-Wali, Garf Hussein, Wadi al-Sebuâ, Derr (the only one on the east bank of the Nile), those of Abu Simbel and, finally, Akcha. The successors of this great ruler of the nineteenth dynasty would not build another temple in Nubia for nealy a millennium to come.

Sound and light of Abu Simbel


  
Temples of  Ramesses II and Nefertari


Map of the Great Temple of Ramses II:

1- Terrace.
2- Royal colossi of the Facade-Pylon.
3- Hall with Osirian pillars.
4- Second hall.
5- Northern and southern rooms of Tresor.
6- Vestibule.
7- Lateral rooms.
8- Sanctuary.



Plan of the great temple


Temple of Abu Simbel lies 270 km south of Aswan. In addition to the two cave-temples built by Ramses II, the walls of the surrounding hills feature twenty-eight stelae carved into the rock.

During his trip to Nubia, the Swiss traveller Johann Ludwig Burckhardt – also known as Sheikh Ibrahim ibn Abdallah – was the first Westerner to see « Ebsambal (=Abu Simbel) », on March  22, 1813. After visiting  the  small temple, he wandered a few tens of meters to the south, and discovered the upper part of the colossi of Ramses II of the Great Temple, still buried under the sand. Thereafter, the Italian Giovanni Battista Belzoni and his team managed to enter  the  Great  Temple of  Abu  Simbel  on  Friday, August  1st,  1817,  more than three millennia after its construction.

Temple of Abu Simbel

Great temple of Abu Simbel


Part of Abu Simbel temple

Interior of abu simbel

Baboon carvings above the heads of the statues of Ramses

Nefertari with Hathor

 Ramses attacke a Syrian fortress (Abu Simbel)

 Enemies being beaten by the Egyptians (Abu Simbel)


After the construction of the old Aswan Dam (1898-1902) and its subsequent two elevations (1907-1912 and 1929-1934), the water level to the south of Aswan had risen considerably and the temples of Philae had been inundated. The construction of the High Dam (1960-1971), and the huge Lake Nasser which would develop behind it – with an average width of over 10 km, length of 500 km and a total area greater than 6000 km² –  would  result  in  the complete  submersion of  the  monuments  of Nubia  (in  both  Egypt and  Sudan).  It was therefore necessary to act quickly to save these temples before they ultimately dissapeared under the water (that is to say, before 1968 for the site of Abu Simbel). The  Egyptian  authorities  and  international  community reacted  quickly  :  on  March  8,  1960,  the  General  Director of UNESCO issued a solemn appeal, thus inaugurating the International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia. It would span twenty years.
Visitors of Abu Simbel

Pharaoh Meaning



The  kings  of  Egypt  were  not  originally  called  pharaohs  by  the  ancient Egyptians. In the late First Dynasty, the term used was nesu-bit, referring to the king, with the additional idea that the king was a combination of divine and mortal.

The term "pharaoh" for the king of Egypt developed over time, and was also used by the Hebrews and Greeks to describe the Egyptian ruler. Today, we commonly use the term "pharaoh" with reference to the kings of Ancient  Egypt,  including  the  Hyksos  and  Ptolemaic  rulers,  but  usually  not the Persian rulers, although many of them did have a formal Egyptian title manufactured for themselves.

In Ancient Egypt, the term "pharaoh" was not originally a royal title. Translated  literally,  the  earliest  meaning  of  the  Egyptian  word  per-o  was  "great house", that is the palace or residence of the king and his administration. This usage is found as early as 2500 BCE. The term "pharaoh" referred to the ordinances and commands the king issued in his administration, but not to the person of the king himself. In New Kingdom times (sixteenth century BCE), it  began  to  designate  the  king  himself,  rather  like  our  use  of  "The  White House"  to  refer  to  the  American  president  or  "The  Crown"  to  refer  to  the British  monarch.

Thus, at the beginning of the New Kingdom (Eighteenth Dynasty), we find Thutmose III (c. 1504-1450 BCE) referred to as "pharaoh." This is understood to be the earliest instance of the title being transferred to the king himself, and any reference before this period is considered an anachronism.

Note:

The number of hieroglyphic signs gradually grew to over 7000 in total, though not all of them were used on a regular basis (as with many of the words in an English dictionary).  The hieroglyphs were chosen from a wide variety of observed images, for example, people, birds, trees, or buildings.  Some signs represent the sounds of the ancient Egyptian language, but indicate consonants only. No vowels were written out.  Also, it was not an alphabetic system, since one sign could represent a combination of two or more consonants like the gaming-board hieroglyph which stands for the consonants "mn". Egyptologists make the sounds pronounceable by putting an "e" between the consonants, so "mn" is read as men. A vast number of other hieroglyphic signs were not pronounced at all but served to clarify meanings, such as a boat following the sound sign "dpt" which was the word for boat.

Philae Temple

The splendid Philae Temple (temple of Isis), set on an island surrounded by the blue waters of Lake Nasser, is one of Egypt’s most romantic sights, especially as you arrive by boat. For more than 800 years, until AD 550, this temple to Isis and Osiris was one of the most important Egyptian cult centers.

Ptolemaic and Roman rulers, keen to identify them selves with this powerful ancient Egyptian cult, all added their mark, making for an interesting blend of styles. The worship of Isis as the Mother of the Gods eventually spread all over the Roman Empire, and early Coptic art clearly associates the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus with Isis suckling her infant son Horus.


 The temple of Isis from Philae 


Originally the temple of Isis was built on the island of Philae facing Bigah Island, which was believed to be one of the burial sites of Osiris. But Bigah was accessible only to priests, so all the religious festivities took place on Philae. With the building of the first Aswan Dam the temple was submerged for half the year. In the 1970s when the High Dam threatened to submerge it completely, UNESCO and the Egyptian Antiquities organizations painstakingly moved the entire complex to nearby Agilkia Island, which had been landscaped to resemble Philae.


Philae. Columns


First Pylon and Columnade, Philae


Philae, Trajan's Kiosk
 
 
Trajan's Pavilion
 
 
 
Temple hieroglyphs on stone at Philae
 


Boats land near the oldest structure on the island, the Vestibule of Nectanebo I, beyond which lies a large court flanked by two elegant colonnades and the impressive first pylon of the temple of Isis. The small door to the left leads into a 3rd century BC Birth House, whose outside back wall shows some lovely scenes of Isis nursing Horus in the marshes. The main gate with two granite lions, leads to the second pylon, opening up to a Hypostyle Hall. The inner temple lost most of its decoration when it was converted into a church around AD 553, but the Sanctuary still contains Isis’s sacred barque, has a wonderful relief of the gods playing Kiosk of Tranhan, with its superb views across the lake.

Boat trip to Philae Temple:

The boat trip from the marina to Agilkia Island is short, but filled with picturesque scenery.  As  the  boat  ripples  through  the  tranquil  waters  of  the  Nile,  small  waves crash  into  even  smaller  islets  made  up  of  formations  of  titanic  round  rocks  that decorate the path towards the island. Eventually, Philae Temple appears gloriously on the horizon.

Around  the  small  marina  on  Agilkia,  Nubian  merchants  sell  colourful hand-made jewellery,  wooden  Nubian  miniature  dolls  and  animals,  straw  hats  and  pottery pots. Speaking  multiple  languages, merchants  approach  visitors  to present  their  wares.  However, visitors  can  hastily  climb  up  the gradient  to  meet  face  to  face with the temple.

Entering the open-court of pillars, the  temple  is  vast  and  epic. Philae  was  built  during  the Greco-Roman  era  under  the Ptolemaic dynasty.  The temple’s construction  lasted  over  600 years  and  was  dedicated  to worshiping  the  goddess  of motherhood and love, Isis, who was a deity for the Romans in Egypt. Unlike most temples in Egypt, each pillar at Philae in the open-court is topped with a lotus flower, some flowers open while others are closed. This  inconsistency was intentional to mimic and also differentiate between the style of the Pharaohs and that  of  the  Ptolemaic  dynasty.  Ceremonial  processions,  enthroning  or  reaping occasions once took place in this court.

Trajan's Kiosk


Moving on to the pylon (the second structure in Egyptian temples), the number of entrances  to  the  temple  indicated  how  many  gods  or  goddesses  to  which  the temple was dedicated. This is why Philae has one gate devoted for Isis. The walls of the pylon have inscriptions of the Ptolemaic kings giving offerings to goddess Isis. The  third  part  of  the  temple  is  a  closed  hall  of  pillars  which  contains  the  room where  Horus,  son  of  Isis  is  said  to  have  been  born.  It  is  worth  noting  that  the inscriptions  on  pillars  of  the  temple  were  a  mixture  of  Pharaonic  and  Greek languages. This leads to the most scared part of the temple, the sanctuary where sacrifices and offerings were kept.

Medinet Habu

Location of Medinet Habu:

The  west  bank  at  Luxor  is  one  of  the  most important  archaeological  sites  in the  world. Thebes,  located  opposite  of  today’s  city  of Luxor,  was  the  capital of  Egypt  during  the period of the Middle and New Kingdoms. With the  temples and  palaces  at  Karnak  and  Luxor, and the necropolises of the Valley of the Kings and  the  Valley  of  the  Queens,  Thebes  is  testimony to Egyptian civilization at its height.

Temple of Medinet Habu:

Medinet Habu was both a temple and a complex of temples dating from the New Kingdom. The  area  was  one  of  the  earliest  places  within the  Theban  region to  be  associated  with  the worship of Amun. Hatshepsut and Tutmosis III built a small temple to Amun on the site of an the  site  of  an  earlier  structure.  Next  to their temple, Ramesses III built his mortuary temple, Medinet  Habu’s  most conspicuous  standing monument.  Medinet  Habu  was  erected  and enclosed with  massive  mud  brick-built  walls and became the focus of the administrative and economic life of the whole of Thebes. The  area  included  storehouses, workshops, administrative offices, and residences of priests and  officials.  The site  was  inhabited  well  into the Middle Ages (9 th  century A.D.). The original temple  underwent  many  alterations  and enlargements  in  the  following  1500 years. These considerably extended its plan by adding a columned hall, two pylons, and a court at the front.








Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III - sky view


The temple at Medinet Habu of Ramesses III at Qurna



 Ramessid columns in the peristyle court



Ceiling decoration in the peristyle hall


Zone of decolourisation in court of mortuary temple of Ramesses III


The Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III


The  mortuary  temple  used  to  be  connected with the Nile by a canal, and a landing quay was built outside the enclosure wall. The entrance to the  temple enclosure  was  through  one  of  two fortified  gates,  of  which  only  the  eastern so-called "Pavilion" now remains. South of the last court  stood  the  brick-built palace,  now  badly damaged. Two building phases of the structure can  be recognized.  The  interior  of  the  palace was originally decorated with exquisite faience tiles.  The  "window  of  appearances"  connected the palace with the temple.


The Coptic Fresco of Saint Menas at Medinet Habu:
Saint Menas has received his due share of attention  in religious literature, both in connection with  incidents  of  his  life  and  the  miracles which  he  performed, and  thus  it  is  surprising  to  find that none of the scenes at Medinet Habu seem to portray incidents common to the literary record. The fact that such a concordance could not be established in a preliminary analysis has  necessitated  a detailed  study  of  the  documentary  material  concerning  the saint. Earlier studies of Menas have settled  neither the problem of where the saint was born and where he lived, nor the problems regarding the relations between his appearance on objects of art and the material of the literary legends.  The results of an investigation of these questions must  be given before the paintings can be considered in detail.

Ricostruzione dell’affresco di Medinet Habu