Ancient Egyptian Thebes
The modern city of Thebes, has always been the hometown of Egyptian heroes in the ancient world; king Mentuhotep Nebhebetre who re-unified the Egyptian lands and established the Middle Kingdom. It was the hometown of king Ahmose, who expelled the Hyksos and established the New Kingdom, the Age of the Empire.
The city was classified as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1979, with nearly one third of the world antiquities. There is hardly a place in Luxor which has not a relic that reflects the greatness of the ancient Egyptian civilization.
The city is divided into two parts; The eastern part on the eastern bank of the Nile: the city of the livings with the splendid daily ritual Temples of Luxor and Karnak, and the western part on the western bank of the Nile embracing the royal tombs and Temple of Millions of Years.
The Eastern Side
It is the city of the livings, and the place of the divine temples built to serve as house of the gods of ancient Egypt.
Karnak Temples are considered the world’s greatest Open-Air Museum, a temple complex which consists of a significant number of temples, chapels and pylons.
Witness to the early history of the Temple is the White Chapel constructed by Senwosret I, as coronation Kiosk which was later used as a barque shrine, and during the reign of Amenhotep III it was dismantled and used as fillers of the Third Pylon. Archaeologists accurately re-constructed the chapel, and along many other monuments, it is currently presented at the Karnak Open-Air Museum.
Kings of the New Kingdom, Late Period and even the Ptolemaic Kings added buildings and monuments in the temple complex; which included the sacred lake, the obelisks, and the Hypostyle Hall (one of the most significant monuments known to the ancient world). The temple complex was mainly dedicated to Amun, Mut and Khunso.
Luxor Temple lies less-than 3 km south of the Karnak Temples, and both were anciently linked by the “Avenue of the Rams”. In this ancient Egyptian temple, we find Roman and Coptic additions as well as the Abu El-Haggag mosque on top of columns from its peristyle court.
The temple was built by Amenhotep III to prove his legacy as the son of Amun, therefore it was dedicated to the Theban Triad: Amun, Mut and Khunso. It was later added to by New Kingdom, Late Period and Ptolemaic Kings. The temple welcomes its guests by an obelisk and great colossal statues of Ramses II.
Museums at Luxor
At Luxor Museum, you will explore ancient Egyptian artifacts from Luxor Temple, the Temple of Aten and many other ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman artifacts.
On the Nile corniche, not far from Luxor Temple, lies the Mummification Museum, where you enter the world of ancient Egyptian mummification with its techniques, tools and gods associated.
The Western Side
It is the gate to the netherworld; all Egyptians whether a royal, a high-official or workmen were concerned with the afterlife and worked hard to be able to afford a suitable tomb with important religious texts and scenes inscribed to help them access the realm of the dead.
Temples were built by kings on the western part to serve the rituals of the defied kings, the Temples for Millions-of-Years or Mortuary Temples, guarantees the deceased king continuous offerings and prayers to millions-of-years to come. The best-preserved examples of this type of temples date to the New Kingdom.
On the foothill of the western mountain, the founder of the Middle Kingdom, Monutotep Nebhebetre, built his mortuary temple, at El-Deir El-Bahari, as a very unusual funerary complex, the transition from a pyramid to a temple, which resulted in a terraced temple with probably a pyramidion on the top, the same style was carried on by Thutmose III and Hatshepsut, but without the pyramidion on top. Unfortunately, only the temple of Hatshepsut survived from the continuously falling rocks, as it was deeply carved into the mountain.
The temple of Hatshepsut was mainly built to prove her legacy as a divine daughter of Amun, during her struggle with Thutmose III over the Egyptian throne. The temple also served as cult center for Hathor, one of the main goddesses of the Afterlife.
Likewise, kings of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties built their temples on the western bank, including the temples of Thutmose III, and Amenhotep III who also constructed the Colossi of Memnon, which were severely damaged, and re-constructed in modern times with great efforts of the archaeologists.
It was described by Champollion as “The greatest of all the storeyed monuments of Thebes”, and has the remains of the largest free-standing statue ever made in Egypt. It was built by Rameses II as a mortuary temple of the defied king. The story of the war of Qadesh was inscribed on the walls of the pylon of the temple. It is also famous for the portico with Osiride pillars of Ramses II forming the entrance of the Hypostyle Hall.
The Temple of Medinet Habu
The temple witnessed the peak of the New Kingdom during the nineteenth Dynasty, and its falling during the twentieth Dynasty. The temple was built by Ramses III to commemorate his victorious battles against the Hittites and the Sea People, it also describes the feasts of God Min and God Soker. But on the other hand, it became an administrative building during the twentieth Dynasty, and witnessed the famous recorded Deir El Medina workmen rebellion against the administration because of the financial decline.
The Valley of the Kings
The royal burial ground for over 500 years was the Valley of the Kings, where the famous kings of the New Kingdom were buried. The splendid tomb of Tutankhamun was excavated there, and the best-preserved scenes reflecting the Egyptian Mythology are found in the royal tombs.
From more than 60 royal burials, only the tomb of king Tutankhamun was found almost-intact. Discoverer Howard Carter said when opening the tomb: “I see wonderful things!”
The tomb builders and high-officials were the only people who saw and witnessed these royal tombs, the situation is described by the Advisor of King Thutmose I in his own tomb: “I saw to the excavation of the rock-tomb of his majesty, alone, no one seeing, no one hearing”.
The valley embraces the tombs of the most powerful kings; starting from the tomb of Thutmose I, Thutmose III (complete version of Imy-Duat), Hatshepsut (as a king), Ramses II (largest tomb), and the most beautiful tomb of Ramses VI, the tomb of the king Tutankhamun, and the last king buried there Ramses XI.
The Valley of the Queens
Meanwhile, and following the same trend, the Valley of the Queens was constructed, to engrave the wives of the kings. Princess Ahmose (King Ahmose’s half-sister) was the first to be buried, followed by the main wives of Sety I, Ramses I, and the most beautifully decorated tomb of Queen Neferetari, the wife of Ramses II. Several princes and members of the nobility were also buried in the valley.
Tombs of the Nobles
The nobles were buried in specific cemeteries on the western bank of the Nile; Sheikh Abd El-Qurna, Qurnet Mar'i, El-Assasif and El-Khokha. One of the most interesting tombs in Sheikh Abd El-Qurna is the tomb of Ra-mose, who was a vizier during the reigns of Amenhotep III and Akhenaton. While his tomb was under construction at Western Thebes, he shifted to Tell El-Amarna in accordance to the political change. The funeral procession is the only scene painted, which is one of the best-preserved scenes.
It is the city of workmen, and one of the few cities found from the ancient Egypt. Since the eighteenth Dynasty it was inhabited by the royal-tomb builders and abandoned during the twentieth Dynasty because of the declining administrative and financial situation. The workmen built their beautifully painted tombs following the royal trend; the very colorfully decorated tombs are rich in religious scenes that were supposed to be limited to royals. The city is composed of houses, roads and temples, along with the tombs. The excavations revealed many papyri, which explained the administrative routine and reflected the social life in Egypt during that period. The city was re-occupied when Ptolemy I built a temple for the goddess of the West: Hathor nearby.
Temple of Esna
Far to the south, The Temple of Esna is considered the oldest Ptolemaic temple known in Egypt, dedicated mainly to gods Khunum and Neith. The scenes of the temple include a full coverage of the sacred calendar.
Luxor is located on southern Egypt, it is the world's greatest open-air museum.