Say the name Luxor and many fans of Ancient Egyptian history might correct you and say, “Thebes”. That is because the modern city of Luxor was once the capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom era running between years of 1550 BCE to roughly 1069 BCE and referred to commonly as Thebes. Yet, the Temple of Luxor received a great deal of attention before and after that time because it was adjacent to the Temple of Karnak, believed to be where the ancient god Ptah stood when creating the world from chaos. In fact, the city of Luxor dates to 3200 BCE, and it seems to have prospered during the reign of Mentuhotep II. It is at this time it began to grow and thrive as a place of political and religious life in Ancient Egypt.
Luxor town itself is often described as the world’s largest and greatest outdoor museum because it features so many significant sites from the ancient world. There is, of course the Temple of Luxor as well as the massive Temple of Karnak, and across the river (to the west) are the Valleys of the Kings and the Queens.
It is helpful to understand that basic geography when planning a visit to the Temple of Luxor. After all, it is found on the eastern banks of the Nile while the necropolis and the burial sites in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Kings are on the west. This was intentionally done by the Ancient Egyptians, and the Temple of Luxor is even more unique because it is not dedicated to any specific god or even to a Pharaoh. It is actually focused on the renewal of the power of the kings or pharaohs and is believed to have been the site where many were officially crowned.
HOW TO SEE THE MOST DURING A VISIT TO THE TEMPLE OF LUXOR
When planning your visit to the Temple of Luxor, you should take the advice of many travel experts and hire a guide. As one said, “Unless you go with a tour group, visiting Luxor independently can be quite overwhelming.” It can also be inefficient if you have a limited amount of time, and a guide can speak with you about your particular goals and interests, ensuring you see the most significant elements of the Temple of Luxor as well as any special requests you might have.
They can also help you avoid the largest number of crowds, as this is a huge part of any visit to the Luxor area. Though you can figure out the standard itinerary that tour groups follow and gauge when the largest numbers of tourists arrive, professional tours and guides can be a much easier way to make the most of your time.
HOW TO PAY A VISIT TO THE TEMPLE OF LUXOR
One thing that few travelers expect in an “open air museum” like Luxor is the need for tickets to enter almost every site. From the tombs of the Valley of the Kings to sites like the Temple of Luxor, you need to obtain a ticket to gain entry.
The next thing to know about paying a visit to the Temple of Luxor is this: Lots of people opt to head there at night because it is one of the few sites that has evening hours. The Karnak Temple is the opposite, and many head there in the early morning. To pay your visit to the Luxor Temple without encountering a lot of crowds, you may want to just rise as early as possible and head to the Luxor Temple site to dodge the largest number of travelers. The site actually opens at 6AM (though hours can change to a later time, usually 8AM) and you may find this an enjoyable way to view sunrise or the earliest hours of the day.
WHAT YOU WILL SEE AT THE TEMPLE OF LUXOR
This temple was the work of four pharaohs, beginning with Amenhotep III, continuing with none other than the world-famous Tutankhamen and his successor Horemheb, and being finished by Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great. There is also a shrine to Alexander the Great at the back of the structure.
It was designed to worship Amun Ra, considered to be the greatest of the Egyptian Gods and the temple is often described as the most comprehensible and easy to understand of the temples throughout Egypt. It is also frequently described as the most beautiful, and perhaps this is why it has been a nearly non-stop place of worship over the centuries, including serving as a Christian church and a Coptic church during the Christian eras in Egypt.
Yet, many are curious about the presence of a mosque on top of the site, and this occurred when temple was actually buried beneath the streets of Luxor for many centuries and a mosque was built on top of the site. As the temple was recovered and restored, the mosque was also preserved and is open to visitors as well.
Laid out parallel to the river it used to have an avenue of sphinxes that led to the Karnak temple to the north. This avenue is due to be fully restored and operational in the future, and may even be complete as you read this! The temple is entered by passing between two enormous statues of Ramses II as well as a pair of obelisks (of which one remains while the other is now in Paris).
Once inside, you encounter the First Pylon of Ramses II, the Courtyard of Ramses II and the Colonnade of Amenhotep II. There is then the Colonnade of Amenhotep III, the Courtyard of Amenhotep II and the hypostyle hall. There are also chapels, a sanctuary and other sites to take in. Just those few areas are worthy of hours of exploration. For example, the Amenhotep III colonnade features seven pairs of columns decorated with papyrus and open flower designs, while the court beyond is enormous and surrounded on three sides by columns.
A guide is essential for understanding the profound beauty and significance of these spaces and can only enhance the experience. The temples of Luxor are must see spots on any visit to Egypt. Plan to arrive at the Luxor Temple in the morning for the amazing sunlight, small crowds and comfortable temperatures, and its beauty and appeal may lead you to find yourself there even as the afternoon hours arrive!