Luxor - Temples of Kanack and the Valley of the Kings

A pre-dawn start from Cairo saw us arriving by charter flight at Luxor around 10am. It was straight into the bus and off to the temples of Kanack This temple is about 2 miles north of the Luxor Temple but connected to it by an impressive avenue of sphinx. The Kanack Temple was the most important sanctuary of ancient Egypt and the heart of the cult of the god Amon . The temple consists of: the 1st pylon, erected by the Ptolemy ; the 2nd pylon, guarded by a pair of huge statues of Ramses II , spans over 50000 square feet and contains 134 huge columns and considered to be the largest hall of any temple of the world ; the 3rd pylon and the 4th pylon consist of a 97 foot high obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut carved from a solid piece of pink granite. At the south end you emerge from the buildings to the sacred lake where ceremonial boats took part in the worship of Amon. Each pharaoh added his own contribution to the temple over 2000 years.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to get a larger photo

I did wonder where we were! You enter the Karnack Temple via an avenue of impressive animals, that have been well preserved.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to get a larger photo

From there to the temple of Luxor, This ancient structure was originally built during the reign of Amenophis the III then expanded by Ramses II who added a statue of himself and two obelisks. Today only one of them remains at the Luxor Temple and the other one was given by Mohamed Ali to Louis Philippe in 1831 and is now at the Place de la Concorde in Paris today. After Alexander the Great rebuilt the sanctuary in the 4th century B.C., the Romans subsequently rebuilt portions of it and the Muslims built a mosque on top of the temple.

In the evening, we went to see the sound and light show at the Karnak Temple,

Click on any of the thumbnails below to get a larger photo

Truthfully you will never see a good sound and light show at a tourist attraction. It has always been set up years ago and overused and run down over the years. Bit like a scratched old recording, the commentary tends to be dated, and well, scratched. No different here, interesting only in that it was done on the move. Hundreds of us gathered at the entrance, and lights and spiel were given on that stop, then we all moved at some danger through the darkness to a second stop, where again the lights came on and the scratchy voice harangued us from the loudspeakers. Eventually after a number of stops, we reached the lake, and all sat in an amphitheatre overlooking the lake, and here we had more sounds and lights. We then all trooped back through the darkened temple to reach the entrance again. The better prepared among the crowd carried torches, and the trick was to try to follow one such person. Chris really enjoyed it!

We stayed at the poor, read very poor, Sheraton Hotel at Luxor. The way the hotel has been built, only half the rooms overlook the Nile. We started in a "car park" view room looking the other way - yes that is what the view is. It took a lot of discussion to get moved to a Nile view room You only want to stay here if you have a Nile view room. There is no free wifi anywhere in this hotel. Why do pricey hotels like this feel that they can get away with charging for it? The food was, sadly, "mediocre". Its one redeeming feature is the Nile view and watching the sun set across the other side of the river. But the other half of the rooms would not have offered that experience. There is a pool right on the bank of the Nile.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to get a larger photo

Chris enjoyed the pool right on the bank of the Nile After much bad feeling, we got moved to a Nile view room
In the morning our room gave us a splendid view of the early morning balloon flights. The hotel had palmed off the Voyager group with car park view rooms. Only a fraught face off gave us this room. And we had lunch here before hitting the road to Safaga.

Next morning after a poor buffet breakfast at the Sheraton, we crossed the Nile to the West Bank by bus for a visit to the Valley of the Kings, hidden in the foothills of the Gourma Mountains.

We had a photo stop (brief) at the Hatshepsut Temple, designed as a series of grand terraces extending up a cliff with rows of square granite columns blending in with the mountain side. And incidentally where 62 tourists were murdered by machine gun fire from the cliffs above in 1997. They don't tell you that in the tourist brochures, sort of hoping you don't know, and indeed I would doubt that more than a small handful of tourists today know anything about those events

Followed by another photo stop (this is tourism by ticking boxes, you have no time to stand and admire, if you are lucky you are allowed out of the bus for 5 minutes, otherwise it is done on the move "get you cameras ready , we will be passing something really interesting in a few minutes on the left hand side of the bus. Even if you are on that side of the bus, a photo from a bus tends to have reflections off the windows that ruin photos) at the Colossi of Memnon , which was originally built as a mortuary temple in Thebes and guarded by two gigantic statues on the outer gates. All that remains today are the two huge statute with 75 foot high.

On to Medinet Habu. The temple was built by Ramses III and considered to be the most interesting of the funerary chapels on the West Bank It was the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III. Aside from its size and architectural and artistic importance, the temple is probably best known as the source of inscribed reliefs depicting the advent and defeat of the Sea Peoples during the reign of Ramesses III.. The reliefs on both sides of the doorway depict battle scenes of Ramses III clubbing a number of vanquished people with 86 captives nearby.

Click on any of the thumbnails below to get a larger photo

Hatshepsut Temple, known for a tourist massacre in 1997 The two Colossi of Memnon are considerable larger than the boys
Medinet Habu was the Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III. The original entrance is through a fortified gate-house,The first pylon leads into an open courtyard, lined with colossal statues of Ramesses III as Osiris on one side, and uncarved columns on the other. The second pylon leads into a peristyle hall, again featuring columns in the shape of Ramesses. This leads up a ramp that leads (through a columned portico) to the third pylon and then into the large hypostyle hall (which has lost its roof). Reliefs and actual heads of foreign captives were also found placed within the temple perhaps in an attempt to symbolise the king's control over Syria and Nubia.

And finally to the Valley of the Kings itself. As before we had tickets to three of the tombs. We left the group behind and had our own wander. 63 tombs of Pharaohs and noblemen have been found in this valley up to now. Between the 18th and 20th Dynasties, the kings abandoned the Memphis area and built their tombs in Thebes (modern Luxor).

The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give clues to the beliefs and funerary rituals of the period. Almost all of the tombs seem to have been opened and robbed in antiquity, but they still give an idea of the opulence and power of the Pharaohs. This area has been a focus of archaeological and egyptological exploration since the end of the eighteenth century, and its tombs and burials continue to stimulate research and interest. In modern times the valley has become famous for the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun (with its rumours of the Curse of the Pharaohs), and is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. The valley itself is bland, dusty and hot, but the tombs are what you come for, and they are spectacular

Click on any of the thumbnails below to get a larger photo

On November 22, 1922 Carter found Tutankhamen's tomb (subsequently designated KV62), by far the best preserved and most intact pharaonic tomb ever found in the Valley of the Kings. He wired Lord Carnarvon to come at once. On February 16, 1923, Carter opened the burial chamber and first saw the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun. While unwrapping the linens of the mummy, presumably looking for treasure, the skull of the ancient king fell away from the body. The impact from its fall out of the tomb made a dent in the skull. Ancient Egyptians believed a king could only be immortal if the body rested undisturbed, so some believe the name of the king must still be spoken today as a remembrance. After cataloguing the extensive finds, Carter retired from archaeology and became a collector. It sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which Tutankhamun's burial mask remains the popular symbol.

Then into the buses for the long drive across the desert to Safaga, where we boarded the Voyager.

Click on the thumbnail below to get a larger photo

Our Holiday from Cairo to India on SS Voyager