Luxor in Egypt is often referred to as the world’s largest open-air museum with a collection of ancient temples and monuments. The city, 500 kilometers south of Cairo, is built on-top of an ancient city that the Greeks called Thebes and known as Waset by ancient Egyptians.
In ancient times the city was considered to be a religious site and the home of the god Amun. Many Egyptian queens believed that Amun fathered their children.
Most of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom were entombed in the Valley of the Kings. The valley is near the banks of the river, with steep cliffs around it. The pharaohs were entombed along with all the things that they wanted to take with them into the afterlife – from jewellery and clothes to food and drink. There are about 60 tombs and perhaps the most well-known among them is that of King Tutankhamun.
Close to the Valley of the Kings is the Valley of the Queens. Ancient Egyptians knew this site as ta set neferu – which means ‘the place of the children of the king’. The Valley of the Queens holds around 75 tombs of princes, princesses, court dignitaries and queens, including the tomb of Nefertari, the wife of Ramesses II. Only 4 of these tombs are open to the public, but this includes the tomb of Nefertari where beautiful paintings cover the walls.
Between the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens is the village of Deir el-Medina, called Set Maat (the place of truth) by ancient Egyptians. Civil servants, stonecutters, draftsmen and artist who worked on the tombs of the kings and queens lived in this village, surrounded by barren hillsides.
The Temple of Karnak was known as Ipet-isut in ancient Egypt. It means the ‘Most Selected of Places’ and was the main place of worship for 18th dynasty Thebans. The complex has many sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons and obelisks with the entrance guarded by row upon row of sphinxes.
Luxor Temple is located on the banks of the Nile, in the middle of the city. The entrance of Luxor Temple is guarded by a red granite obelisk and two seated statues of Ramesses II. Perhaps one of the most striking structures at the Luxor Temple is a colonnade of columns that are decorated with hieroglyphic reliefs.
The Colossi of Memnon are two seated statues, facing the Nile river, representing Amenhotep III. The statues are each carved from a single block of sandstone and were placed there as guardians of Amenhotep III’s mortuary complex. Today little of the complex is still there, partly due to earthquakes and floods, but also due to the use of the material for ‘newer’ structures. In ancient times one of the statues began making noises which were thought to be prophecies, making the site legendary.
The city of Luxor is not only a modern city, but also a religious site and home to the world’s largest open-air museum. It is easy to get lost in history walking around the fascinating sites while imagining the life of ancient Egyptians. Plus, who doesn’t want to see a prophesising statue or two?!
*A version of this article was first published at www.zafigo.com