I didn't really know what to expect when my traveling companion and I set out for Karnak Temple complex early one morning. I was certainly surprised by the scale of the place! As far as I'm aware, this is the largest temple complex in Egypt. It's impossible to convey how you feel once you've entered the place; it's so ancient, and so enormous, and you feel so small and overawed by the whole experience. The pylons are absolutely massive. Tourists used to be allowed to climb up to the top of the south pylon, until someone apparently fell to their death, and now there is strictly no climbing allowed. There are obelisks and statues everywhere, and one can easily suffer from temple overload before seeing even half of this complex.
There were two things at Karnak that I particularly enjoyed. The first was the Hypostyle Hall, which is an enormous room containing 134 pillars, each several feet wide and over 50 feet tall. Each pillar is covered with carvings, and the light which filters in and casts shadows of the pillars over the floor adds to the grandeur of this place. Even without the ceiling, which has long since fallen in, this is an impressive sight. It's just like something out of a film.
In contrast to this massive room, I sought out one small temple in a remote corner of the complex called the Temple of Ptah, in which stands a statue of Ptah's wife, the goddess Sekhmet. She is a lion-headed women, known as "the Bringer of Terror." While I must admit being attracted to this tiny temple mainly by that name, the statue itself, though small, is made of gorgeous black stone. The statues of Sekhmet and Ptah are locked behind massive doors, but a guard is usually on hand to open the door in return for a little baksheeh. This is a pleasant corner to visit and escape the crowds.
Karnak Temple is definitely a must-see in Luxor, but be prepared for the huge crowds of tourists disgorged by scores of buses. The parking lot is enormous, and when I was there they were in the process of building a massive shopping centre to take advantage of the tourist trade, so it's likely to get even more crowded in future. [more]
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