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Karnak Temple – Luxor, Egypt

Large structures made out of resistant stones that have endured more centuries than you can even count; tall sphinxes, narrow alleys and high walls of the same brown color lining the perimeter of the place, and intricate carvings of hieroglyphics decorating every surface. In Karnak Temple, you can truly experience how people lived in ancient Egypt under the blue sky and the hot weather.

Karnak Temple was built as a tribute honoring the ancient pharaohs’ hunt for eternal life. Even though the Giza pyramids immediately come to our minds when we think about Egypt thanks to their huge size and popularity, they were just tombs for previous rulers of the Old Kingdom, while this significant religious institution gives you a better idea of how life in ancient Egypt used to be like. This temple’s influence lasted around 1300 years, and it was central to the power of several New Kingdom pharaohs such as Ramesses II and Seti I.

The Great Hypostyle Hall

The main attraction in Karnak Temple is the Great Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun. This 6000-square-meter structure resembles a forest where trees were suddenly replaced by big stone pillars. Each one of the 136 columns is 23 meters tall and 15 meters in circumference. You will notice that some of them have been renovated due to the long period of time they have withstood. However, some of the pillars even maintain hints of their original coloring that dates back to 1300 BC, and they still keep the fascinating carved hieroglyphics that decorate them and the intricate bas-relief images of Egyptian gods, like Amun to whom this part of the temple was dedicated.

Currently, the entire hall is not roofed over, and not every lintel is visible as it was back in the days of the pharaohs when the interior used to be quite dark with streaks of light coming through grilled windows in the central aisle. Still, you can easily imagine pharaohs visiting the temple to admire the same bas-relief of gods that you will be looking at and processions of priests going through the halls that you walked through.

The three temples

The Karnak Complex holds three different temples within it, the Precinct of Amun being the largest and most complete out of the three, and the Great Hypostyle Hall being its most impressive section. Sadly, the other two temples, the Precinct of Montu and the Temple of Mut, are ruins for the most part. Nevertheless, there are still several intriguing places you can visit.

Right at the entrance, you will walk down the captivating Avenue of Ram-headed Sphinxes, which leads you to the first pylon, a 43-meter-high wall with a breach in the middle that allows you to go through it. Beyond the wall, you will find a courtyard with a gigantic statue of Ramesses II and a small temple dedicated to Ramesses III, surrounded by sphinxes and decorated with tall sculptures inside. After the second pylon, you could spend several days exploring the rest of Karnak Temple and its pillars. Try visiting the complex alongside a local guide so that you can avoid the temple guards that repeatedly ask for baksheesh, a small tip or alms.

When should you visit?

Since this is one of the most popular attractions in Luxor, Karnak gets quite crowded during the day so, if you want to enjoy your visit peacefully, try arriving when the doors open at 6 am. Take the exact entrance money you will need since the gates rarely have any change when the place has recently opened, then leave at 9 a.m. when the worst of crowds start to arrive. You can come back at 3 pm, if you can handle the heat of the afternoon, to find the temple just as calm and quiet as it was in the morning light; however, now you will experience a new perspective of the complex. Don’t forget to mention at the gate in the morning that you will be coming back and try using the same ticket in the afternoon.

If you walk along the Avenue of Sphinxes, which used to be the route of a procession to Amun, you will be able to go back to town. Currently, the avenue disappears for a small section on the outskirts of Luxor since several sphinxes are missing, but you can quickly get back to it at the back gate to Luxor Temple. At this point, more stunning sphinxes welcome you to this impressive part of the avenue, joining both the Luxor and Karnak temples just like in the time of the pharaohs.

How can you get there?

There are a few ways you can reach Luxor, such as taking an internal flight or the convenient night train from Cairo. We recommend the famous hotel Winter Palace in the center of Luxor, but if you want to be closer to Karnak, the Nile Hilton Hotel might be a better option for you.

Haggling is a must in Egypt. You can hire official guides at the ticket office, but settle on a price first. Move around the city taking taxis and, even though they’re pretty cheap, you can still bargain the price. A horse-drawn calèche is also an option; however, make sure to choose healthy-looking horses and don’t let the drive gallop them.

Don’t forget to visit the Valleys of the Kings and Queens across the Nile to wrap up your journey in this astonishing city.

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