The Karnak temple complex in Luxor was the largest that we visited on this trip. Its massive entrance gate was built by Ptolemaios III. The temple was dedicated to Amun Ra. The Ancient Egyptians called Karnak Ipet-Isut, "the most perfect of places".
For millennia, successive Kings and Queens added to the temple complex, or replaced monuments with even more grandiose ones.
You approach the complex through the Avenue of the Sphinx. The first part of the temple is the immense unfinished entrance pylon, probably built by Nectanebo I of the 30th Dynasty. Past the first Pylon you come to the Great Court with several temples and statues. Past the second Pylon you come to the Precinct of Amun. It is an awesome hypostyle hall with 134 very large, carved columns. The main complex was started in the 12th Dynasty and was expanded and rebuilt for some 1,500 years.
A very fine obelisk was built by Queen Hatshepsut (1473 - 1458 BCE). She had built two such obelisks, over 35 m (115 ft) high, each cut from a single piece of pink granite. They were 29.2 m (95.8 ft) high. The still standing Obelisk is the highest remaining in Egypt. When Hatshepsut's husband died, her young nephew was to be crowned successor. Since her nephew was too young, she became regent, and later declared herself Pharaoh. Fearful that the citizens would not accept her as a woman, she dressed as a man, with the ceremonial beard on official occasions. When her nephew, Thutmosis III grew up, he became sole ruler around 1458 BCE. He had Hatshepsut's name removed, and her Obelisks destroyed. Fortunately they did only half the job, one of the obelisks is still standing, a breathtaking piece of architecture.
A smaller side temple, dedicated to Sekhmet has a very fine statue of Sekhmet. This is one of the nicest statues that I have seen outside of museums.
Row of Sphinx leading to the entrance to the Karnak Temple, with part of the huge gate in the background. (665k) Row of Sphinx leading to the entrance. (809k) Closeup of two of the Sphinx. (889k) Carved stele on the entrance way to the Karnak Temple. (842k) Closeup of one of the Sphinx. They had ram heads (for the God Amun Ra), and a statue of the Pharaoh under their heads. (537k) Closeup of a Sphinx head and the Pharaoh. (782k) Entrance to one of the side chambers with carvings. (905k) Closeup of the Horus Sun disk over the entrance. (955k) Statue of a Pharaoh with the Pshent, or Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. (668k) Row of Columns in the Karnak Temple. (716k) Row of Columns in the Karnak Temple with some of the Sphinx statues in front. (815k) View of part of the Karnak Temple. (718k) Less well preserved part of Karnak with Hatshepsut's obelisk in the background. (572k) Hieroglyphic inscriptions on the back of a tall statue of Pharaoh Ramesses II. (657k) Huge statue of Pharaoh Ramesses II. (484k) Image of a Pharaoh, holding captured enemies by their hair. (796k) Several Pharaoh statues, holding the Ankh, the Sign of Eternal Life. (678k) Two beautiful statues of Pharaohs, both wearing the Hedjet, the White Crown of Upper Egypt, with the Cobra for protection. (624k) Large free standing column. (643k) Small stele with hieroglyphic inscriptions. (803k) Capital of one of the columns with inscriptions and remnants of paint. (742k) Colonnade of huge columns in the "Precinct of Amun". (809k) Huge column colonnade. All the columns have inscriptions all around them. (555k) View of a couple of columns. (928k) View of the column colonnade in the "Precinct of Amun". (731k) View of a couple of columns. (833k) View of the top of the columns. (858k) Carvings of Cartouches on one of the huge stone columns. It is a repetition of the birth name (far left and center), and the coronation name (center left and right) of the Pharaoh Ramesses II. (766k) Detail of the carving of a Cartouche on one of the columns. This is the birth name of the Pharaoh Ramesses II. Part of his coronation name is visible to the right. (781k) Carving of Apis, the Sacred Bull, and Horus the Sun God in the form of a falcon, in the center, with the Cartouche with the name of Ramesses II on the right. (719k) Another carving of a Cartouche with the birth name of Ramesses II. Notice the differences between this one and the previous two pictures. Hieroglyphics was very flexible as to the position of the Hieroglyphs, and their shape as well. (696k) View of part of the Karnak Temple with Hatshepsut's Obelisk. (575k) Looking through the column colonnade towards Hatshepsut's Obelisk. (417k) Hatshepsut's Obelisk, an impressive piece, cut from a single piece of pink granite. (674k) Beautiful Hieroglyphics on Hatshepsut's Obelisk. (1141k) Hieroglyphics on Hatshepsut's Obelisk. (651k) Close-up of the Hieroglyphics on the Obelisk. (1181k) Beautiful Cartouche of Hatshepsut's birth name. (1114k) Hieroglyphics with a Cartouche of the name of Thutmose I on the Obelisk. (941k) Sacred Boat, carved in pink granite. (1351k) Relief of Renenutet, the Winged Cobra (left), and Nekhbet, the Vulture Goddess (right), carved in pink granite. (1417k) Beautiful colored carving or Nekhbet in pink granite. In the center you can see a face in front view, which is quite rare, since most faces are shown in side view. (1271k) Well preserved paintings of the Cobra and Vulture, symbols of protection, with the Ankh in the center, the symbol for eternal life, and the Su Plant on the outside. (709k) Another view of the beautifully painted ceiling with well preserved paint. (634k) Relief of an owl. (572k) Painted relief with the vulture Goddess Nekhbet on top and the Cartouche of a Pharaoh below. (738k) Hatshepsut's second obelisk, toppled by her nephew Thutmosis III. (686k) Close-up of the top of the toppled obelisk. (695k) Close-up of the top of the toppled obelisk. (650k) Close-up of the side of the toppled obelisk. (812k) A small temple, dedicated to Sekhmet, in the Karnak Temple complex. (775k) Entrance to the small temple dedicated to Sekhmet. (519k) Reliefs on the entrance to the small Sekhmet temple. (553k) Gorgeous statue of Sekhmet in this small temple. (501k) A wall in the Karnak Temple with carvings. Notice the deeply carved Cartouches with the birth name (left) and coronation name (right) of Ramesses II. (587k) A wall covered with hieroglyphics text. (931k) A wall covered with hieroglyphics text. (796k) Nicely carved figures on one of the walls in the Karnak Temple. (981k) A selection of hieroglyphic text. (1130k) Unknown Goddess (center) leading a Pharaoh to Amun Ra (left). (696k) Several statues of Pharaohs and other officials. (652k) Statue of a Pharaoh, holding the Ankh, sign of eternal life, wearing the ceremonial beard. (646k) Statue of a state official, carved from pink granite. (687k) Statue of a scarab, symbol for the God Khepri, carved from pink granite. (665k) Another view of the statue of Ramesses II. (646k) Back of the huge entrance gate. The mounds of brick and dirt are construction remains. These mounds were built to haul material up to the top of the building. They were then removed. In this case they never finished the construction. (873k) Relief of Ptah (right) and Amun Ra (left). (953k) Painted relief of Osiris. (713k) Beautiful relief of the God Nefertem. (920k) The Pharaoh grabbing his enemies by the hair, ready to smash their heads in. This is a frequent propaganda pose of the Pharaoh on temple carvings. (579k)