Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt, is the second most visited Egyptian tourist site after the pyramids. Karnak is said to be the largest walled temple complex in the world, built, decorated, and modified by over thirty different pharaohs over a period starting around 2000 BC for the next 1300 years. Different religions, gods, and royal personalities are represented in the stone carvings. The ancient Egyptian religion (specifically the worship of the god Ra) predates Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Only a quarter of the original temple complex is open to the public, which is represented in my photos. (The rest is either being renovated or still in ruins.) It is astounding to consider that some of these columns, statures, and stone carvings have survived for over four thousand years. There are one hundred and forty surviving columns, most of them containing hieroglyphics and artworks etched in stone. Indeed, the marble columns which weigh many tons were transported from a distant mining area to Karnak for many miles on multiple boats lashed together and floated down the Nile River, which flows just in front of the temple complex. The combined efforts over the centuries to produce the Karnak Temple are unimaginable. Greece’s famous Parthenon on the Acropolis would be a minor part of the huge temple complex if it were to somehow be incorporated as part of Karnak.

We don’t know all the details of which parts of Karnak were built by which pharaoh. We don’t know how many laborers were necessary over the many centuries that Karnak was expanded. Just like the pyramids, Egypt’s most famous ancient site, many details of ancient Egyptian culture can only be discerned by studying the artworks and hieroglyphics, which were untranslated until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, which enabled translation for the first time. There are over 700 different hieroglyphic pictographs found in the many stone carvings. Some are still a mystery. What is certain is that ancient Egyptian civilization along the Nile River (the world’s longest river at over 4000 miles) is the oldest “great civilization” known to humankind. Egyptian civilization predates recorded history. The Karnak Temple, the pyramids, the sphinx, King Tut’s tomb, and other sites stand out as the oldest and most impressive artifacts created by the first great civilization known to humankind.

Let these photos below give you a lifelong mental image of the unrivaled grandeur of Karnak. The site is too grand to fit into any single camera image. I include a few photos showing other tourists just to provide a sense of scale as to the size of the columns. Otherwise, lacking a wide-angle lens, I simply focussed up to the tops of the temple columns, which originally supported a roof that we can only imagine. No artistic representations exist of the original structures.

This is a view showing the entrance to the temple through the doorway to the protective wall to the left. In the foreground are broken column bases from a destroyed part of the temple complex.
This photo faces the opposite direction from the photo above, looking up at the inner wall with its statues facing the entrance.
“Main Street” Imagine what this looked like when it a roof covered the entire temple complex.
A view of an “avenue” perpendicular to the main street that leads through the temple complex.
Elephants in the inner courtyard
Lion Sphinxes (detail)
Looking toward Main Street from the “inner sanctum” which could only be accessed by the high priest and the pharaoh.
Female and male figures plus miscellaneous hieroglyphs
Can somebody please translate these hieroglyphs for us?
Our Egyptian guide told us that Christians (when Egypt was ruled by the Byzantines) had destroyed the sculptures’ faces.
This large figure represents pharaoh Ramses II, but I don’t know who the little lady is below.
At ninety-seven feet, this is the second highest obelisk in the world.
Detail from the obelisk…I wonder what the hieroglyphic message is.
A different style of obelisk
A guy comes up to me and says, “Hey mister, come over here. Give me your phone.” He showed me where to stand and then took my photo with my phone. Then he wanted a donation. I had absolutely no cash of any kind, so I was unable to pay him anything. Thanks Guy!

Hi, I'm Dallas Smith

My blogs offer the vicarious pleasure for my readers to learn of my travels and musical adventures.

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Comments (6)

  1. Arthur Rosch

    April 8, 2022 at 10:05 pm

    Dallas, you look about forty.

  2. Gaia Brown

    April 8, 2022 at 11:04 pm

    I’m thinking of Johnny Carson and “Carnac the Magnificent”
    Thanks for the super tour of Karnak! Gaia

  3. Steve Gessler

    April 8, 2022 at 11:59 pm

    The photos remind me of our time in Egypt and Jordan. We loved Jordan and especially Petra

  4. Daniel Birch

    April 9, 2022 at 4:17 pm

    Great photos

  5. Christine Szymanski

    April 11, 2022 at 12:50 am

    Fascinating photos and copy

  6. Melissa J Phillippe

    April 27, 2022 at 1:03 am

    Stunning! (Way behind, obviously, because we’re on tour and it’s harder to have time and connectivity at the same point) THANK YOU for these amazing photos!

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