Ancient Egypt – Luxor

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The modern town of Luxor is home to 170,000 people in Egypt today. Luxor is the site of the ancient city of Thebes, which was the capital of Egypt from the 12th dynasty (1991 BC) and achieved its peak during the New Kingdom (1539 BC to around 700 BC). Although the mud brick palaces of Thebes have long disappeared, the stone temples have survived.

The temple remained buried beneath the town of Luxor for thousands of years, and was not uncovered until a mosque was built on top of it. Now, the mosque remains an important part of the entire temple. Leading up to the temple is an avenue of sphinxes running about 2 kilometres long. The temple, like the neighbouring Karnak temple, is a compilation of styles and additions from different pharaohs, each desiring to tweak the structure with their signature.

Obelisk of Rameses II, at the temple of Luxor.

The temple of Luxor was the centre of a very important festival known as Opet. The thrust of the festivities was to reconcile the human element of the then ruler with the gods. Spanning as many as 27 days, during the festival 11,000 loaves were said to have been distributed, 85 cakes and 385 large jars of beer. Processions would begin at the adjacent temple of Karnak and finish at Luxor. These processions shifted to the water over time and statues of the gods were towed down the river aboard barges, with people following in celebration along the riverbank.

View of part of the avenue of the Sphinxes.

Once at the Luxor temple, the pharaoh and his priests entered the secluded chambers where ceremonies and rituals were performed to unite the pharaoh and his ka, the second self of the ruler, or his divine essence. The Pharaoh would then re-emerge from the temple to his people as a bonafide deity. This was a very important ritual for the pharaohs as a tool to reinforce their right to govern over the people of Egypt.

Oil painting of the gateway at the temple of Karnak in Luxor.

Various obelisks and pylons adorn the Luxor temple – one of them, part of a pair, had been brought to France and now sits at the Place de la Concorde in Paris, in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the European metropolis. Interestingly, the location of la Concorde is not far from the musee du Louvre, whose more recent additions have included a modern glass pyramid (much smaller than those found in Egypt) standing prominently over the new entrance.

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