This entry takes you from Luxor, to the Valley of the Kings, and back up to Cairo, with photos and watercolor travel journal pieces.
After sailing down the Nile and stopping at Kom Ombo, we drove up to Luxor, settled in at the hotel, and then got ready to see the great Temple of Luxor
Luxor is called the city of Gold. It’s the site of Thebes, the ancient capital of Egypt, seat to many pharaohs. With the luxury of the kings, comes the name City of Gold.
I think the name is apt because of the way the Limestone of all the temple around there soak up the rays of the golden sun? Interestingly enough, luxury comes from the Latin word lux, lucis which means light.
Speaking of light, when Christianity was spreading through Egypt, this is where Lux Mundi, the Light of the World, Kings of Kings, and God of all, Our Lord Jesus Christ would come down and be sacrificed for us in the Mass. The early Christians turned this area into a church and covered the Egyptian carvings with frescoes.
It was pretty neat to see such an incredible temple become fulfilled for the worship of the true God.
The above slide of photos give you some sense of how massive the complex is, and how much work must have gone into to it with all the carvings. One of the courtyards, surrounded by pillars was so large and open, if reminded me of being in St. Peter’s Square in Rome!
The temple [this link tells you more and shoes you a really cool video!] was enhanced by Ramses II. He gave himself quite the reputation for being a strong conqueror, but if you read the history books, you’ll find the following:
Rameses devoted himself to symbols of dominance; he built, within the safe territories of his own land, more temples, statues, and monuments than any pharaoh before him. Rameses II gained a reputation as one of the greatest pharaohs in Egyptian history, when in fact he had lost part of the northern holdings gained by Tuthmosis III [basically a world conqueror], two hundred years before.~Barbara Wise Bauer, The History of the Ancient World
Kinda reminds me of how some people hide behind screens when they aggressively communicate, or stay within their comfort zones rather than exert themselves to get after it in the real world.
But maybe he knew the resources Egypt had and decided she needed a facelift anyway.
Also, Rameses II’s statues and everything he built are sooooo huge and tall! It made me wonder if the man was really small and short, you know, kinda like a Napoleon complex?
His mummy, which we’ll see in another post, says otherwise though: makes him look like quite the leader with his eagle nose.
Something to consider: this temple was completely covered in sand after the Church/Temple was abandoned in the early hundreds. Can you imagine all the work it must have taken to remove all the sand?!
Day 7: Valley of the Kings and Karnak Temple
Day 7 took us across the eastern side of the Nile [the land of life], to the western side, the land of the dead. The sun rises in the east, and sets in the west. Gotta admit, the Egyptians were pretty good at their symbolism and connections.
Reminds me in a way of the symbolism within the Chartres Cathedral: all stained glass windows of the Old Testament are on the northern, darker side of the structure, while the New Testament windows are illumined by the brighter, more dominant southern light.
On the way to the Valley of the Kings, we stopped at the huge Colossus of Memnon. These are great figures ordered by Ramses II and have since been worn down through constant flooding of the Nile. What was another imprint of his greatness has now become a resting place for pigeons. A Memento mori moment!
Seeing this huge pair of figures made me wonder once again if Ramses II has some sort of inferiority complex.
After ooing and awing we went to the Valley of the Kings.
This involves winding up through twists and turns of limestones cliffs, glaring white in the sun. It was amazing to consider that underneath the forbidding, jutting glaring landscape, were the quiet resting places of over 40 pharaohs of Egypt.
Over the course of a very warm sunny morning, we descended into four tombs.
Inside each were chambers, ceilings and floors covered in hieroglyphs and paintings, all in the most vibrant colors.
Some of these scenes were nearly 4,000 years old…
… but the pain looked more vibrant than some Italian frescoes!
After a very incredible experience there, we made our way down to Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple.
Much of the original structure had been destroyed by her nephew whom she had thwarted from the throne for many years (It’s a very neat story about a very strong woman and quite the man if you want to read more about ancient drama!).
In recent years it much was restored so that walking up its multiple levels and fading painted reliefs…
and colorful sanctuary are quite impressive.
Afterwards we toured an alabaster shop where it was so hard to not overspend, and my brother nearly sold me for 300 camels.
After a long lunch on a rooftop of a deserted motel, and losing the chance of taking pigeon, we sailed across the Nile in a little wooden transport boat.
Those left with a little more energy after the blistering time in the Valley of the Kings and then suffering along wait on a partially shaded rooftop ventured on to Karnak.
Karnak Temple was the most impressive temple I had seen up to that point.
The complex was so incredibly large that it was like a small city and even had its own lake -for worship purposes- and also had the most obelisks in any one place in Egypt. And yes, Ramses II while not primarily responsible for this temple, did most certainly leave his finger print on it.
It was there at Karnak, when you first walk in through the large pylon gates that you could see remnants of how the Egyptians might have built those massive walls and pillars.
It was also there that the pillars just made you feel so small and insignificant, and yet made you want to sing out with joy that something could be so big and grand.
After a long time soaking up the glories of the pillars and the colors still preserved on some of the structures, we made our way back to the hotel.
From there, after a nice goodbye to everyone, Tim, some other ‘pilgrims’ and I, made our way back via overnight train back up to Cairo for one more adventure.
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