10 April 2013

Postcards from Egypt: Temple of Amun at Karnak

Greetings from Egypt! Well, not really from Egypt right now, since I'm no longer there, but greetings to you, readers, just the same, as I retell the story of the highlights of my trip through Egypt last fall. Karnak Temple was one of the first stops on our journey, and probably one of my favorites. Though, who am I kidding, I think they were ALL my favorite! So here we go!

Around the time of the emergence of the New Kingdom, circa 1500 BCE, the Karnak Temple was dedicated to the Pharaoh Amun, and was where he and his wife Mut and son Khons would have worshipped.  And though it's hard to tell by the pictures, the site itself is enormous, covering 1x2 miles in area. Construction on the temple took place over 1300 years, sponsored by more than 30 different Pharaohs who gave the temple its 25 chapels, various shrines, and the 134 massive columns of the largest hypostyle hall in the world, one of the worlds greatest architectural acheivements. 

At one point, these sphinxes lined a road covering the two mile distance from Karnak Temple to the Temple at Luxor.  

It's difficult to capture the immensity of this place. Everything is absolutely huge, and even though much of the temple is in ruins, that does not detract from the sheer magnitude of everything which surrounds you. Think about it this way, this temple stood for two millenia as the ancient Egyptian-religious equivalent to the Vatican today. If you've ever been to the Vatican, and you remember how enormous the site is, this is exactly how Karnak makes you feel. 

There are 134 of these columns. They measure about 45 feet in diameter, and stand more than 70 feet high. As it was known that this section of the temple, the hypostyle hall was begun by Seti I, and finished by his son Ramses II.

 I found myself thinking about the movie the Prince of Egypt when I wandered through the columns:

I imagine that Moses might have walked through these them as well, in their full-color glory! Can't you just picture him among the columns and incense here? You can see that some of the color remains, even after all this time. 

This was definitely a great way to start off my trip, and again, Karnak was one of the most impressive parts of it, for its sheer size and historical significance. I was impressed far more by this temple, than by the Pyramids of Giza, which were also fantastic. When planning your trip to Egypt (and you must!), this location is a definite must for your list of things to see. 

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