Later that day (see earlier post), I explored the giant complex of temples, pylons, and a giant pool that are collectively known as the Karnak Temple. This site is the largest religious structure ever built in all of human history – nothing today comes close to the enormity of Karnak. Construction was started around 1350 BC by Ramses II, again dedicated to Amun-Ra, the king of the gods and the supreme deity of creation.
The Hypostle Hall near the entrance to Karnak is a massive sea of 143 giant pillars each etched intricately with puzzling hieroglyphics. As mentioned before, this particular site is arguably the most amazing in all of Egypt. Don’t get me wrong – the Great Pyramids are awesome. It was amazing to see them in real life, something that not many people can say they have done. However, the Hypostle Hall at Karnak is just so amazing. These giant towers reach over 40 feet into the sky, many of them retaining their original paint from over 3500 years ago.
The next day, my friend Marie and I wanted to explore the ruins on the west bank of the Nile. These ruins are much farther spread out than the Luxor and Karnak Temples on the east bank. A trip wouldn’t be complete, however, without a trip to the Valley of the Kings. Built to resemble the underworld, the valley houses at least 63 (current excavation is still underway) intricate tombs of Egypt’s glorious past. From the ceiling to the floor, everyone one of the these tombs are covered in colored hieroglyphics or painted tiles. While the massive amounts of treasure in the tombs is gone, some of the sarcophagi remain (Ramses’ XI sarcophagus is a giant 8 foot stone structure covered in ornate patterns designed to guide his soul in the afterlife). There are even trap doors and hidden pathways to deter grave robbers! The Egyptians checked our cameras at the front office, so I have no photos of my visit.
On our way out of the Valley of Kings, we asked a truck parked nearby if he could bring us back down to the river. He obliged, and the men in the back were elated. In their broken English they told me they were shocked to see tourists – Americans, no less (it’s a lot of Europeans here) – in the back of their truck, as they only thought tourists came to Egypt in big coach buses. They were giggling the whole way, taking our their phones to snag a few photos of this rare event for them.
On the truck ride back to the boat dock, we stopped at the Colossi of Memnon. These statues were built over 3400 years ago in the likeness of Pharaoh Amenhotep III.