Thebes or the City of One Hundred Gates, where the houses are full of “treasures”, is located in a large fringe of fertile land that crisscrosses the Nile, 700 km south of Cairo. The ancient capital of Pharaonic Egypt, its power extended from the Mediterranean to Sudan. Its peak knew between 18th and 20th dynasty and it was one of the largest ancient cities of that time.
In this city that the various pharaohs erected the largest temples on the east bank where the sun rises: the City of the Living and tombs, funerary temples on the west bank where the sun sets: the City of the Dead.
In Roman times, most of the monuments have been transformed into monasteries and churches, but most of the works have been destroyed, burned or simply moved elsewhere.
The contrast between the international reputation of the sites of Luxor and the small size of this historic city of 700 000 inhabitants is striking. In places, time seems to be frozen, the inhabitants on the banks of the Nile perpetuate an ancestral lifestyle that seems immutable.
The Valley of Kings: it is from the New Kingdom that the pharaohs are digging their “eternal homes” in this desert place. The classical plan of a tomb is a long gallery, carved in the rock, with one or more rooms, to end up with the funeral chamber with the sarcophagus. The representations of the walls are almost exclusively religious in order to accompany the deceased to the Beyond. Nowadays, there are 62 tombs, all pillaged throughout the centuries except the most famous, Tutankhamun’s tomb, discovered in 1922 by Carter and Carnarvon. The Treasury included 1700 pieces, preserved in the Antiquities Museum of Cairo.
The Valley of the Queens: as for the Pharaohs, their wives, non-ruling princes and princesses have graves dug even on the hillsides. On the same principle as for kings, the tomb is a long gallery, with one or more rooms, to end up with the funeral chamber. There are about 80 tombs dating from the 18th to the 20th dynasty. In addition to the tomb of Nefertari (the most known-limited number of visitors per day), the two tombs of Ramses the 3rd sons were well decorated and preserved.
The Valley of the Nobles: there are about 400 tombs of senior officials (ministers, Governors), military and representatives of the clergy. The decor of these tombs, unlike those of kings, does not include reliefs; but mostly paintings. These last ones inform us about the scenes of the daily life of the ancient Egyptians. Thus; more than 55 trades have been identified. Thanks to all these details, everyday life at this time tells us about the quality and way of life of the Egyptians more than 3000 years ago.
The temple of Karnak: built by the pharaohs of the 12th dynasty, it was so extended and embellished by the different dynasties that it includes a multitude of monuments of various styles. At the time of its splendor, the temple was reserved for the clergy only. The simple people only saw the temple as the high wall. The temple of Karnak is also known for its huge hypostyle hall with its 134 monumental. The dimensions of this room could contain the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris as a whole.
The temple of Luxor: located in the city center, this temple is dedicated to the god Amon, to his wife Mut. The beginning of its construction took place under the 13th dynasty and expands under the reigns of Amenophis the 3rd and Ramses the 2nd. The Luxor Temple was originally connected by a sphinx alley to the Karnak Temple, 3 km away, which served once a year for the Opet Feast.
It is only at the end of the 19th century that the temple was cleared of its ruins. In order to thank France, Mohamed Ali offered the obelisk on the Place of The Concorde in Paris.
The archaeological museum of Luxor: expanded and enriched in 2004, it presents now a very beautiful collection of Pharaonic items from the Thebes region including some of the tomb of Tutankhamun. Also you will discover there, the “treasure of the hiding place,” these statues hidden in the Great courtyard of the temple of Luxor and discovered in 1989.
The mummification museum of Luxor: inaugurated in 1997, it presents the different ancient techniques of mummification that applied to humans but also to all kinds of species (cats, fish, baboons and crocodiles) and the various tools used. You will discover about 60 pieces exhibited (canopy jars, amulets, the sarcophagus of Padiamon, the mummy of Masaharti).
The surrounding area of Luxor:
Abydos: 170 km from Luxor, Abydos is a remarkable collection of temples
that belong to Sethi the 1st and Ramses the 2nd. The temple of Sethi the 1st has many reliefs, preserving in a good condition, considered as masterpieces of Egyptian art. Abydos was considered a place of pilgrimage.
El Kab: 85 km south of Luxor is located the ancient city of El Kab, capital of the third name and place of cult of Nekhbet the vulture goddess. There are remains of a temple with a sacred lake. About 2 km inland, you can discover rock tombs carved on the mountainside.
Esna: temple, dedicated to the god Khnum who has a head of ram, is located in the city center and 58 km south of Luxor. On the ceiling of the hypostyle hall, astronomical motifs can be admired, and on Roman Emperor’s walls representations making offerings to the god.
Dendara: 80 km north of Luxor, this beautiful temple was raised in the time of the last Ptolemy to the glory of Hathor (goddess of love, music and joy). Inside the hypostyle hall, we can see the representations of 5 Roman emperors (Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero) sharing the title of Pharaoh worshiping Hathor. This temple is much related to astronomy. Moreover, in this same hall we can observe the 12 zodiac signs protected by the goddess Nut.
Edfu: midway between Luxor and Aswan, Edfu temple is one of the best preserved with that of Dendera, because it was buried under the sand and Cleared by the French Egyptologist Mariette, it is one of the most beautiful examples of late religious architecture. The temple is dedicated to the god Horus who has a head of hawk, its walls and columns tell the different religious rites performed by the king.
The Valley of Artisans: the valley of the artisans includes the village and the tombs of the artisans. Located at the bottom of the valley, the village itself is surrounded by a wall. Its inhabitants lived apart from the rest of the region and were supplied directly by the Pharaoh’s administration. The precise location of the work place of the artisans (quarry workers, stonecutters, engravers, painters …) as well as the purpose of their occupation were kept secret. Outside the enclosure and staged on the slopes of the hill, are the tombs of these artisans. These last ones were built and decorated by the workers of the necropolis. The most interesting to visit is Sennedjem with its paintings in ocher tones, all the furniture is at the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo because it was discovered intact at the end of the 19th century.
Deir El Bahari or Temple of Hatshepsut: The architecture of this temple is unique in Egypt because it has been dug largely in the rock and rises on three levels with terraces connected by central ramps. The only Pharaoh woman to have marked history, this temple dedicated to the god Amon with chapels for the goddess Hathor and the god Anubis. On the death of the Pharaoh Queen, her successor, Thutmosis the 3rd, covered up all images and names of Hatshepsut and replaced them with his own.
The temple of Medinet Habu: is the impressive funerary temple of Ramses the 3rd and the largest archaeological site after Karnak. Similar, from the architectural point of view, to the Ramasseum, it has better resisted the passage of time. Inside the temple itself, is located the palace of the king. Instead of a usual entrance pylon, there is a fortified tower inspired by the military architecture of the Asian fortresses that Ramses the 3rd could have known during its distant campaigns. We can admire impressive reliefs of scenes of wars where Pharaoh is victorious of all the Mediterranean peoples of the time.
The Ramasseum: this funerary temple of Ramses the 2nd is to visit preferably the afternoon because of the exceptional luminosity. This vast building is largely in ruins because it belongs to Antiquity, it served as a quarry of stones. However, it is one of the most monumental ensembles on the West Bank. This complex was dedicated to the god Amon and housed in addition to the temple of Ramses the 2nd, a small temple Sethi the 1st, shops, a school of scribes as well as the housing for priests. Must see the remains of huge colossi of Ramses the 2nd lying on the floor and ceiling of the Boat Hall with the astronomical representations and phases of the Moon.
The colossi of Memnon: only remains of the temple of Amenophis the 3rd, these two statues of a height of 17 m represent the Pharaoh sitting at the entrance of the temple. In ancient times, monoliths were known well beyond the Egyptian borders because of the song emitted by one of them at sunrise. After the visit of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus to Thebes (199 AD), he ordered the restoration of the colossus, which rendered him dumb.