Luxor stands head-and-shoulders above Egypt’s other towns for its sheer wealth of temples and tombs. This was the site of ancient Thebes, the great city of the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom pharaohs who covered the banks of the Nile with their mammoth building works and began the vast tomb structures snugly hidden amid the rocky valley of the West Bank
The temple was built by Amenhotep III (1390-52 BC) but completed by Tutankhamun (1336-27 BC) and Horemheb (1323-1295 BC) and then added to by Rameses II (1279-13 BC).
Toward the rear is a granite shrine dedicated to Alexander the Great (332-305 BC).
Thutmose III planned his campaigns, Akhenaten first contemplated the nature of god, and Rameses II set out his ambitious building program.
Only Memphis could compare in size and splendor
The temple has been in almost continuous use as a place of worship right up to the present day.
During the Christian era, the temple’s hypostyle hall was converted into a Christian church, and the remains of another Coptic church can be seen to the west.
Temple of Karnak
Karnak Temple is actually a vast temple city, with many of its structures dating back 4,000 years.
It is today the largest remaining religious site of the ancient world.
The temple complex is conveniently located near to the modern day town of El-Karnak, just 2.5 km from Luxor.
The site is massive, to the point where some people feel it’s necessary to spend at least one full day exploring the area.
While the oldest structures date back to around 4,000 years ago, most are considerably younger,keeping in mind that the city of temples formed over a period of 2,000 years.
Valley of the Kings
Valley of The Kings has two components – the East Valley and the West Valley.
It is the East Valley which most tourists visit and in which most of the tombs of the New Kingdom Pharaohs can be found.
Construction of a tomb usually lasted six years, beginning with each new reign.
By the end of the New Kingdom, Egypt had entered a long period of political and economic decline.
The priests at Thebes grew in power and effectively administered Upper Egypt, while kings ruling from Tanis controlled Lower Egypt.
The Valley began to be heavily plundered,
so the priests of Amen during 21st Dynasty to open most of the tombs and move the mummies into three tombs in order to better protect them.
Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple
The Temple of Deir el-Bahri is magnificently situated at the foot of the sheer cliffs fringing the desert hills, the light-colored, almost white, sandstone of the temple standing out prominently against the golden yellow to light brown rocks behind. The temple complex is laid out on three terraces rising from the plain, linked by ramps, which divide it into a northern and a southern half. Along the west side of each terrace is a raised colonnade
With the famous Valley of the Kings and Temple of Deir al-Bahri the main attractions, Medinet Habu often gets overlooked on a West Bank trip, but this is one of Egypt’s most beautifully decorated temples and should be on everyone’s West Bank hit list. The complex consists of a small older temple built during the 18th dynasty and enlarged in the Late Period, and the great Temple of Ramses III, associated with a royal palace, which was surrounded by a battlemented enclosure wall four-meters high.
The main temple area was built exactly on the model of the Ramesseum and, like the Ramesseum, was dedicated to Amun. The reliefs here are some of the best you’ll see on the West Bank
Tombs of the Nobles
If you haven’t had your fill of tombs in the Valley of the Kings then make a beeline for the Tombs of the Nobles, which may be less famed, but actually include much better preserved examples of tomb paintings. The site contains around 400 tombs of various dignitaries that date roughly from the 6th dynasty right up to the Ptolemaic era. The tomb paintings here aren’t so concerned with guiding the dead into the afterlife; instead they showcase scenes from Egyptian daily life. In particular the Tomb of Khonsu, Tomb of Benia, Tomb of Menna, and Tomb of Nakht are home to some of Egypt’s most vivid and lively tomb paintings.
Of all the tombs here, the Tomb of Nakht (an official and priest of Amun in the 18th dynasty) is the one to choose if you’re short of time. Only the first chamber has paintings but all are excellently preserved.
Colossi of Memnon
Beside the road that runs from the Valley of the Queens and Medinet Habu towards the Nile are the famous gigantic statues known as the Colossi of Memnon. Carved out of hard yellowish-brown sandstone quarried in the hills above Edfu, they represent Amenophis III seated on a cube shaped throne, and once stood guard at the entrance to the king’s temple, of which only scanty traces are left. In Roman Imperial times they were taken for statues of Memnon, son of Eos and Tithonus, who was killed by Achilles during the Trojan War.
Valley of the Queens
The tombs in the Valley of the Queens mostly belong to the 19th and 20th dynasties. A total of almost 80 tombs are now known, most of them excavated by an Italian expedition led by E. Schiaparelli between 1903 and 1905. Many of the tombs are unfinished and without decoration, resembling mere caves in the rocks. There are few incised inscriptions or reliefs, with much of the decoration consisting of paintings on stucco. Unfortunately, most of the tombs are closed to the public at the moment.
The Valley of the Queens is most famous for the Tomb of Queen Nefertari, which has been closed for several years because of preservation issues. The best open tombs in the area are the Tomb of Prince Amen-her-khopshef, a son of Ramses III, which contains well-preserved colors on its wall paintings, and the Tomb of Titi
is home to a small temple, the remnants of a workers’ village (where the artisans of the royal tombs lived), and the tombs of the workers themselves. It’s well worth a visit for the wall paintings adorning the tombs, which are a vibrant depiction of daily Egyptian life.
Don’t miss the Tomb of Sennedjem who was a 19th-dynasty artist. It has a vaulted tomb chamber and reliefs and paintings on religious themes, including a fine representation of a funeral banquet. The contents of the tomb – discovered in 1886 – are now on display in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.
Temples of Abydos
The grand necropolis complex of Abydos is one of the oldest necropolises in Egypt and is associated with the first Egyptian capital of Thinis. It was here that kings and high court dignitaries were buried during the 1st and 2nd dynasties, and the rituals of kingly burials were first celebrated to symbolise the transitory and recurrent character of all earthly things. The site is centered round the beautiful Temple of Seti I and is a fine day out from Luxor
Although Dendera Temple lacks the magnificence of earlier temples like those of Abydos and Karnak, it impresses with its fine proportions and dignified adaptation to its purpose. The profusion of reliefs and inscriptions on the walls are excellent examples of the Egyptian decorative art of the Late Period. Dendera itself was once capital of Upper Egypt and the scant remnants of this once great town lies on the west bank of the Nile across from the modern town of Qena.