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Notes on the Geography of Egypt: Luxor Temple

Luxor Temple was the home of the ithyphallic or tumescent form of Amen (this website is nothing is not decorous). Starting in the 18th Dynasty, the image of Amen, normally kept a mile north in the Temple of Amen at Karnak, was ceremoniously brought to Luxor in the annual Opet or "Secret Chamber" Festival.

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Egypt: Luxor Temple picture 1

Little is left of the long (2.5 km) avenue of sphinxes that fringed the processional path between Luxor and Karnak; this short stretch is immediately north of Luxor Temple. Some sources suggest that because the procession occurred during the Nile Flood, this avenue was a canal carrying ceremonial barges. The shifting lunar calendar gradually brought the festival and flood out of phase, and so the canal was filled in--and the sphinxes added--by Nectanebo in the 4th Century B.C. or 30th Dynasty, very late in the pharaonic day.

Egypt: Luxor Temple picture 2

The first pylon of Luxor Temple stands at the southern end of the avenue of sphinxes. Rameses II--19th Dynasty, 13th Century B.C.--gazes here upon the causeway that Ectanebo modified a thousand years after Rameses' death. The red granite obelisk is famously missing its twin, taken in 1833 to the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The pioneering Egyptologist John Gardner Wilkinson witnessed the removal, with ropes, pulleys, and a tall wooden frame.

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The pylon from another angle.

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Base of the missing obelisk.

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On the base of the colossal statues are two figures shown more closely in the next image.

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They are the Nile gods, physically tying together Upper and Lower Egypt.

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Beyond the pylon: the first great court. The view here is west, toward the Nile.

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The view here is to the east, with images of Amenhotep III (alternative name Amenophis III), who was usurped by Rameses II.

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The very model of a pharaoh.

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Lateral images of the king's wife and daughter don't even reach his knee; once again, the Nile gods are at the side.

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On the walls of the courtyard, garlanded bulls walk in the Opet Festival.

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Sons of Rameses II lead the animals.

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Here the sons of Rameses are named and arrayed in birth order.

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Look closely and you'll see the first pylon in profile, along with an obelisk, colossal statues, and flags flying above. If you return to the second image in this folder, you'll see that the pylon has rectangular channels in which the flagpoles--cedars of Lebanon--were set.

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South of the courtyard is the immense colonnade built by Amenhotep III.

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The columns emulate papyrus reeds and--when originally roofed to form a dark room about 30 by 85 feet--evoked the papyrus swamp in which the Egyptians believed the world had been created.

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The colonnade is shown here together with the first courtyard and first pylon. A much more recent white mosque stands at the corner of the courtyard. At the left, the small columns mark the military camp built here by the Romans. Hence the name Luxor, from the Arabic Al-Uksur, fortification.

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Another view.

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At the south end of the colonnade there is another courtyard, the Sun Courtyard.

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From another angle.

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The Sun Court, measuring 146 x 166 feet, is bounded on the south by a flat-roofed or hypostyle hall with 32 fasciculated or papyrus-bundle columns.

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Beyond the hypostyle hall is the "Secret Chamber" of the Opet Festival. This part of it is called the shrine of Alexander the Great, so-called because Alexander reconstructed it after its destruction by an Assyrian army.

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On the walls are several images of Amenhotep III standing before the omnipotent ithyphallic Amen.

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Here, Alexander makes an offering to him.

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A third such image.

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Looking east.

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The adjoining rooms are elaborately decorated with royal narratives.

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Here in the Coronation Room, part of the story of the birth of Amenhotep is shown.

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