The word Karnak comes from the Arabic al-Karnak, expression meaning “the fortified village”.
In antiquity, this site was called Ipet Sout, which can be translated as “The very venerated Place”.
This largest religious complex in ancient Egypt (123 hectares) includes the enclosure of the Montou falcon god to the north, that of Amon-Re in the center, and that of the goddess Mout, his wife, to the south.
The main axis of the temple of Amon, perpendicular to the river, connects the Holy of Holies, to the east, to the Nile, to the west. The north-south secondary axis, called the royal axis, leads to the sacred complex of the goddess Mut. Oriented along these two orthogonal axes, the site of Karnak reflects the fundamental conception that the Egyptians made of the order of the world. The north-south axis is a terrestrial axis that corresponds to the course of the Nile, and the east-west axis a celestial axis that responds to the daily course of the sun, the second life-giving principle of the land of Egypt.
The site will experience its true golden age in the New Kingdom. The pharaohs will express their devotion to the main god by bringing large amounts of wealth from the territories over which Egypt extended its influence. They will contribute to the beautification of Karnak which will become the largest religious complex of antiquity.
The power of the clergy of Amon, considerable, will transform this power into a state within the state. The high priests of Amon will long retain a preponderant influence on the pharaonic monarchy. Thebes will remain the spiritual heart of Egypt when it loses its status as a dynastic capital. It was not until 391 AD, that a decree of Theodosius, will lead to the closing of the last sanctuaries to be dismembered.
Karnak will be rediscovered by Captain Norden and Reverend Poclocke in the early eighteenth century, before the expedition of Bonaparte inventory. The archaeological complex will become a career under Mehemet Ali. Auguste Mariette began to release the temples in 1858, at the head of the Egyptian Antiquities Service and at the request of the Khedive Ismâel Pasha.
Karnak Temple, which is located in Luxor, an Egyptian town in the middle reaches of the Nile, is one of the most visited attractions in the country. No other temple complex in Egypt can be compared with its size. The significance and uniqueness of the monument is best evidenced by the fact that it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List for more than thirty years.
The arid climate of the Sahara desert and low geological activity have influenced the fact that the Karnak Temple for its 3,500-year history has been preserved very well. In addition, the transformation of Egypt into a popular tourist country marked the beginning of large-scale restoration work, which continues to this day.
What is Karnak temple
Luxor for the ancient Egyptians was a sacred place. Construction here lasted for almost 1,500 years, until the Romans came to Egypt. It was here that the “recurring” Thebes were located, the construction of palaces that amazed contemporaries with their splendor was carried out. But against the backdrop of the Karnak Temple, the rest of the monuments today look dull.
Over the centuries, the complex has been decorated with temples dedicated to the gods Mont, Ptah, Khons, and others. Today, the Karnak Temple in Luxor includes the following main parts that are accessible to tourists.
Today, the Karnak Temple and monuments in neighboring Luxor are considered a single complex. The distance between them does not exceed 2000 meters, so the program of any excursion includes visits to both places. Moreover, finds made at the Karnak complex are exhibited in the Luxor Museum, including a model of the temple dedicated to the god Aton. In size, it exceeded the building erected in honor of Amon-Ra, however, even in antiquity it was destroyed to the ground.
Karnak Temple – the largest temple complex in Ancient Egypt – combines a series of buildings that look more like a separate city than a temple. The size of the temple is 1.5 km by 700 m. This is the second most popular place in Egypt after the pyramids. The temple contains three parts, one of which is dedicated to Amon-Ra, the other to Queen Mut, who is the wife of Amon-Ra, and the third to the son of Queen Mut and the god Amon-Ra, Honus, who was considered a lunar deity.
Even 200 years ago, Karnak temple was covered with a lot of sand. Only in the 19th century archaeologists began excavations, and work continues to this day.
Karnak Temple began to be built around the 20th century. BC. And each pharaoh after this somehow completed building part of the temple. In total, the construction of the complex took 13 centuries. Karnak consists of 33 temples and halls. In fact, it is an open-air museum. At the entrance to the Karnak Temple there is an avenue of ram-headed sphinxes.
Do not be surprised at so many sheep, the thing is that the sheep is one of the incarnations of the god Amon, to whom the Karnak Temple is dedicated.
Walking along the avenue of sphinxes and bypassing a powerful pylon, you will find yourself in the territory of the Ramses temple, to the right of which you will find another row of ram-headed sphinxes, and under each – a small statue of the pharaoh. At the entrance to the temple stands a statue of Ramses himself, and on the left side of the entrance is the chapel of Seti II. It has three entrances to three sanctuaries – to the gods Amon, his wife Mut and son Honus. Following on, you find yourself in a powerful columned hall. Once upon a time there was a roof over the columns, but after the collapse of the temple and the earthquake of 27 BC, the roof collapsed, and now the columns support only the sky. The central 12 columns are 23 m high. The rest are slightly lower. 134 huge pillars are striking in their scale and grandeur. When you are in this room, you involuntarily begin to think: have people really built all this? Just imagine:
In general, dilapidated walls are a kind of maze: then suddenly in the aisle a view of the obelisk opens, then the familiar heads of the pharaohs reappear, then the sphinxes.
Walking further through the labyrinths of the Karnak Temple, you will see the pylons by which you can determine the boundaries of the expansion of the temple in the old days, the courtyard of Amenhotep III in the form of a lonely obelisk, which is located near the third and fourth pylon. Also, a lonely thirty-meter obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut near the fourth pylon. After the obelisks there are halls of the sun, the most famous of which is the Botanical Garden, which depicts various flowers and unusual animals. Such an unusual “menagerie” completes the sacred symbol of the ancient Egyptians – a huge scarab beetle on a pedestal located on the shores of a sacred lake or ablution pond. If you believe the legend, you need to go around this sculpture several times, and then in life you will always be lucky.
The size of the sacred lake is 120 × 77 m, once there was a small room next to it, where geese lived – the sacred birds of Amun. The water from the lake was used by the priests for the sacred bathing of the statues of the gods. At the exit from the Karnak temple, later sanctuaries – Islamic ones – are visible.
Leaving the Temple of Amun in Karnak, do not forget to visit the Sacred Lake, dating back to the time of Thutmose III, and be sure to take a photo of it. Sacred lakes were in many Egyptian temples, but the lake in Karnak is the largest of them. It was used for holidays – on it the deities were supposed to sail on their golden barge.
Initially, water was supplied to Lake Karnak from the Nile, but at the moment it is fed exclusively from groundwater. Its size is 80 by 40 meters. Near the lake is the Holy Scarab, the largest in Egypt since the reign of Amenhotep III. For the Egyptians, this insect was the personification of the Sun. There is a legend that if you walk around the bug 7 times and make a wish, then it will come true. At least the Egyptians sacredly believe in this.
The Karnak Temple in Luxor includes several buildings surrounded on all sides by a 20-meter wall. These are the Temples of the Great Amon Ra, Ptah, Khonsu, Ipt, Monto, Osiris and the destroyed temple of Amenhotep IV. The second name of the Karnak complex is the House of Amon, since it was originally erected in honor of the cult of the supreme ancient Egyptian deity – the sun god Ra. The introduction of the cult of this mythological character into the culture and history of Ancient Egypt began during the reign of the 12th dynasty of the pharaohs, when the city of Thebes became the capital of the state. Initially, Amon Ra was depicted as a goose, then a ram, and at the peak of worship – in the form of a man with feathers on his head. Today, photo images of this deity are easy to find in online sources.
The Egyptians gave the Karnak Temple the name “El-Karnak”, which means “fortified village”. During the conquest of Egypt, at the entrance to the complex, many structures were discovered that were not affected by time. At the entrance to the Karnak Temple is located the Sphinx Alley, which guarded the religious building. The alley with 20 animals, having the body of a lion and the head of a ram, was built during the reign of Pharaoh Nektaneba from the 30th dynasty.
The Karnak Temple was erected in such a way that the most ancient rooms are located in the center, and as you move away from it, there are buildings of more recent eras. This is due to the fact that each new section of the temple was added by the later ruler of Egypt.
The first hall of the Karnak complex occupies an area of 100 by 80 m, its construction was completed during the reign of the 22 dynasty of the pharaohs. All tourists who enter the hall are invited to pay attention to the majestic columns decorated with papyrus buds – a symbol of royal power.
On the left are 3 chapels erected by the pharaoh of Seti II in honor of the conquest of the city of Thebes. On the right is the temple of Ramses III. It consists of small rooms and a hypostyle hall, through which you can go to the sanctuary of the Karnak Temple. Unfortunately, these rooms were not spared time – now they are badly damaged.
The hypostyle hall of the Karnak Temple leads to another building of the complex, built by Amenhotep III. It also offers a view of Thutmose I Hall, where two obelisks are located, of which only one has survived. The obelisks and colonnade of the hall of Thutmose I were erected a little later – after the only female pharaoh of Egypt, Hatshepsut, ascended the throne. Of the two colonnades of this hall, only one is well preserved – it is made of red granite, its size is 29 and a half meters in height, 322 tons in weight.
After the death of Queen Hatshepsut, Pharaoh Thutmose III erected a high wall around the two obelisks, apparently in order to hide and preserve them. He also built the fifth pylon of the Karnak Temple. There is a granite sanctuary dedicated to the boat Amon Ra. Behind the sanctuary is a wide courtyard.
To the left of the sixth hall of the Karnak complex is the courtyard of the seventh pylon. Here are statues of Ramses II and Thutmose III. The next – the eighth – pylon was erected by Queen Hatshepsut, and is already decorated with Thutmose III, and then restored to Seti I.
Between 9 and 10 pylons, the remains of the Het-Seb sanctuary, which was built by Amenhotep II and decorated with Seti I, open to the gaze of tourists. The ninth pylon today is badly damaged. It belonged to the temple of the god Aton (the so-called Amon Ra under the pharaoh Akhenaten) and was destroyed by later rulers who tried to erase from the history of Egypt all references to the pharaoh-heretic who built it. The Karnak temple ends with the tenth pylon, built during the reign of the pharaoh Horemheb. It includes the gate of Ptolemy II, located in the front of the temple of Mut.
The Temple of Amon in Karnak is a grand and majestic stone museum, thoroughly saturated with the spirit of the history of the mysterious and complete secrets of Egypt. This largest shrine in the world today is one of the most popular tourist sites, inferior only to the great pyramids. Probably, if not for Karnak, hot Egypt would not have attracted so many who wish to join the antiquity.