About the Karnak Temple
The greatest architectural achievement of ancient Egypt, the largest Pharaonic temple in history, and the most important touristic attraction in the marvelous city of Luxor, the Karnak Temple welcomes a huge number of guests who spend their vacations in Egypt.
This complex of temples, with the temple of the Amun as its center, has witnessed the contributions of various kings and Pharaohs for a very long period. All the kings of ancient Egypt wanted to have their own special addition to the Karnak Temple. This resulted in a huge complex of temples and an open-air museum of the architecture of ancient Egypt.
Geographical Location of the Karnak temple
The Temple of Karnak is located in the heart of the city of Luxor in the East Bank of the city. It is situated only three kilometers away from the Luxor Temple. In fact the two temples were once connected together with the famous avenue of sphinxes.
Tourists enjoying their holidays in Egypt can easily go to the Karnak Temple using a taxi from anywhere in Luxor for a cheap fare. Moreover, the guests of Luxor can use a Hantour; the traditional Egyptian horse carriages, that will be a quite an enjoyable ride.
The History and the Construction of the Karnak Temple
In fact Amenhotep I, who ruled Egypt during the 15th century BC, was the first Pharaoh of ancient Egypt who wanted to establish a temple for the god Amun in the Karnak Complex. He chose a location that was occupied by an older temple. However, the king died before he made his dream come true.
It was Tuthmosis I who ruled Egypt from 1506 till 1493 BC who first built a temple in the Karnak complex. He was also the first king to be buried in the Valley of the Kings in the West Bank of Luxor. After that date, almost all the rulers of Egypt had their own contributions to the Karnak Temple.
The name Karnak is actually the name of a village located near the temple that was built in a period that exceeds 2000 years. Since the temple of Karnak was dedicated to the worship of the god Amun, the king of gods and the most important god of ancient Egypt, every king of the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt gave special attention to the temple.
The Description of the Karnak Temple
When the guests who travel to Egypt reach the Karnak Temple, the first thing they see is the avenue of sphinx, or let us say the remaining sphinxes that once connected the Luxor Temple to the Karnak Temple.
Established by Nectanebo I, who ruled Egypt from 380 till 362 BC, the avenue of sphinxes used to host more than 730 sphinxes but only 58 remained until today. This avenue that already existed more than 1000 years before Nectanebo I, during the reign of the Queen Hatshepsut, used to host a part of the Opt festival where Amun used to welcome his bride in the Karnak Temple coming from the Luxor Temple for the ceremony of recreation.
King Nectanebo I constructed the first pylon of the Temple of Karnak in the 4th century BC and then there is pylon II. Afterwards, the guests can enter the sacred shrine of the three gods of Thebes; Amun, Mut, and Khunsu that was constructed by Sethos II who ruled Egypt at the end of the 12th century BC.
The most impressive section of the Temple of Karnak is certainly the hypostyle hall; this section popular for its huge columns that occupies a surface area of around 5300 square meters.
The hypostyle hall was first established during the ruling period of Sethos I in the 14th century BC, Ramses II in the 13th century BC, and Amenophis III in the 14th century BC. This section is divided into two parts by the central nave which is supported by 12 columns with each being more than 22 meters high.
The hypostyle hall of the Karnak Temple has 120 columns with papyrus capitals at the top that symbolize the primeval papyrus march. The spaces between the columns used to be filled with statues of different gods and pharaohs.
Next to this area, there is the famous red granite statue of the king Ramses II and his favorite wife, Queen Nefertari standing between his knees.
The original core of this huge temple of Karnak dates back to the Middle Kingdom in the ruling period of Senusert I in the 19th century BC when he constructed the first shrine for the statue of Amun.
Afterwards, in the 15th century BC, Amenophis I built the Middle Kingdom Court of the first bark chapel of Amun. Then his son, Tuthmosis I who ruled Egypt at the end of the 15th century BC was the one to be responsible for the enlargement of the temple that was carried out from East to West.
Tuthmosis I and his son Tuthmosis II were credited for building the pylons VI and V. They also constructed the famous papyrus columns that were used for coronation ceremonies. Tuthmosis I also built the very first two obelisks of the Karnak Temple but only one of them survived until today.
The famous Queen Hatshepsut with her amazing mortuary Temple in the West Bank of Luxor, constructed a new chapel for the sacred barks that was erected in the Middle Kingdom Court that was called the red chapel due to the color of its stones.
Hatshepsut has built two high obelisks as well which were taller than these of Tuthmosis I; one of them is still standing while only the top of the second one is now situated near the sacred lake of the Temple of Karnak.
The famous queen was also responsible for an important landmark in the history of the Temple of Karnak as she built the pylon VIII that gave the temple another north to south axis.
During the ruling period of Tuthomose III, who was called the Napoleon of ancient Egypt due to his large military campaigns, the temple was enlarged again. He also erected two obelisks. However, none of them existed until today.
Tuthomose III has also built a unique monumental complex in the Eastern section of the Middle Kingdom Court and what was called the botanical garden as well. This section held that name because of the bas-reliefs that all over its walls with plants and flowers.
In the Southern section of the Temple of Karnak, there is the sacred lake that had two functions; a practical and a symbolic function. The sacred lake was used for ablutions for rituals and for the needs of the priests who used to live nearby.
In the 7th century BC, during the reign of the king Taharqa, he constructed a sanctuary that was used to celebrate the creation of the world by the god Amun. This was why the scarab statue, which was originally in the section constructed by Amenophis III was brought near the sacred lake.
The Karnak Temple is surly the most impressive ancient Egyptian monument. Being constructed over a period of more than 2000 years, it amazes all the travelers who tour Egypt and visits the Temple. Archeological missions are still working until today in the Karnak Temple and they unearth interesting findings every now and then.