God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Magnificent Karnac and Colorful Luxor Temples

A Painting from an ancient Christian Church inside the
walls of the more ancient Luxor Temple

When exploring within ancient temples, there are always surprises. As in the less ancient Greek and Roman buildings which often transformed and morphed into many permutations over the centuries, so too the temples of pharaohs. 

Other than the halo you can't really see this, but it is a painting of the Virgin Mary 
on a pillar in Karnac.

Our last two cruise nights were spent docked at Luxor, the site of the very large ancient city of Thebes. It does seem strange but as the ship docked in such a way that our cabin faced the Nile, we had more time to enjoy its serenity and peace-particularly as there were not gaggles of other cruise ships parading by. We enjoyed leaving in the morning, visiting the huge Karnac temple complex and Luxor Temple, which is right in the city of Luxor, and then returning to the ship for a late lunch, relaxing on the sundeck with new friends and enjoying the galaibya party and dinner.

Because we had a private guide and were continuing on in Luxor for a few days, we had a more leisurely day than others who followed the cruise schedule. They did both temples in the morning, came back to the ship for lunch and then went to the Valley of the Kings in the afternoon. This would have been an exhausting itinerary, and, in fact, folks were dragging a little bit.

Anyone who has ever perused the National Geographic or watched the Discovery Channel or Planet Green knows of Karnac--the huge complex of three temples dedicated to the god Amun-Ra, the goddess Mut and the god Montu. Amun was the main divinity of Thebes. Through several dynasties, 13 centuries, this monumental complex was added to with small side temples, mortuary temples, statues, pillars, living areas and rooms and buildings of unknown purpose. Today we see it in bits and pieces, some parts more complete than others but nothing is whole. The massive pillars are impressively awesome in their rows and columns with colors, usually muted but occasionally bright, still showing in places; I found myself wondering what it was like when priests and royalty walked through their shadows.

Although both Mut and Montu have their own temples and precincts within the complex, visitors only see the "precinct of Amun-Ra" which is what we mostly think of when we reference Karnac and what most visuals show. The other two temple areas are still being uncovered and restored. You can see them but not go to them--disappointing. They are much older and go back to even more ancient gods of Thebes.

From Karnac, after buying an Anubis (the two headed jackel god of afterlife and mummification) statue for son Jeff--his one request of us. Of course, as with anything in Egypt, bargaining is the expectation so we needed to go through that exercise--which is not one of my favorite cultural experiences--anywhere, we moved on.

Our next and last stop for the day was Luxor Temple which sits among the streets and shops of Luxor. This temple and Karnac were connected via a two mile "parade route" which was used for ceremonial processions. It was lined on both sides with sphinx which are now being dug up and replaced along the ancient road. This is a slow process as existing buildings are needing to be torn down to do this.

It is thought that Luxor Temple was mostly a sanctuary dedicated to the celebration of the royal "ka" soul of the ruler which was passed from father to son. If so there would have been ceremonies to confirm the hereditary transfer of the king's sacred powers-Ka-to his son; however, much of this is still conjecture. There are many colossal statues here, including the greatly egotistical Ramses II and his favorite Nefertari who were the subjects at Abu Simbel. Like Karnac, it was constructed over a period of several dynasties. In time, the Romans converted chapels into servicing Roman gods, then Christians had churches within the walls and finally Islam entered the area.  At the entrance is a structure with triple religious heritage--ancient Egyptian temple, Christian church and finally, on top, a mosque in use today.

The bottom is ancient Egypt. If you look half way up, you will see reddish doors which were the Christian church (at the time it was built the Egyptian portion was underground) and on top you can see the mosque with a part of the minaret.

There is so much to tell about these temples and complexes but if you are interested, it will be much easier to click on the links which I have provided as the information is far more complete and intelligible than I can provide.

(Remember you can enlarge this to full screen)

And now....the final night and the galaibya party.  From what I gather these parties are traditional to Nile cruises. A galaibya is an Egyptian garment of a certain style; it should be full length but some people simply choose a shirt---while other people don't dress up at all. It really is a very casual, do whatever you want event.

When in Cairo, we decided that we would do it all, so Casey and I bought our galaibya there and got really nice ones. Ken bought a cheapie on board which was just as well as I can't imagine that we will wear them again. Well, maybe Casey will have a reason at some point. He looked very impressive in his.

And this is the charming, beautiful couple from Hong Kong that were part of our table, Wayne and Iris

....this was the end of the cruise. The next morning we were packed and out of there by 9. Next stop: the famous, mystical Valley of the Kings and Christmas in Luxor. And then....PETRA


B.J. Greenwald said...

Won't it be wonderful when we all have time machines and can go back to see these temples, etc. in their prime. The colors that are left are spectacular!

Jane said...

B.j. I have thought that many times. Can you imagine what these places looked like when they were totally painted? It must have been brilliant.

B.J. Greenwald said...

Jane, when we were in Turkey I thought that every day. Then the article about the colors of Roman statues came out and now I am seeing your pictures. Oh, to be Dr. Who!

Susie L said...

What, no photo of you and Ken wearing a galaibya?