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The Karnak Temple Complex

The temple district of Karnak has been expanded over 15 centuries. Today it intimidates you with its panache. The size of the pylons and columns makes you feel as small as an ant.

The temple complex in Karnak has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979. It was erected as a place of worship for the Theban triad: the god Amun, his wife Mut, and the son of Khonsu. The oldest part is the temple called the Seat of Amun. It was established during the reign of Antefa II (2103-2054 BC). The rest of the temple district was built during the New Kingdom (16th-11th century BC), but changes in the entire layout were made in the Roman period (1st century BC - 4th century AD).

The plan of the complex is based on two axes intersecting at right angles: the main east-west axis and the north-south axis. The complex consists of three parts, which are called districts: the central one dedicated to Amon (the Seat of Amun), the southern one, where Mut was worshiped, and the northern one, where Montu was worshiped. Only the district of Amun, also known as the Great Temple of Amun, remains in very good condition.

The entrance to the temple area of Amun leads from the west, through the first pylon, i.e. the monumental entrance gate. The main avenue is flanked by statues of sphinxes. It's worth taking a look at them. They have ram heads, which means they were consecrated to the god Amon, as his cult animal was a ram. Just behind the pylon, built only in the 4th century BC, on the right, there is a mud-brick rubble that always surprises tourists. These are the remains of the ramp used to build the pylon. Behind the courtyard and the colossal statues of Ramses II the Great, there is a second pylon. On its side wall, a black line marks the height of the Nile waters that flooded the temple every year before the High Aswan Dam was built.

The Great Hypostyle Hall, the largest room of ancient Egypt, is breathtaking. Its area is 0.5 hectares. The number of columns that make it up is a staggering 146. The hall was built during the times of Pharaoh Seti I (1290-1279 / 78 BC) and his successor Ramesses II the Great (1279-1213 BC). It has a basilica layout, which means that it consists of three aisles. In the middle one there are two rows of 22m high columns with capitals in the shape of an unfolded papyrus plume.

The columns in the aisles are lower, and measure 15m, their capitals are shaped like a papyrus bundle. The entire room was covered and dark. Due to the difference in the height of the nave and aisles, gaps appeared between their ceilings - windows with stone grates. Unfortunately, only fragments of the bars and only one window have survived to this day. On the columns you can see a reminder of the times with lots of graffiti, which was carved by travelers.

It is worth taking a closer look at the inner walls of the Great Hypostyle Hall, which are covered with interesting reliefs. They depict processions, scenes of sacrifice and worship in the temple. The outer walls are decorated with the favorite motif of Ramses II the Great - war scenes from the Battle of Kadesh.

Just behind the third pylon, the two axes of the temple intersect. The main axis (east-west) leads to two obelisks: the first belonged to Tuthmosis I (1504-1492 BC), and the second to Hatshepsut (1479-1458 / 57 BC), this is the highest standing obelisk in Egypt at 30m. It was built of pink granite, and its tip was once crowned with an electron, an alloy of gold and silver. Behind the sixth pylon there is a barge hall, which was rebuilt many times and in which the statue of the god Amon once stood. This is where the processions began as part of the celebration of the Feast of Opet and the Beautiful Feast of the Valley.

The North-South minor axis leads to the circle of Amun's wife, Mut. On the way, you pass the holy lake on the left - a symbol of the pre-ocean. It also served priests in ritual ablution. A sculpture of a large scarab stands near the lake. Tourists circle the stone insect, this activity is to ensure their happiness in love.

Between the seventh pylon and the Great Hypostyle Hall there is the locker courtyard. During works on the temple grounds in 1903-1906, a deep pit was excavated, with 17,000 artifacts in it, including over 700 statues. It is believed that this cache was built in the Ptolemaic Period (4th-1st century BC), when it was decided to clean up the temple area. The statues were not destroyed, but were deposited in one place.