You don't have to leave downtown to see one of the most spectacular sites in Upper Egypt. Luxor Temple was built in the middle of Thebes by Amenhotep III in the 14th century B.C. In describing the town, 19th-century visitors talked about houses clustered among the capitols of the buried columns (you'll see, approaching the temple, that it's now mostly below the level of the street).
Entering, you see the Avenue of Sphinxes, a road flanked by, well, a lot of sphinxes. If you find the sheer number of catlike creatures lined up to watch you pass a little unnerving, consider that this line of feline observers used to stretch all the way to Karnak Temple, 3km (2 miles) downriver. Some of the most spectacular aspects of the temple were actually built about a century after the death of its founder by Ramses II, who you see depicted on the first pylon killing the Hittites at the Battle of Kaddesh.
One of the most interesting sights at the temple is actually accessed from outside. The Mosque of Abu Hagag, which is named for a local holy man to whom an annual moulid is dedicated, was mostly built in the 19th century, but parts, such as the 11th-century northern minaret, are much older. It is all that remains of the village that was cleared away by 19th-century excavators. Look left and up once you're inside the first pylon, and you'll see it. Entrance is from Karnak Street behind the temple.
Beyond the mosque, there is a colonnade. The 14 columns here stand almost 20m (65 ft.) high. The area was finished by Amenhotep III's son, Tutankhamun. Beyond the colonnade is the Court of Amenhotep III. This part of the temple is a good place to end up around dusk, when the lights come on and bats swoop around the capitols looking for an evening meal.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Recommended 2010
- Down the street from the Old Winter Palace Hotel and backing onto the main souk. East Bank
- Winter 6am-9pm; summer 6am-10pm
- No Sweat
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