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The Temple of Karnak, just north of Luxor, is the largest temple complex in the entire world, and was part of the infamous city of Thebes. On an aesthetic level it is maybe even more impressive than either the Luxor Temple or Abu Simbel. Some parts of the complex are off limits to the tourists, as those ancient ruins have not yet been fully restored, yet it all remains a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Temple of Karnak in Egypt is known as the world’s largest open-air museum. It was once the centre of the ancient city of Thebes, and the sheer scale of the place really gave me a good humbling! I have seen temple complexes from ancient cities in other countries, such as at Bagan in Myanmar and at Angkor in Cambodia, but I don’t think anywhere in the world did I feel a sense of history and enchantment like I did here in Luxor at the Karnak site, which is full of decaying temples and chapels, as well as being home to some of the largest and heaviest obelisks in the world. On the way in to the complex, there were statues of what looked like lions (although in Egyptian mythology there are very keen on half-and-half animals), and many of them were beheaded or had their sandstone décor had eroded away over time. Regardless, this is a great way to begin your tour.
The statues of the pharaohs were also mind-blowing. In ancient Egyptian times, symbolism was a big factor, so statues of people or of animals were often worshipped as real living things. I imagine it must have been insane to see the Egyptians of Thebes revere these giant sandstone monuments as if they were real. I had understood similar philosophy to symbolism during my trip to Luxor Temple the previous morning.
You cannot come to Egypt and not be impressed with the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics on display. I saw many of these on columns in the Precinct of Amun-Re. I learned that the sandstone used for the precinct here was actually taken from the banks of the Nile River. The Precinct of Amun-Re is the main part of the temple complex, and I saw many people spending a very long time taking photos of these hieroglyphics, some were even laying on the dusty floor to get better angles!
For just 65 Egyptian Pounds in admission price, a trip to the Temple of Karnak is a great way to spend a few hours. It really is comparable to walking around Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu, and unlike some of the other attractions in Luxor, such as Luxor Temple and the Valley of Kings, it was not too busy on the day I was there, which was a godsend. I would wholly recommend visiting the Temple of Karnak in the morning, in order to avoid the worst of the Arabian sun – but you had better be prepared for being somewhat overpowered by the history of it all. It certainly gave me the ‘Thebes Jeebies’!