No trip to Egypt and the Nile area would be complete without visiting one of the most famous tourist attractions in the world, The Temple of Karnak. Situated at Thebes, now modern day Luxor, this is the largest columned temple in the world and very architecturally complex. Being in a mostly ruined state, the whole site is a continuous restoration project, and a vast open-air museum. it represents the combined achievements of many generations of ancient builders. The name Karnak comes from the nearby village of el-Karnak.
The sheer size of the site, makes buying a map almost essential to get the most out of your visit, if you can get the services of a guide that speaks your own language, then all the better. In the evenings there is a popular sound and light show, but check days and times to ensure you visit the correct show as a number of different languages are catered for.
You enter the complex through the first pylon dating from the Ptolemaic dynasty, here you can see that there are eight channels built into the wall which were originally for accommodating flagpoles. Apart from this, the pylon is unadorned. The pylon was never finished and inside you can still see mud bricks piled up against the pylon wall, which indicates the methods used by the ancient Egyptians to construct these vast structures.
Many of the main routes which lead to the temples of Thebes, now modern day Luxor, used to be lined with sphinxes. Those at the entrance of the First Pylon of Karnak combine the head of a ram with the body of a lion. The rams represents the god Amun. Each sphinx has between its front legs, a statue of Ramses II.
A tall column with an open papyrus capital is all that remains of a 21 metre high wooden-ceilinged pavilion of Taharqa, an Ethiopian king of the 25th dynasty. It is the only one remaining from the original ten. The pavilion was originally built to house the sacred barks. Close by stands an impressive statue of Ramses II, the figure between the statues legs could be Queen Nefertari or Princess Benet-Anat, daughter of Isinofre. Just off this courtyard to the right stands the temple to Ramses III. The pylon, flanked by statues of the Pharaoh, leads on to a porticoed courtyard with Osiris pillars. At the far end is a vestibule which leads to a hypostyle atrium. There are three main chapels dedicated to the triad of gods worshiped in ancient Thebes, Amun, Mut, and the lunar deity, Khonsu. There are a number of other, much smaller chapels dedicated to a number of lesser gods.
Pass through the second pylon and you enter the hypostyle hall 102 metres wide and 53 metres long has an incredible 134 columns. The hall has been called a forest of columns. The central row of twelve columns with open papyrus capitals, the other 122 columns in the side aisles with closed papyrus-bud capitals. The hall was roofed using stone slabs. The interior of the hall would have had little light, although some light would have entered through clerestory windows created by the use of vertical stone slabs. The central aisle was built by Amenophis III. Horemheb started building the side aisles which were continued by Seti I and Ramses II, and finished by Ramses IV. Pass on through the third pylon and into the courtyard of Amenhotep III. Here is the intersection point of the two directional axes of the Temple of Karnak: the north/south, or terrestrial axis, and the east/west, or celestial axis. Four obelisks originally stood here, of which only the the obelisk of Tuthmose I remains.