Egypt Travel Guide – The Temple of Luxor

The Temple of Luxor

Located on the east bank of the river Nile in Luxor, the temple of Luxor has been a center for the celebration of a very important festival of Thebes which is the festival of Opet. The temple is known by a name of “ipet resyt” which means the southern harem. The Luxor temple was largely built by Amenhotep III and Ramesses II, the temple is built in the honor of Amun, Mut and Khonsu and the purpose of building the same was to celebrate one of the most important festival-the Opet festival and as a suitable setting for the rituals of the festival. The festival itself was to reconcile the human aspect of the ruler with the divine office.

On the day of the Opet Festival the statues of Amun, Mut and Khonsu are taken from the Karnak temple to Luxor as a result the Luxor temple is not aligned to the river but to the temple complex at Karnak. Some of the people even say that the temple was in fact dedicated to the royal ka, which was symbolically joined to the living king during the Opet festival. Thus the Luxor Temple was a shrine of the king’s cult and not just to the Theban god Amun and his family.

The Opet festival

During the 18th dynasty the festival was celebrated for 11 days but by the reign of Ramesses III in the 20th dynasty the celebrations extended to 27 days. During that time almost 11000 loaves of bread was distributed along with 85 cakes and 385 jars of beer. The journey of god from Karnak to Luxor was done in separate barge for every statue and was towed by smaller boats. A large crowd which consisted of soldiers, dancers, musicians and high ranking officials accompanied the barge by walking along the banks of the river. During the festival the people were allowed to ask favors of the statues of the kings or to the images of the gods that were on the barges.

An incidence at the temple said that once the king and his priests entered the temple from the back where the king and his Ka were combined into a divine being which solidified the ritual and made the king a god. The Opet festival since then has been the backbone of the pharaoh’s government.

The temple constriction

The temple was started by Amenhotep III, completed by Tutankhamen and Horenheb and finally added by Ramses II. The rare part has a shrine made of granite which is dedicated to Alexander the Great. The temple has remained as a popular place of worship since ancient times and the hypostyle hall in the Christian era was even used as a Christian church. The temple then after for thousands of years remained buried beneath the streets and houses of Luxor. Eventually the mosque of Sufi Shaykh Yusuf Abu al-Hajjaj was build over it. This mosque was carefully preserved when the temple was uncovered and even today forms an integral part of the site.