8 Things to Know Before You Visit Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt
Karnak Temple Luxor lies on the bustling East Bank of the River Nile. Learning amazing facts on a tour of this temple is one of the best things about traveling to this part of the world.
I am privileged to have the opportunity to spend two days with a top-notch private guide whose vast knowledge of the culture and deep history of Karnak Temple Luxor and the region enriched my days of touring the temples, tombs and sights in Luxor.
As you scroll through my photos, I’ll teach you a bit of what I’ve been learning about the history of Egypt and share my tips for enjoying your best visit, too.
8 Things to Know Before You Visit Karnak Temple Luxor, Egypt
1. Hire a private guide to tour Karnak Temple.
Most archaeological sites in Luxor are in relatively close proximity. However, if you are serious about seeing and experiencing as much as possible in the short time you have, hire a private guide to lead you through the sites and answer your myriad of questions. And trust me. You’ll have questions.
My private guide, Hoda is from the West Bank, near the Valley of the Kings. In addition to studying Tourism and History in university, Hoda spends time in France, a hot spot for those who love Egyptology. To say “Hoda knows her stuff about Egypt” is an understatement. Her fun-loving, gregarious soul makes the entire experience perfect.
Despite seeing several incredible archaeological sites, each site captured my intrigue more than the last. Can you believe it? Hoda’s expertise is knowing exactly what to suggest to her clients and more importantly, when. She’s so darn savvy. ;)
2. The heads of several statues in the temples and tombs in Egypt are removed.
Why? Two reasons. One, many leaders in later dynasties would sever the heads of previous leaders in an attempt to “erase” earlier rulers from the Egyptian peoples’ memories. Those tricksters. The second reason is more tragic, unfortunately. Vandals and early excavators (who should know better!) removed statues’ heads in their haste to grab relics they could from the sites.
3. Take cash in Egyptian Pounds for your sightseeing days.
On the days your plan to tour/sightsee, be sure you have enough cash on-hand for purchasing tickets as well as tipping. Most ticket offices accept only cash. And yes, most sites have local Egyptians walking around, offering to take pictures, telling you the best photo opps, or offering snippets of advice. The locals may motion to you by rubbing their fingers together, which means, “And a bit of gratuity, please?” Tipping is up to you, but I encourage you to respect where you are visiting. Egypt’s tourism industry is the life blood of many of its people. Being kind always pays dividends. :)
Savvy Traveller Tip: Most ATM/cash dispensing machines accept only VISA or MasterCard. Come prepared with several types of credit and debit cards to avoid difficulties withdrawing money in Egypt. It may present challenges.
4. Seek out the ram-headed sphinx statues as you tour Karnak Temple.
Ram-headed sphinx statues are prevalent in the temples in Egypt. These statues hold unique significance in Egyptian culture. The ram represents strength and calmness in the face of conflict, offering solace to the common people since the Egyptian Empire was dominated by war and battles. You’ll notice in the statue above, the Egyptian King stands between the front paws of the ram-headed sphinx. This symbolises the sphinx’s loyalty and devout protection to his ruler.
5. Seeing a woman displayed with a king means she holds a place of significance for him.
You’ll notice women are always smaller in stature and stand between the king’s legs, in a display of reverence and honour. And yep, you are correct in thinking this positioning symbolises the couple’s sexual relationship as well.
6. UNESCO is the leading philanthropic organisation supporting the restoration of ancient antiquities in Egypt.
Excavation continues and new discoveries are being unearthed daily. How amazing is that?! I’m thrilled to capture a glance of excavators on a live dig whilst on a tour of the West Bank. Each major temple and tomb site has areas where you’ll see new finds unearthed and being catalogued, organised and restored. It’s truly an incredible experience.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, the answer is No. After my visit, I do not believe aliens were involved in erecting the temples of Egypt. ;)
7. The temples in Luxor are crafted from materials found in nearby mountains.
The temples in Luxor are hewn from limestone mined directly from the neighbouring mountains and foothills. The hieroglyphs on the temple walls, pillars and ceilings are decorated with paints derived from precious gems, stones, plants and mineral resources mined from the Nile, the mountains, and surrounding desert.
The initial color system included green, red, black and white (wadj, deshr, kem and hedj). Later dynasties included blue, yellow, gray, pink, orange and brown in artwork. Greens come from malachite, reds, oranges and yellows from ochre, black from carbon, white from chalk, blues from lapis lazuli, blue-purple from indigo, and of course, turquoise. Obviously, there is a vast body of knowledge on this topic, so this is a quick snippet.
Ancient Egyptians were master craftspeople, dedicated to beautifying the temples and tombs to celebrate their rulers. Bearing witness to the intricate design and artwork of these sites is marvelous. A true treasure.
8. There were originally four obelisks in Karnak Temple.
Two of the obelisks are completely restored and are on display within the temple walls. Standing at different points within the temple walls gives the optical illusion the two obelisks are the same height. In actuality, one obelisk stands 71 feet (21.64 m) tall, and the other 66 feet (20.12 m). The third, the Obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut is being fully restored on-site. The fourth obelisk stands at Place De La Concorde in Paris, France.
Karnak Temple Luxor, Egypt is a spectacle. If you have any desire whatsoever to witness the many marvels of the Ancient Egyptian Empire, you must absolutely plan a visit.
In the meantime, I hope to see you on the road. C’mon…get out there and Live the Life You Imagine!