Egypt isn’t short on blockbuster sights, but Luxor Temple is one of its star attractions. Located on the east bank of the River Nile, it’s one of the best-preserved ancient monuments in the world. Construction began in 1400 BCE, spearheaded by the Pharoah Amenhotep III and completed by Tutankhamen, Horemheb and Rameses II. The rest, as they say, is history. Looking to find out more about this fascinating pharaonic sight? Here are seven of the most interesting facts about Luxor Temple to get you started.
Most Interesting Facts About Luxor Temple in Egypt
1. It’s a coronation and a burial site
Unlike most other temples in Ancient Egypt, Luxor Temple isn’t dedicated to a specific god or pharaoh. Instead, it’s dedicated to the “rejuvenation of kingship”. It’s likely that this is where most of the great pharaohs were coronated. Egyptians believed that Amun, the God of Air, experienced a ‘rebirth’ with each new Pharoah. This took place at an annual reenacted coronation ceremony.
It was also an important resting place for the pharaohs, with many buried in the tombs here.
2. Luxor Temple was once connected to the Karnak Temple
During Pharaonic Egypt, the two great temples were connected to each other via a two-mile (three-km) road. It was called the Avenue of Sphinxes because it was lined with over 1,350 human-headed stone sphinxes. You can still see part of the road today. The whole route is still undergoing excavation, with the hope that one day people will be able to walk along the whole route.
3. Each section of the temple serves a different purpose
Luxor Temple is made from Nubian sandstone blocks. Its mud-brick walls mark the symbolic separation between earth and the sacred realms of the gods.
Ramesses II built the entrance, known as the first pylon. He decorated this with scenes of his military triumphs, including the Battle of Kadesh. The pylon towers originally supported four huge cedar flag masts from which banners would have fluttered in the breeze.
The Hypostyle Hall, named after the roof that once supported each of the columns, was restricted to pharaohs and priests. At one time, it became a Christian Church; you can still see the remains of another Coptic Church to the west of it.
To the east, you’ll find Amenhotep III’s ‘birth room’. The walls depict scenes of his symbolic divine birth.
4. It’s missing an obelisk
If you’ve ever visited the Place de la Concorde in Paris, you can’t have missed the soaring obelisk in the centre of it. But this monument actually started life in the Luxor Temple. The King of Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha, gifted it to the King of France, Louis Philippe, in 1829. He, in turn, popped it in the heart of the square in 1836. It was no mean feat getting it there though; it took three years to transport the whopping 250-tonne monument to France.
In fact, the original plan had been to give both obelisks to France. The second obelisk, which is even heavier than the one now in France, was too large to transport it. It still sits happily at the entrance to the temple.
5. Alexander the Great built a shrine in Luxor Temple
Amongst Luxor Temple’s many layers is an intriguing shrine. For centuries, the Romans used the building for their own cults and rituals, including Alexander the Great. At the rear, you’ll find the Alexander the Great chapel, complete with frescoes of the king dressed as a Pharoah. Some claim he was crowned at Luxor Temple but historians rebuff this argument.
6. It played an important role in an annual festival
Luxor Temple played an essential role in the annual Opet Festival, which celebrated the annual Nile River floods. At the annual celebration, statues of Amon, Mut and Knonsu were carried out along the river by a large procession. The festivities celebrated rebirth, fertility and marriage. At the end of the celebrations, the pharaoh would reinforce his claim to the throne. The festival went on for almost a month.
7. Luxor Temple has always been a sacred site
Luxor Temple served as an important temple for pagans in ancient Egypt from the get-go, but it was a sacred site even before this. There was once an older temple on the site, built by the fifth Pharoah of the 18th dynasty. This temple was dedicated to Amun, the God of Air. Then, when the Romans took hold of Thebes, they used it as a church and a monastery. The temple was buried beneath streets and houses as the city expanded, but technically it remained an important place of worship. In the 13th century, authorities built the Abu el-Haggag Mosque on top of it.