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Karnak Temple
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Karnak Temple
Karnak Temple is a vast temple complex in Luxor dedicated primarily to Amun and dating from as early as 2000 BC. It is an impressive sight, and second only to the Great Pyramids in popularity. The Karnak Temple has stood for over 4,000 years, inviting pilgrims and travelers to explore her ancient mysteries and commune with spirits of the past.

History
After a century of foreign occupation, the New Kingdom (1550-1150 BC) of Egypt emerged, with its capital at Thebes. The captial city was embellished with grandiose temples worthy of the majesty of the pharaohs, the greatest being Karnak. The temple complex of Karnak, dedicated to the Pharoah Amun, was the center of his worship and of his wife Mut and their son Khons. Each of them had a "precinct" (area) in the temple complex, the greatest and largest belonging to Amun. There was also a precinct for Montu, the falcon-headed local god. Construction on the Karnak temple complex began in the 16th century BC and continued into the Greco-Roman period - a period of up to 1300 years of construction. Around 30 successive pharoahs added their own touches to the complex: a new temple, shrine, or pylon and carved detailed hieroglyphic inscriptions. When the pharoah Akhenaton abandoned the traditional worship of Amun and took up the worship of Aten, the sun god, he built a temple to Aten at Karnak. But after his death, the Theban priests destroyed all signs of sun worship at Karnak and elsewhere. The temple of Karnak was known as Ipet-isut (most select of places) by the ancient Egyptians. It is a city of temples built over 2000 years and dedicated to the Theben triad of Amun, Mut and Khonsu.

This derelict place is still capable of overshadowing many of the wonders of the modern world, and in its day must have been awe inspiring. For the largely uneducated ancient Egyptian population this could only have been the place of the gods. It is the mother of all religious buildings, the largest ever made, and a place of pilgrimage for nearly 4,000 years. Although, today's pilgrims are mainly tourists. It covers about 200 acres - 1.5 km by 0.8 km. The area of the sacred enclosure of Amun alone is 61 acres, and would hold ten average-sized European cathedrals.

The Karnak temple complex is huge, covering a site almost a mile by two miles in area. There are over 25 temples and chapels in the complex, including separate shrines for the three boats that took the statues of the gods on their annual trip on the flooding Nile. Sanctuaries, obelisks, and groups of columns all feature accounts of the heroic deeds of the sponsoring pharoah.

The key difference between Karnak and most of the other temples and sites in Egypt is the length of time over which it was developed and used. Approximately 30 pharaohs contributed to the buildings, enabling it to reach a size, complexity and diversity not seen elsewhere. Few of the individual features of Karnak are unique, but the sheer size and number of features makes it one of the most impressive temple complexes in Egypt.

The Hypostyle Hall
The Karnak complex includes several of the finest examples of ancient Egyptian design and architecture. Among them are the Hypostyle Hall, considered one of the world’s great architectural achievements.The Hypostyle hall, at 54,000 square feet, and with its 134 columns (the tallest of the 134 columns reaches a height of 23 meters) is still the largest room of any religious building in the world. In this enormous forest of columns you get a genuine feeling of the wealth of the New Kingdom and of the importance of Amun as the State-God.

The Home of Amun
Karnak is the home of the god Amun who was an insignificant local god until the 12th dynasty when Thebes became the capital of Egypt. He was represented in his original state as a goose and later as a ram, at the height of his power he was shown as a human with a head dress of feathers - all that remained of the goose. In ancient times wars were not fought between countries but were considered as contests between gods. One deity subduing and replacing another, the victorious god and its people growing in strength. This is how Amun, with the help of Thutmose III and various other New Kingdom kings, rose to become the first supreme god of the known world and was hailed as God of gods. Little is known of him, unlike most other gods he has no legends or miracles to impress his worshippers and seems to be closer to an abstract idea of a godhead. His followers came from all the strata of society and he was known to some as 'Vizier of the poor.'

The most spectacular of the temples at Karnak is the Temple of Amun (Amun’s Precinct), the only section open to the public. This is entered via the Avenue of the Sphinxes, or Sacred Way, that once stretched the two miles from Karnak to Luxor Temple.

The Obelisk of Thutmose I, a 22m (71ft) monument, is the only one of four original obelisks that is still standing.

The Sacred Lake
All ancient Egyptian temples had a sacred lake, Karnak's is the largest. It was used during festivals when images of the gods would sail across it on golden barges. The water supply to the Sacred Lake, which symbolized the primeval ocean Nun, comes directly from the Nile. Next to the lake is a small café where you can pit stop in the shade and fantasize about the temple in its golden ages.

The vast majority of tourists visit Karnak Temple as part of an organised coach tour.

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