A lazy start to day 2 for most of the team, as yesterday had been so long. We only finally arrived in Luxor around midnight, and most of us had been on the go since the morning of the day before.
The Avenue of Sphinxes
After a quick breakfast, it was up to me to go and get our Luxor Passes. The issuing office has moved from behind the Luxor Museum and is now at the Karnak visitor’s centre. Leaving everyone else sleeping, I set out, via the ferry, for the East Bank and then followed, as far as possible, the Avenue of Sphinxes. This is currently under restoration and it is only possible to see it from the raised position of the roads that run alongside it. The Avenue ends at the Bab el Amara gate in front of the Khonsu Temple, just past where the Avenue splits at the Precinct of Mut. It is still quite a walk to get around to the new Karnak entrance, which is something that is going to have to be taken into consideration if the Avenue is going to be open to the public as a link between the Luxor and Karnak temples.
Just inside the entrance is a door marked Luxor Passes, and from here a lady led me to another room to get them. A fairly painless procedure; just make sure you have the relevant paperwork – your passport, 2 copies of the passport’s info page and 1 ID style photo and the fee in US dollars or Euros. I took along a glue stick as a form of baksheesh which helped things along a little. Nice to know that I could get them for the whole group without the others having to be there. Armed with the GnT team’s Luxor passes I headed south to meet everyone else at the Luxor Museum.
This is probably the best introduction that you can get to the New Kingdom, especially the 18th dynasty. There was much interest in the two mummies in their darkened rooms. Upstairs for a quick rundown on Akhenaten and on to the basement which houses most of the statues from the Luxor cache found 30 years ago in the temple of the same name. Some of the finest stone-working to be seen anywhere. This is still my favourite museum.
Just upriver stands the small, and often bypassed, Mummification Museum. After some hurried checking about our Luxor Passes, we were allowed in to this fascinating, well laid out, visual explanation of the mummification process with numerous examples on display. Not just human, but also many different animals and birds. Also on display are some exquisite mummy cases, a selection of Ushabtis, Canopic jars and examples of the actual tools and chemicals used in the process. Fascinating and well worth a visit.
Rameses the Great
Time for lunch and an afternoon of relaxation before heading across the river once more to the magnificent Luxor Temple. Our timing was spot on, as when we arrived a team of workers was busy with the restoration of one of the statues of Rameses the Great that front the first pylon. The men were busy lifting a massive timber joist up to the top of the scaffolding that surrounded the base of the restored statue. All done by hand with ropes and calls. A large crowd watched mesmerized as the work crew slowly lifted this huge piece of wood into place. One could easily imagine that this is how it has always been done.
This incredible edifice was team GnT’s first real introduction to New Kingdom architecture, and there were several open mouths as we stood at the base of the one remaining obelisk. Once inside, I think it is only after successive visits that one begins to appreciate the difference between the Rameside work and that of the earlier, more delicate 18th dynasty. As the sun began to sink, so the numbers of tourists increased and it would have been easy to let oneself be swept along by the throng, but stepping out of the flow allows you to take in the full splendour of the temple, especially once the lights come on.
With Ra descending behind the Theban mountains it was time for us to also head west.
Tomorrow we start on the West Bank and the Place of the Beautiful Ones.