On the east bank of the Nile at Luxor lies the magnificent Luxor Temple which was dedicated to the great god Amun-Re, his wife Mut and their son Khonsu (the moon god) – together representing the Theban triad. The temple was built on the site of a probable smaller Middle Kingdom structure for the god Amun, while the earliest parts of the temple seen today date from the 14th century BC and the time of Amenhotep III (the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom).
His son, Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV), overthrew the existing order of Amun and replaced it with the cult of the sun god Aten. Consequently, Luxor Temple suffered under his reign.
Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great) of the 19th Dynasty oversaw the addition of a new entrance pylon (decorated with scenes of his military battles) and a court at the northeast end of the complex. Two obelisks were erected in front of the temple’s pylon by Ramesses II in the 13th century BC. In the 1830s, the western obelisk was given to France and erected at Place de la Concorde in Paris where it still stands today. Ramesses II also had erected in front of his pylon six granite statues of himself – two seated and four standing. A 3-kilometre-long avenue of sphinxes connected Luxor Temple with the southern end of the sprawling Karnak temple complex to the north.
During the 19th century, much of the temple was still buried and houses stood well above the current ground level encountered by modern-day visitors. An idea of the 19th century ground level can be gained from the Mosque of Abu el Hagag which, despite early French efforts to remove it, remains inside the great pylon.
Passing through the pylon entrance, the visitor enters the court of Ramesses II with numerous statues of the pharaoh and surrounding papyrus-type columns with lotus-bud capitals.
Beyond the court lies the impressive Colonnade (seen in the image at right with the mosque and pylon in the background) erected by Amenhotep III. The inside of the walls on either side of the Colonnade were carved during the time of Tutankhamun and depict the important annual Opet festival during which the god Amun visited his southern harem. The reliefs show the sacred barges being brought from Karnak to Luxor. Unfortunately, the reliefs have suffered greatly over time, while a high water table has led to salt encrustation. The desire of some tourists to touch reliefs has and continues to damage the scenes for future visitors.
Next is the court of Amenhotep IIIseen at night in the image at left). It was in this court that numerous statues were found buried in the late 1980s. surrounded by a double row of columns (
Beyond the court is the Hypostyle Hall containing 32 columns in four rows. At the rear is an area that was converted into a Roman shrine with Amenhotep III’s reliefs plastered over and painted with Christian themes.
At the southern end of the temple complex is the sanctuary which is surrounded by various chambers including a so-called Birth Room in which the birth of Amenhotep III is depicted in reliefs.
Around the beginning of the third century AD, Luxor Temple became the focus of a surrounding Roman military camp for perhaps 1,500 men.