Secrets of Egypt's tombs and temples

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The Pyramids of Giza, the last surviving wonders of the ancient world, are undoubtedly Egypt’s most-visited attraction, and for good reason. But farther up the River Nile, the essential artery that blesses the otherwise barren sands of the Sahara with lush life, the tombs and temples of southern Egypt harbor their own complex riddles that lie in wait, ready to be unlocked.

Karnak

Egypt’s largest temple complex, Karnak was the Vatican of its day. Ten cathedrals could be stuffed inside the space, which covers more than 2 sq km and contains multiple temples, timeworn houses and a sacred pool for offerings and sacrifices. Some visitors never make it past the gargantuan Temple of Amun-Ra, the terrestrial ‘home’ of the king of the gods and father of the pharaoh, which sprouts with a forest of 10m-tall, hieroglyphic-covered columns (indeed, some might still be lost within this playground prime for playing hide-and-go-seek). But there’s plenty more to explore, though some areas are still being excavated.

The Karnak temple complex

Luxor Temple

Follow the nearly excavated avenue lined with sphinxes three kilometers from Karnak to Luxor Temple, anchored by two colossal statues of Ramses II, one of ancient Egypt’s greatest leaders who loved to show his power by plastering his face on the kingdom’s monuments. Set in the middle of the ancient capital of Thebes, Luxor Temple has been in almost continuous use as a place of worship since its construction in the 13th century BC. It was originally built to honor the pharaohs and gods idolized by the ancients, but if you look closely enough, you’ll find evidence of more modern religions.

Luxor Temple

Philae

At ancient Egypt’s southern frontier, the Temple of Isis on the island of Philae was one of the last pagan temples to operate after the arrival of Christianity. The rising seasonal waters of the Nile would partially submerge the temple, and the flooded remains were a favorite of Victorian explorers who would row their boats amongst the columns and kiosks. Dam construction projects in the 20th century threatened to drown the temple entirely, so after Unesco intervention, it was moved block by block to higher ground on a nearby island.

The Temple of Isis



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