This morning we leave Cairo and fly to Luxor. Upon arriving we head directly to our first temple – actually a complex of temples at Karnak. I know I’m betraying my age, but every time I hear the name, I can’t help thinking of Johnny Carson’s clairvoyant routine as the Great Karnak.
I couldn’t have predicted how impressed I would be by the scale of Karnak. I’ve seen some impressive ruins in my time, but nothing this massive nor this ancient. The members of our group, perhaps for obvious reasons, are quite taken with the stories of Queen Hatshepsut, who passed herself off as a king. We’re delighted that the obelisk she built here is taller than her son’s, who tried to efface her memory. Sometimes Time is a true and just judge; today, her son is just a minor player in her story.
Before lunch, we board the MS Monaco, which will be our home during our cruise up the Nile. A few hours’ rest is most welcome after 2-1/2 full days of sightseeing. In the early evening, we head to Luxor Temple, which is illuminated after dark. It’s a charming and romantic way to see it.
Luxor Temple is a microcosm of the cultures that have swept through and dominated Egypt over the millennia. There are, of course, the “chapels” to the Holy Trinity of Egyptian gods – Isis and Osiris and their son Horus. Alexander the Great appears in carvings on the temple walls, crowned as a ruler of Egypt after the Macedonian conquest. You can see the remnants of a Last Supper fresco, plastered over the Egyptian carvings in Roman times, when part of the temple was converted into an early Christian church. And above the temple, attached at a time when most of it was buried in the sands, is a mosque, still open to the faithful today.
We return to Karnak Temple for another sound and light show. This one progresses through the temple, and the voices of the principal historical characters tell us their stories. While he doesn’t howl during the triumphant music, another mangy dog travels with us from section to section as the show progresses, sitting on the old stones and scratching at fleas. Apparently, he was booked only for a non-speaking role.