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The Temple Sites of Karnak and Luxor in Egypt

After resting from our early morning balloon ride, it was time for Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple. Of all the amazing sites we wanted to visit in Egypt, these temples ranked just barely behind Abu Simbel in things we were piss-yourself-excited to see.

Statues and columns at Karnak Temple in Egypt
The late afternoon sun turned parts of Karnak Temple orange
Pharaoh statues at the Temple of Karnak in Egypt
Pharaoh statues at Karnak Temple

Karnak is the second most visited historical site in Egypt, and it’s enormous–probably due to the 30 pharaohs who contributed to its buildings. In certain places, there are columns that are over three stories tall and about 3200 years old. It’s hard not to be extremely impressed by the grandeur.

Carvings and reliefs line the temple walls
Carvings and reliefs line the walls
Colored cartouches on the underside of an arch at Karnak Temple
Some carvings that are protected — like this one on the underside of an arch — still have their original color

You could spend all day wandering Karnak…if you didn’t pass out from the heat. Some of its most remarkable features include Hatshepsut’s obelisk (the tallest in the world when it was made), the avenue of ram-headed sphinxes and the giant scarab statue. Trust us, you will be in awe.

Scarab statue in Karnak Temple with obelisks
Images or scarab beetles were popular in ancient Egypt

During our visit, we had the interesting experience of being stopped several times by families asking to take photos with us. Our tour guide had warned us that it might happen, but it was still a bit unusual.

Meeting local people at the Temple of Karnak
Awkwardly posing with a local Egyptian family

Given the political situation, tourists were (and still are) rare, and some Egyptians want a record of the tourists (particularly non-Arabs) that they have met. Most of the groups were very nice and thankful for our time.

The only creepy thing came when Laura and her sister were stopped by three men in their mid-20s. They thought the men were asking them to take a photo of their group, but it turned out that each one of the men wanted a photo with each one of the women. When one of the guys put his head on Laura’s shoulder, they knew they needed to leave…and quickly. We stuck pretty close together for the rest of the visit.

After Karnak Temple, we visited the NGO Animal Care Egypt (ACE). This group takes care of injured and neglected animals while educating animal owners throughout the city about humane treatment.

Horses in a stable at Animal Care Egypt
Visiting the animals at Animal Care Egypt (ACE)

They’re a good group of folks and are doing really important work in a part of the world where people rely heavily on animals for their livelihood.

Once the sun went down, we headed over to Luxor Temple, which is striking when it’s lit up at night.

Luxor Temple and obelisk lit up at night
The imposing front of Luxor Temple at night

Many of the features of Luxor Temple were similar to those at Karnak Temple. Two things that really stood out were the massive pharaoh statues at the front of the temple and the Avenue of the Sphinxes. Part of the Avenue, which originally connected the two temples, was restored in 2010.

Pharaoh statues at the Temple of Luxor at night
The massive statue in Luxor Temple

We also had the opportunity to take some panoramic photos in a part of the temple that is still being excavated. Some shady policemen led us away from the main tourist area to a part of the temple where statues were being restored. Truly, we were probably fine the whole time, but being isolated at night with two armed men wasn’t the most comfortable situation. The whole temple was beautiful, and the photos don’t do it justice.

Seated pharaoh statue at Luxor Temple
The temple is filled with huge, ancient statues

We concluded our excursion at the Snack Time across from the Luxor Temple for ice cream. It was the perfect conclusion to a long, awesome day.

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