ancient thebes with its necropolis has been on the unesco heritage list since 1979. thebes was the capital of egypt at the height of its greatest power and magnificence, the middle and new kingdoms that lasted over a thousand years (from 2130 to 1070 bc). it contains the finest examples of ancient egyptian history, art and religion.
it includes two temples, of karnak and luxor, as well as valley of kings and valley of queens. throughout the years hundreds of rulers glorified the city of thebes with architecture, obelisks and temples. thebes of the living took place on the right bank of nile, with temples of karnak and luxor as the finest example of egyptian culture. death took celebration on the left bank of the river nile.
i have visited ancient thebes in august last year. it was one of those places where i could feel the history. unfortunately, we did not get to visit the temple of luxor, but we did see the valley of the kings, the temple of the queen hatshepsut and temple of karnak.
our first stop was the valley of the kings, the necropolis of the pharaohs of the new kingdom. the valley stands on the west bank of the nile, opposite thebes (modern luxor), within the heart of the theban necropolis. from the 1500 bc the tombs of the pharaohs were carved deep into the hills in thebes; however that did not stop the thieves to steal the treasures kept in them. nevertheless, the structures remain, with spectacular corridors and rooms beautifully decorated with funeral symbols of the journey to the underworld, with images and rituals intended to assist the pharaohs in the afterlife. we have paid a visit to three tombs, and we weren’t deceived. the only flaw in the plan was that we couldn’t take pictures.
quite close to the valley of the kings is site mortuary temple of the queen hatshepsut, beneath the cliffs at deir el bahari on the west bank of the nile. it is widely considered to be one of the “incomparable monuments of ancient egypt”, as well as the only example of the classical architecture in egypt.
in the temple itself, one may find column of the divine birth of hatshepsut, as well as various sculptures of the queen, where she gets represented very masculine, even with the beard.
the last stop in our journey through ancient thebes was the temple of karnak, a vast open-air museum and the largest ancient religious site in the world. unlike the valley of the kings and the temple of hatshepsut, it is site on the right bank of the river nile, so called “thebes of the living”. the karnak complex is composed of three temples: one consecrated to mut (mother goddess of egypt and wife of amon), one to warrior god montu and one to amon.
i have to say that among the 42 unesco heritage sites i have visited so far (yes, now there is 42 of them!), none impressed me as much as ancient thebes, not even the pyramids i visited a couple of days before. it is one of those places where you could let your mind wander through the past centuries, or even better, past millenniums. i hope i’ll have the honour to visit this heritage site one more time before i die.
of course, we couldn’t go to ancient thebes dressed in our everyday clothes. firstly, we had to wear a light & cotton dresses and preferably to cover our heads. so we decided to make the best out of it.
ps. all the pictures were taken by tarik&me in august 2012.