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Luxor is a city in Upper (southern) Egypt and the capital of Luxor Governorate. The population numbers 376,022 (1999 survey), with an area of approximately 416 square kilometres (161 sq mi) . As the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, Luxor has frequently been characterized as the “world’s greatest open air museum”, as the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor stand within the modern city. Immediately opposite, across the Nile River, lie the monuments, temples and tombs on the West Bank Necropolis, which include the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. Thousands of international tourists arrive annually to visit these monuments, contributing a large part towards the economy for the modern city.
For the ancient settlement of Luxor, see Luxor was the ancient city of Thebes, the great capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom, and the glorious city of the God Amon-Ra. The city was regarded in the Ancient Egyptian texts as w3s.t (approximate pronunciation: “Waset”), which meant or “city of the sceptre” and also as t3 ip3t (probably pronounced as “ta ipet” and meaning “the shrine”) and then, in a later period, the Greeks called it Thebai and the Romans after them Thebae. Thebes was also known as “the city of the 100 gates”, sometimes being called “southern Heliopolis” (‘Iunu-shemaa’ in Ancient Egyptian), to distinguish it from the city of Iunu or Heliopolis, the main place of worship for the god Ra in the north. It was also often referred to as niw.t,which simply means “city”, and was one of only three cities in Egypt for which this noun was used (the other two were Memphis and Heliopolis); it was also called niw.t rst, “southern city”, as the southernmost of them. The importance of the city started as early as the 11th Dynasty, when the town grew into a thriving city, renowned for its high social status and luxury, but also as a center for wisdom, art, religious and political supremacy. Montuhotep II who united Egypt after the troubles of the first intermediate period brought stability to the lands as the city grew in stature. The Pharaohs of the New Kingdom in their expeditions to Kush, in today’s northern Sudan, and to the lands of Canaan, Phoenicia, and Syria saw the city accumulate great wealth and rose to prominence, even on a world scale. Thebes played a major role in expelling the invading forces of the Hyksos from Upper Egypt, and from the time of the 18th Dynasty through to the 20th Dynasty, the city had risen as the major political, religious and military capital of Ancient Egypt. The city attracted peoples such as the Babylonians, the Mitanni, the Hittites of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), the Canaanites of Ugarit, the Phoenicians of Byblos and Tyre, the Minoans from the island of Crete. A Hittite prince from Anatolia even came to marry with the widow of Tutankh amun, Ankhesen amun. The political and military importance of the city, however, faded during the Late Period, with Thebes being replaced as political capital by several cities in Northern Egypt, such as Bubastis, Sais and finally Alexandria. However, as the city of the god Amon-Ra, Thebes remained the religious capital of Egypt until the Greek period. The main god of the city was Amon, who was worshipped together with his wife, the Goddess Mut, and their son Khonsu, the God of the moon. With the rise of Thebes as the foremost city of Egypt, the local god Amon rose in importance as well and became linked to the sun god Ra, thus creating the new ‘king of gods’ Amon-Ra. His great temple, at Karnak just north of Thebes, was the most important temple of Egypt right until the end of antiquity. Later, the city was attacked by Assyrian emperor Assurbanipal who installed the Libyan prince on the throne, Psammetichus. The city of Thebes was in ruins and fell in significance. However, Alexander the Great did arrive at the temple of Amun, where the statue of the god was transferred from Karnak during the Opet Festival, the great religious feast. The grandeur of Thebes would still remain a site of spirituality, and attracted numerous Christian monks in the Roman Empire who established monasteries amidst several ancient monuments including the temple of Hatshepsut, now called Deir el-Bahri (“the northern monastery”).
The Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, announced that a tunnel in the tomb of King Seti I (1314-1304 BC) has been discovered by Dr. Zahi Hawass and his team in the Valley of the Kings. They’ve been searching for this tunnel for over twenty years in the West Bank necropolis. Dr. Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and the head of the mission, finally succeeded in completely excavating the 174m long tunnel after several seasons of work that began in November 2007. The tunnel was cut into the bedrock near the end of the beautifully decorated tomb of Seti I. In addition to excavating the tunnel, the team braced the walls and ceiling with metal supports. They also built a wooden walkway over the original stone staircase of the tunnel to preserve it and installed a mining car system to remove rubble from the team’s excavations. During their work, the mission uncovered many shabtis and pottery fragments that dated to the Eighteenth Dynasty (1569-1315 BC). Several limestone ostraca fragments, as well as a small boat model made of faience were also found. During their excavation of the staircase, the team found that three of the steps were decorated with red graffiti.
The only other excavation of the tunnel took place in 1960 under the direction of Sheikh Ali Abdel Rassoul. His team was able to reach a depth of 136m but they had to stop their excavation because it was too hard to breath. Upon reaching the end of the 136m section, which had been partially excavated by Abdel-Rasoul's workmen, Dr. Hawass’s team were shocked to uncover a descending passage which measures 25.60m in length and 2.6m wide. The mission eventually uncovered a fifty-four step, descending staircase.
After the first descending passage, a second staircase measuring 6 meters long was cut into the rock. At the beginning of this passage the team found a false door decorated with hieratic text that reads: “Move the door jamb up and make the passage wider." These written instructions must have been left from the architect to the workmen who were carving out the tunnel. Dr. Hawass said that when he went inside the tunnel of King Seti I for the first time he noticed that the walls were well finished and that there were remains of preliminary sketches of decoration that would be placed on the walls. Unfortunately none of this was every completed. Dr. Hawass added that he was very surprised to find a second staircase inside the tunnel. It appears that the last step was never finished and the tunnel ends abruptly after the second staircase.
Dr. Hawass believes that the workmen and artists first finished the original tomb of Seti I during his twelve-year reign and then began to construct the tunnel. It appears that Seti I was trying to construct a secret tomb inside a tomb. It is likely that when Seti I died his son, Ramesses II (1304-1237BC), had to stop the work and bury has father. Dr. Hawass believes that Ramesses II continued where his father had left off and constructed his own tunnel within his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The Egyptian mission is currently working in the tomb of Ramesses II to preserve the wall paintings and to look for a similar tunnel to the one in the tomb of Seti I.
The statue was found beneath the southern false door of the tomb. The statue was found beneath the southern false door of the tomb, and even before the room had been opened, I could see the statue's crystal eyes gazing back at me. The statue shows Kai sitting on a high-backed chair. He wears a shoulder length wig, decorated with horizontal rows of curls. Each eye is framed in cooper, while his eyebrows are in raised relief. The lips are thin and finely drawn. The musculature of the body is very well defined and Kai's right arm is bent across his chest. His left arm is resting on his lap on top of his short, white shendyt-kilt. The base of the statue is decorated with five lines of hieroglyphic text which list Kai's title including the "Steward of the Great Estate." On either side of Kai are his two children. They are very small figures and barely reach to his knee caps. His daughter is sitting next to his left leg in a long white sheath dress. Kai's son is standing naked next to his right leg. Depictions of naked figures with their finger to their lips, was an ancient Egyptian artistic convention for depicting male children.