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General Information About Karnak
Karnak, known as the fortified city of Ancient Egypt, is a religious center located north of Luxor, in the ancient city of Thebes, located on the east bank of the Nile River.
This enclosure housed the most important religious complex of the ancient Egyptians, which was embellished over two millennia by different pharaohs to honor Amun, the great god of the new empire, with the intention of winning his favor.
This is why incredible buildings and obelisks are found in the enclosure that competed for the attention of this God, who was the main one of the Egyptian pantheon.
The roads that connect the different sacred sites of Karnak are guarded by ram-headed sphinxes and in ancient times they officiated as protectors of the sanctuary.
Although today what we can appreciate are the ruins of this impressive center of worship, even so, these are a wonderful sample of the imagination of the ancient settlers, their ways of relating to the divine, their rituals and their social stratification.
Karnak: The Mansion of Amun-Re
The modern town of Karnak stands where more than four thousand years ago the king of the 11th dynasty, Intef II, began work on the temple of Amun-Re in the city of Thebes.
The construction of the Karnak temple became the focal point that led scores of pharaohs to create and remodel every corner of this spectacular cult center for two thousand years.
That is why researchers found their paradise in Karnak and marveled in the 18th and 19th centuries at this prolific evidence of Egyptian culture.
In fact, to date archaeologists have cataloged around two hundred structures and have managed to trace fabulous cultural and historical aspects from them.
One of these fascinating aspects is the fact that the ancient Egyptians did not go to the temple of Karnak to pray, since this was the mansion of God, and the priests were not in charge of attending to the people, but to God, for that reason they were called "the servants of God."
Egyptian temples were built after a series of rituals that sought to purify the space that was later to be consecrated, and the Karnak temple, located in this region, was no exception.
The first ritual that was carried out consisted of the "stretching of the rope", through which the priests oriented the main axes of the temple taking into account geographical features and astronomical points.
This allowed that in Karnak the orientation of its axes was made taking into account where the sun rises during the winter solstice. In this way, when standing at the entrance of the temple between December 20 and 23, it is possible to observe how the sun rises over the eastern door "Bab el-Makhara".
Another ritual consisted of spreading plaster so that the area becomes more “pure” and digging foundation trenches, making adobe bricks and burying them in these foundation deposits in order to commemorate the construction and obtain the blessing of the Gods.
Likewise, once the construction was finished, an inaugural rite was to clean the site with fumigations and readings of sacred texts.
Worshiping the Hidden: Sacred Traditions at Karnak
Amun Re, the God whose home was Karnak, was also called "the hidden one" and much of his symbology and worship rituals were oriented to a practice related to this name.
To mention an example, the image of this God, who began as a religious entity in the city of Thebes and ended up becoming the main God of the Egyptian pantheon, was kept in the sanctum sanctorum.
The sanctum sanctorum was the most reserved space in the temple in a large boat that received the name of Userhat. Thanks to the discovery of ancient texts, it is stipulated that this boat was made entirely of gold and topped with pure silver and contained a gigantic golden altar inside.
In the celebrations of Thebes, such as the Beautiful Festival of the Valley, in which the Egyptians honored their dead, or the festival of Opet, celebrated in honor of the God Amun, the boat of the God was moved up the Nile to a dock that through a channel it connected with the river.
At present, this pier, which allowed the docking of the boats that transported the Userhat, can be visited without any problem, as it is perfectly preserved. And it is curious to observe how the path that connects this pier with the temple is guarded by the sphinxes, great protectors of the hidden.
Another of the customs that reinforced this idea of opacity about the God, was the fact that the inhabitants could not enter the sacred precinct on foot, so they used symbolic intermediaries to communicate their requests to the supreme.
These intermediaries were the statues of Amenhotep son of Hapu, a wise man of antiquity. The Thebans approached these statues and asked for the intervention of God through prayers and caresses.
Typical Food and Drink in Karnak
Karnak is an incredible destination to learn about Egyptian culture, not only for its wonderful archaeological treasures but also for its exquisite cuisine, which will allow you to discover the most exotic flavors of this culture and discover its symbolic heritage in bites.
One of the typical Egyptian dishes that we recommend you try is Ful medames, considered the national dish. This is prepared from "ful" beans and is usually consumed at breakfast time accompanied by pita bread. If you have the opportunity to try it, do not hesitate to take it, you will love it.
Another dish that we recommend is Kushari, a recipe that stands out for its copiousness and its strange combination of ingredients, as it contains both rice and lentils, as well as pasta, chickpeas, vegetables and a large amount of spices (depending on the hand that prepares it). ). But fear not, because this unusual combination in other parts of the world has an exquisite result.
Also, we invite you to taste Fatteh, a dish made from beef or chicken, rice, garlic and layers of dry bread dipped in broth. This traditional recipe is usually baked in the oven and is sometimes served with yogurt and nuts. A true delight that you must include in your itinerary.
As for drinks, one of the most typical is Shay tea, a delicious strong black tea that we encourage you to try.
And for dessert, be sure to order Kanafeh, a cake made from semolina noodles, butter, cream cheese, and nuts. An Egyptian delight that if you are a lover of sweets you cannot fail to include in your trip.
Sights of Interest in Karnak
To travel to Karnak is to fully immerse yourself in the ancient Egyptian civilization and absorb its culture and worldview. In fact, Karnak was created by the ancient Egyptians on behalf of the newly created universe, and perfectly reflects the myth of the primordial hill.
According to this myth, this hill emerged from the waters of Nun, the chaotic primordial ocean. That is why the gigantic wall that surrounds the Karnak temple is made up of bricks placed in such a way that they create a wave pattern.
Likewise, within the enclosure, the wonders found there follow this order dictated by their religious beliefs.
Here we mention the most outstanding places of interest in Karnak, so you do not miss a thing during your trip:
- Sacred Lake, this was used for different ceremonies and owes its beauty to the remodeling carried out by Pharaoh Taharqa between the years 690 and 664 BC.
- Temple of Karnak, the jewel of Karnak endowed with numerous temples, monuments, obelisks and chapels.
- Temple of Amenhotep IV, one of the most outstanding architectural treasures in the area.
- Temple of Khonsu, it is an open-air museum where the son of God Amun was worshiped.
- Temple of Ramses II, a temple where this royal figure was worshiped.
- Temple of Osiris and Opet, it is a chapel erected to worship the female deity of Opet, which was later restructured to be a temple dedicated to Osiris, god of fertility and resurrection.
- Kiosk of Sesostris, an architectural treasure where the festival of Heb Sed was celebrated, when the pharaohs increased their spiritual and physical power.
- The Obelisk of Hatshepsut, a wonderful temple built by the queen, Hatshepsut's widow, to show her great power.
What to Give If You Travel to Karnak
If you are planning a trip to Karnak and you are one of those who enjoy bringing a gift to your loved ones, you should know that in this fabulous destination you will find lots of specialized shops where you can find the most iconic Karnak gifts.
Some of the best options are the statuettes that represent the most outstanding jewels of Karnak, such as the obelisks or the different monuments.
Likewise, a great option is papyri, especially if you take into account that the fabulous Egyptian civilization was the cradle of writing. One way to make this present even more amazing is to personalize it with something written by you. Go ahead and create your own hieroglyphics and create a dedication in code!
Cultural Aspects of Karnak
If you travel to Karnak you must take into account some cultural aspects. To begin you should know that the most widespread religion in Egypt is Islam. For this reason you will find that people, and especially women, abide by certain dress codes, such as the use of a veil that covers their hair and part of their face.
If you want to visit the main attractions of this site, especially those of a religious nature, you must therefore adapt your clothing. We recommend that you wear clothes that cover your legs and arms and bring a scarf to cover your hair.
Likewise, if you go to eat at a restaurant, take food with your right hand, don't finish your plate unless you want more to be served, and don't forget to praise the food. These are customs that denote respect for the Egyptians.
What to See and Do in Karnak
Karnak is a wonderful destination for the most curious travelers, as its incredible archaeological and architectural jewels constitute one of the most outstanding heritage sites in all of Egypt.
Are you looking to marvel at the most incredible architectural jewels? Do you want to know impressive Archaeological Discoveries? Do you want to taste exquisite cuisine in one of the most mythical places in Egypt?
If your answer is "yes", in Greca we have several proposals for tourist packages to Karnaki, which you can modify and adapt according to your needs and times.
There are travel packages for all tastes. Choose your own adventure according to your needs!