The Temple of Luxor is interesting for several reasons, because it is older than Phylae, it is largely intact though defaced, because the architecture is typical New Kingdom instead of Ptolmaic and because the front of the temple is built by Ramesses II (1303-1213 BCE) with his exuberant love for enormous things with his image and name on them. This was a king who understood, as never before, the power of scale, the purpose of awe. Ramesses thought large, and this extended to his family, since he boasted that he was the father of more than 100 sons and 60 daughters. As I said before, the temple was built for the festival of Opet cementing the God-like status of the living pharoah. During the 18th Dynasty (1503-1292 BCE) the festival lasted eleven days, but had grown to twenty-seven days by the reign of Ramesses III (1186-1155 BCE) in the 20th Dynasty. At that time the festival included the distribution of over 11,000 loaves of bread, 85 cakes and 385 jars of beer. The procession of images of the current royal family began at Karnak and ended at the Temple of Luxor. By the late 18th Dynasty the journey was being made by barge, on the Nile River. Each god or goddess was carried in a separate barge that was towed by smaller boats.
When I visited Luxor last summer I arranged to have a hot air balloon tour of the city. As the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, Luxor has frequently been characterized as the “world's greatest open-air museum”, since the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor stand within the modern city on the east bank of the Nile. Immediately opposite, across the River Nile, lie the monuments, temples and tombs of the West Bank Necropolis, which includes the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens and the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Hot air balloons are a special treat, required to happen in the early morning since they depend on hot air to rise. Because these experiences begin in darkness followed by twilight and the early dawn, it is as if the city is revealed like the raising of a curtain in the theater, revealing its charms in a quiet succession of rose and gold. When available, balloon adventures are the perfect introduction to a new locale.
Pompey's Pillar is a Roman triumphal column in Alexandria, Egypt, and the largest of its type constructed outside the imperial capitals of Rome and Constantinople. The only known free-standing column in Roman Egypt which was not composed of drums, it is one of the largest ancient monoliths and one of the largest monolithic columns ever erected. The monolithic column shaft measures 67 feet (20.46 meters) in height with a diameter of almost 8 feet (2.71 meters) at its base. The weight of this single piece of red Aswan granite is estimated at 285 tons. When you include the base and capital, it is 88 feet (26.85) tall, just over half the width of a football field or 12 stories high. In the middle ages the Crusaders mistakenly believed that the ashes, or the remains, of the great Roman general Pompey were in a pot at the top of the column. Thus today it is called “Pompey's Pillar”. Erroneously dated to the time of Pompey, the Corinthian column was actually built in 297 CE, commemorating the victory of Roman emperor Diocletian over an Alexandrian revolt. The size and weight of the column (it is really huge up close) is probably the reason it has been preserved from antiquity.