Augustine's Luxor Photo Journal - January 5-12, 2005
photos and text ©copyright Natalie d'Arbeloff 2005
Luxor Temple is on the East Bank, facing the Nile along the Corniche, and the atmosphere here is very different from the other-worldly West Bank. Only a low wall separates this sprawling monument from the honking city traffic, the unceasing flow of tourists, the hotels and shops and travel agents and banks. You buy a ticket from a window in the wall and amble in through a desultorily guarded gate. I spent half a day there, wandering around or sitting in the baking sun, feeling a bit feverish and removing one layer after another of the clothes I had put on in the chilly morning. Everything here seemed intensely familiar and oppressively heavy. All that power and majesty, the colossal scale and relentless decorating of every stone surface designed to emphasize our insignificance in comparison with the god-kings (and queen) who conceived of these tributes to themselves.
This fabulous avenue of sphinxes used to lead all the way (about 1.2 miles or 2 kilometres) to Karnak Temple and must have been a spectacular sight during the annual Opet Festival , when it was believed that the Pharaoh was transformed into a god, merging with his Ka or divine double.
What I loved most here were the clumps of palm trees against the sky, just as spectacular as any man-made artworks and reminiscent of them. Look at the small tree on the right of the above smiling sphinx: doesn't it seem to have hieroglyphs incised into its trunk? Did some prankster carve them there? Or did nature say: anything you can do I can do differently? Over the centuries, travellers have had the cheek to scratch their names and the dates (I saw some signatures dated 1898) of their visits on the walls of these sacred temples. Why shouldn't nature do the same, on its own creations?