One of my favourite UNESCO world heritage sites so far has to be Ancient Thebes and the Necropolis. Although now I appear to be following a career in Geography, my passion when I was younger was Egyptology. I studied the subject as part of my undergraduate degree, and took a trip to Luxor in 2005. It was part of this trip that provided the inspiration for my undergraduate dissertation research into tomb decoration in the Valley of the Nobles.
Thebes was the capital city for Egypt for the Middle and New Kingdoms, and remained the ceremonial centre for many dynasties in Egyptian history. On the East bank, temples are dotted throughout the landscape, while on the West Bank tombs and mortuary temples dominate the landscape.
”Thebes contains the finest relics of the history, art and religion of ancient Egypt, of which it was the capital in its period of greatest splendour. Hundred of sovereigns, from pharaohs to Roman emperors, glorified the city with architecture, obelisks and sculpture. The exaltation of life found expression in the Thebes of the Living, identifiable in the fabulous site of Luxor and Karnak, on the right bank of the Nile, the site of the temples dedicated to the divine triad of Montu, Amon and Mut, while the celebration of death took shape in the Thebes of the Dead.” UNESCO
Some important sites which are to be found here include:
- The temple of Luxor, built by Amenhotep III and Ramesses II, was connected to the great sanctuary of Karnak by a boulevard lined by sphinxes that led to its entrance. The temple sites on athe site of an older sanctuary built by Hatshepsut and deciated to the Theban triad of Amun, Mut and Khons.
- The temple complex of Karnak, is spectacular combination of santuaries, kiosks, hypostyle halls and obelisks, dedicated to the Theban gods, and Pharaohs. The site is around 1.5km by 800m meaning there it can take quite some time to explore properly. Built, added to, dismantled, restored, enlarged, and decorated over a period of nearly 1500 years, Karnak was the most important place of worship in Egypt during the height of Theban power was given the name ‘Ipet-Isut’ which literally means ‘The Most Perfect of Places’.
- Temple of Hatshepsut, built into the limestone cliffs, was excavated in 1891. Although the temple was vandalised during the Amarna Period (by the Pharaoh Akhenaten who broke away from the traditional Egyptian religious beliefs to worship the sun god Aten) many of the temples features still remain. Hatshepsut, one of the few (or as many believe, the only) female pharaohs. She ruled as Pharaoh for around 20 years and her reign is considered a time of peace, stability and growth for Egypt. In some reliefs she is shown in the regalia of Pharaoh, including the false beard, while in other scenes she is clearly female.
- Colossi of Memnon. All that remains of the funerary temple of Amenhotep III (which is thought to have been larger than Karnak),
- The tombs of the pharaohs and nobles, priests and princesses hidden in the mountains forming the great cemeteries of al-Asasif, al-Khokha, Qurnet Mura, Deir al-Medina, the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. Among the underground tombs of the Valley of Kings.
I was fortunate enough to experience a ride in a hot air balloon over the West Bank at sunrise. Breathtaking views, and such a tranquil ride.
The sites mentioned here are but a few that make up the Ancient Thebes UNESCO site and I would encourage you to explore them in more depth.
- You can view more images of Luxor and the UNESCO site on Flickr here.
- You can find out more about this UNESCO site on their website here.