Saturday, October 11, 2014

Egpyt, part 3, Luxor(part 1): Karnak Temple

I've fallen behind on updating here. Apologies!

Our hotel was located on the East Bank, right on the Nile. The pool and outdoor bar area overlooked the water and onto the West Bank. Just beyond the green, you could see the mountains in the distance(location for Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Kings). We were within walking distance of the Karnak Temple, and this was our destination on our first full day.

So, the Karnak Temple.

We walked through a bit of Luxor to get there, still quite empty due to the Eid holiday. Right before the actual temple, we crossed a large stone courtyard, partially overgrown with grass in places. The hustle was already beginning with a few people offering us tours of the grounds. I am quite lucky to have such an adventurous partner--J likes to go it alone where we can as opposed to booking with large tour companies. It's wonderful to explore at your own place and to not feel herded from bus to place to bus again. The freedom is wonderful. However, this trip taught me that there can be some "good" in touring with a larger group(and I put good in quotes here because it's not so much a good or bad thing but moreso just a thing worth noting). In larger groups, you're more likely to avoid the hustle. You stick out much more rolling solo or as a couple. I felt more ready for it this time, after my experience in Giza at the pyramids. Everyone wants to make that coin--some choose to do so in shadier ways like trying to get in the frame of your picture so they can charge you for their image. More on the hustle later.

Here, briefly, is where I interject to say I feel bad that I cannot sit here and describe all of the history surrounding the Karnak Temple. For that I point you in a few directions(side note: I am currently looking into books to read about this place, because I need to know more, asap):

We bought our tickets for the temple and stepped inside. The temple is partially hidden from the stone courtyard by two large, crumbling outer walls. Just outside of these walls are a row of ram-head sphinxes:

I want so badly to properly express the enormity of this place.

I fall back on the photographs when words fail me. And with this place they do, again and again. My mind couldn't process all that my eyes were seeing. There is so much to take in. Nearly every surface within the temple is covered in hieroglyphics. And when I say covered, I mean covered.

It was nearly impossible to get a bad photo once we walked into the great hall. The rows of columns and sunlight created beautiful areas of light and dark. Grooves in the etchings became deeper in the shadows and figures seemed to extend themselves out to you.

It is, by far, the most fantastic thing I've ever seen. At times I would stop and run my fingers over the deep grooves in stone, each line connecting to make a picture, to tell a story. I thought of the person who made it, who must have wondered who might see this someday in the far off future. Some images and areas were destroyed and redone, depending on which king/queen ruled at the time. I wondered which parts were missing...what the emptiness might look like whole again.

I was enthralled with what wasn't there as much as what was.

Paint remained in some places in the temple...places where sun rays could not contort to reach:

Things learned:

- never follow a man with a gun behind a walled area of the temple, even if he beckons you. Even if he's a cop.

- tourism seems to be starting up again. We didn't run into any Americans, but plenty of Europeans as well as people from China and Japan. More than likely there will be at least one tourist wearing a ship captain's hat, for reasons very unknown.

- if you go here, get ready to have a sore neck the following day. You will be looking up and turning circles to take it all in, but the ache around the edges is so, so worth it.

- at the Karnak Temple I did not feel small as much as I felt at peace. I'd like to explain this a bit, as it might seem like a strange statement. There are things that I have been confronted with/exposed myself to, both natural and manmade, that have made me feel the exactness of my size in all of this. The ocean, for instance. Once I'm in it, feet off the bottom, I feel so small--a speck, a tiny not-even-a-dot thing. Maybe it's the water, the weightless feeling. There are cruel people that might have made me feel small, or too large and cluttery, a striding chaos in their way. I wish I had the words for it...Karnak made me feel very peaceful, very understanding, very...full of heart. I don't know how to express that very well, other than taking this space to note the calm and magic I felt there. I felt inspired. I felt alright. Hopeful even. A magic, yes. Certainly a magic.

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