Hidden Karnak – Botanical Room of Tuthmosis III

Karnak is part of the world largest open air museum, Luxor or Ancient Thebes, home of many Egyptian Gods and Goddesses and built by various Egyptian Pharaohs like Ramses II and Tutankhamen and in my opinion better than the Egyptian pyramids. For many visitors, it’s one of the essential things to do in Luxor.

The Ancient Egyptian temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt is the largest religious site in the world and yet most tour groups go round in about an hour. A standard family holiday package or Nile cruise often includes a visit. They go down the central axis to the holy of holy’s and then to the cafe at the sacred lake but there is so much more to this site than that brief glimpse can give you. Let me show you round Hidden Karnak.

Tuthmosis III is without question my favourite pharaoh. I find him a very interesting character with his unique tomb, controversial accession to the throne, army career and the Botanical Room. This is right at the back of the main temple of Amun at Karnak. Go past the Holy of Holies, through the Middle Kingdom area and get to his festival hall. This has the rather phallic looking columns, supposed to be like tent poles they give me a completely different impression. However it is really interesting because it has a lot of colour and shows damage by Akhenaton during the Amarna period. There is also some rather interesting graffiti Champolleon (sic). I did not spell that wrong, that is exactly how it is written. Of course it should be Champollion I suspect your average tourist, even at those times did not come to Egypt with a stone masons hammer and chisel in his back pack. Personally I think there was an Egyptian sitting there, much like today, offering his services for some baksheesh. He knew about Napoleon and thought the name was spelt the same.
Anyway that is a digression go out of this hall towards the East, you will climb over a small wooden stair and then you are in the botanical room. There is another room leading off it. Round the walls of this room are animals, birds and plants carved in exquisite low relief. This is a record of the unusual and exotic things Tuthmosis saw on his army campaigns. Similar to Napoleons Description de la Egypt. This highly successful army man was sufficient interested in all thing scientific to want to record them. He must have taken artists along with him on his campaigns like Napoleon. The second room is even more interesting because of the niches. One is completely restored and it is long and low. What on earth would fit in there? A statue niche would be thin and high. My own personal theory is that this was a display case. That the real thing either alive or dead was contained in these niches. It looks just like a museum or natural history room.
Karnak is part of the world largest open air museum, Luxor or Ancient Thebes, home of many Egyptian Gods and Goddesses and built by various Egyptian Pharaohs like Ramses II and Tutankhamen and in my opinion better than the Egyptian pyramids. For many visitors, it’s one of the essential things to do in Luxor.

Jane Akshar is an Egyptologist and lives in Luxor, Egypt. If you want to see any of the sites mentioned in article and enhance your holiday in Egypt, please contact us.