Hidden Karnak – Priest’s Houses

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.

The priests lived somewhere what their accommodation was like. Well it is still there. At the back of the Scared Lake underneath the Sound and Light show stage there are the remains of the priest’s houses. About the size of small house there are several homes along the line of the stage above. On the best preserved has a stone lintel with his name on it. There is a medium size room about 20 sq meters leading to another room the same size; there are also steps up either to another floor or a roof. There are stone column bases so quite wealthy dwellings. The mud brick is very think and even on a warm day in the shadow of the wall it is quite a lot cooler, with a roof it would have been a pleasant place and being slightly up the hill it would have caught the breeze. It is interesting to note that recent research by Manchester University has revealed heart disease, high cholesterol and cancer in exactly this group of people. Few people in Ancient Egypt had a diet rich in red meat but the priests certainly. The offerings made at the temples meant they lived rather well whilst the poor had a more restricted diet. This gave rise to diseases which were thought to be exclusive to modern man but have recently be revealed as old as the pyramids themselves.

Karnak is littered with block yards, the biggest being between the temple of Amun and Khonsu. In these yards you can get lot closers to scenes and architectural features that normally give you a crick in the neck and need binoculars to see. It would be easy to spend days going round them finding their hidden treasures. In the Open Air Museum you will see groups being assembled prior to being reassembled. The Red Chapel of Hatshepsut was in the block yard for years. I saw it in 1979 before being reassembled in the centre of this museum. There is a wonderful Egyptian man called Ahmed with an enormous moustache who I have seen working with line drawings and his eye matching blocks and finding missing pieces. The French have been organising this for years and their work is superb. 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.