Hidden Karnak – Ptah Temple

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.

If you exit the Hypostyle Hall on the north wall and follow the path you will come to the small temple of Ptah. Yes I know the tour guides tell you that Karnak was dedicated to Amun, Mut and Khonsu but there are many satellite temples dedicated to other Egyptian gods and goddesses. Ptah is one of these.

BTW on the way there you will go past some chapels built by the God’s Wives of Amun, these are in the process of being excavated and reconstructed (2010/11) and are well worth a closer look. Girl power started in Ancient Egypt; women were incredible powerful compared to Ancient Roman or Ancient Greece. Women were in charge of their destiny, could own land and hold important positions of power. God’s wife of Amun was one of these roles. Its origins might be sexual with the woman invigorating the god either visually or by hand. The chapels are from a much later period when the position was both political and powerful. These ladies ruled Thebes and weld considerable economic power judging by the monuments of their stewards like Pabasa.

After a short walk you get to the temple of Ptah. This is a combination of Ptolemaic and early New kingdom buildings. BTW a quick tip on recognising Ptolemaic inscriptions, the ladies have improbably large boobs which defy gravity, the cartouches and full of hieroglyphs as these are not natural Egyptian names that can be represented by three glyphs but transliterations that need many glyphs. Finally the decoration is busy, like a cake decorator that was given a new icing gun as a present and wants to try every single nozzle. There is hardly an inch of space.

The guardians at this temple love to contribute to your experience and will let you on the roof and also they do this little trick. They will let you in the sanctuary, there were three dedicated to Ptah, Nefertum and Sekhmet. There is still a statue in the Sekhmet shrine. What they do is let you in the darken shrine and then suddenly the statue is lit up. They use a mirror to reflect sunlight on to the statue through a hole in the roof. It is a wonderful experience and does give you sense of the magic and mystery of Ancient Egyptian religion. 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.