Well Preserved

Medinet Habu, near Luxor, Egypt

The main entrance and outer wall (first pylon) of Medinet Habu, the funerary temple of Ramses III near Luxor, Egypt.
The Approach

Touring Egypt 29: “Might I suggest….” My guide, Mr. Muhammad, did not think much of the normal tour, for which I had paid. This was our second day together, and he wanted to recommend a destination that would be better for my interests (read: obsessive photo addict). One pretty cool feature of touring in Egypt (unlike many parts of the world) is that every party gets their own individual tour. You will not be tossed into a bus with 25 other random tourists. If you are with a group, your guide will collect you and your group up with an appropriately sized vehicle (and driver). If you happen to be traveling alone, you may well get personal attention from a very knowledgeable and friendly guide and a private car and driver. Traveling alone here is a wonderful opportunity — a chance to ask your own questions and suggest itinerary changes or adjustments as you wish. What an extraordinary opportunity for an itinerant shutterbug.

Most tourists at Luxor take pretty standard tours. The package tour I signed up for on this day included a visit to the Valley of the Queens, but Mr. Muhammad felt that was a complete waste of time and suggested a different stop. I agreed and a few minutes found myself at Medinet Habu, the funerary temple of Ramses III. Ramses III was a builder who left temples to himself all over Egypt. His funerary temple was constructed extraordinarily well even by ancient Egyptian standards, on an impressively massive scale with extremely deep relief work and heiroglyphics that could swallow my fist. The temple is off the most popular tourist path and the construction is so lasting that many parts of the temple walls, columns, and ceilings still stand. Ceilings and many of the heiroglyphs still show traces of the original colors and stain, which would have been infused in plaster behind and around gems in the deep reliefs. Mr. Muhammad explained that the colors I saw (captured in these images) are mostly original and not restored. A local bedouin stands in a hallway of columns within the funerary temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu, near Luxor, Egypt.
Monumental Hall
Heiroglyphs wishing the pharaoh long and everlasting life adorn the walls of the funerary temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu, near Luxor, Egypt.
Long Life
I wandered the temple for hours. Mr. Muhammad tired and asked to meet me at the cafe across the street outside the temple walls when I was done. (On leaving, he also advised me sternly: “Those Arabs here, they are beggars. Do not let them show you things and do not give them money. We were together yesterday and I know you will find everything to photograph. They will only show you things you would find yourself, and for free.”) Of all the places I visited in Egypt, this was the most impressive. It is not the largest temple, nor is it most important. It is just one of probably hundreds of funerary temples built by pharaohs over a span of centuries. But it is quiet, uncrowded, remarkably preserved, and very impressive. Here, I first began to get a sense of ancient Egypt — of the scale and the layout of a typical temple, and of what it might have been like … in the day.

(Top [“The Approach”]: Nikon D70s with Nikkor VR zoom at 20mm, ISO 200, f/22 at 1/160 sec. with circular polarizer filter.)

(Middle [“Monumental Hall”]: Nikon D70s with Nikkor VR zoom at 20mm, ISO 200, f/13 at 1/40 sec.)

(Bottom [“Long Life”]: Nikon D70s with Nikkor VR zoom at 60mm, ISO 200, f/16 at 1/30 sec.)