Karnak describes a vast conglomerate of ruined temples, chapels and other buildings of various dates. The name Karnak comes from the nearby village of el-Karnak. Karnak was ancient Ipet-isut, meaning “The Most Select (or Sacred) of Places.” Theban kings and the god Amun came to prominence at the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. From that time, the temples of Karnak were built, enlarged, torn down, added to, and restored for more than 2000 years.
The ancient Egyptians considered Ipet-isut as the place of the majestic rising of the first time, where Amun-Ra made the first mound of earth rise from Nun. At Karnak, the high priests recognized a king as the beloved son of Amun, king of all of the gods. The coronation and jubilees were also held here. Staffed by more than 80,000 people under Ramesses III, the temple was also the administrative center of enormous holdings of agricultural land.
The largest and most important group in the site is the central enclosure, the Great Temple of Amun proper. The layout of the Great Temple consists of a series of pylons of various dates. The earliest are Pylons 4 and 5, built by Tutmosis I, and from then on the temple was enlarged by building in a westerly and southerly direction. Courts or halls run between the pylons, leading to the main sanctuary.
The temple is built along two axes, with a number of smaller temples and chapels and a sacred lake. The northern enclosure belongs to Montu, the original god of the Theban area, while the enclosure of Mut lies to the couth and is connected with Amun’s precinct by an alley of ram-headed sphinxes. An avenue bordered by sphinxes linked Karnak with the Luxor temple, and canals connected the temples of Amun and Montu with the Nile.
Amenhotep IV, who changed his name to Akhenaten, erected several temples for his new state deity to the east of the central enclosure of Amun. The most conspicuous features of these temples were open courts surrounded by pillars and colossal statues of the king. The temples were dismantled in the post-Amarna period and the stone blocks reused in later structures, especially the pylons built by Horemheb.
“The Sound and Light Show at Karnak starts with a historical introduction covering the birth of the great city of Thebes and erection of the Karnak temple. The show also narrates the glorious achievements of some great Pharaohs. The spectators listen to a magnificent and poetic description of the artistic treasures and great legacy which the Karnak temple encloses.” The first show at 8pm on Friday and the second show at 9:15pm on Saturday are in English.