Journal: Friday 17 November 1996
It felt very good to be here in Luxor again after waiting for almost a year to come back. Our first visit today was to Karnak Temple, at that time my favourite place. I did the tour with my group and as we had time to ourselves afterwards I followed the walls around to the north to the Temple of Ptah, which I had not visited before. The original three sanctuaries were constructed by Tuthmose III and dedicated to the Memphite god, Ptah. It was restored by the Nubian king Shabaqo and later much added to by the Ptolemies and Romans. The north and centre sanctuaries were dedicated to Ptah and the southern one to his consort, the lion-headed goddess, Sekhmet (as well as to Hathor). Each one had it’s cult statue, although Ptah is now unfortunately headless. The southern shrine was usually kept locked, and inside there was a restored statue of Sekhmet, which I went to see after giving the guard a little baksheesh. The statue is in complete darkness except for a shaft of light coming down from an opening in the roof which made it very dramatic and powerful standing there alone as the guard opened the door. There is a tale of how local village women would, even in recent times, pray to this statue in order to conceive. She obviously commanded a great deal of respect.
We moved on to Luxor Temple, which was very crowded in the late morning as many of the tour groups arrive at that time. I have since discovered that early afternoon is the best time to see the temple as it is least likely to be busy then.
We had a brief visit to Luxor museum. The cachette exhibition had been recently opened and I especially wanted to see the collection of statues which had been found in the ‘Luxor Cachette’. These beautiful sculptures were unearthed when a colonnade at Luxor Temple was dismantled for reconstruction in 1989. They had been buried (for reasons unknown) in the floor of the courtyard where they lay forgotten for over 2000 years. Many of these statues today look as though they have just come out of a sculptor’s workshop. Later in the afternoon I visited Gaddi’s bookshop – perhaps a mistake as it contained dozens of Egyptology books and I could see myself spending a lot of money here. But for now I restrained myself and just browsed.
Back on the cruise boat in the evening we were treated to a display of Egyptian music and dancing. There was a band of traditional musicians, a belly-dancer and a Nubian folk dance troupe. The evening’s entertainment also included a wonderful Dervish dancer who whirled and whirled around with his dazzlingly colourful skirts in the air. I could have watched him all night but couldn’t help wondering how he didn’t get dizzy and fall over!