Journal entry for Sunday October 25 1998
The strange thing about staying on the West Bank of Luxor is that we seemed to be spending much of our time travelling back and forwards over the river. When I’ve stayed on the East Bank it was always the other way round, crossing to the West. Today, having arranged to meet Sam at her hotel Kit and I again found ourselves on the early morning local ferry, crowded with schoolchildren, men on their way to work and women obviously bound for the market, with baskets of vegetables, crates of live chickens and trays of eggs around their feet.
We met up with Sam and took a taxi to Karnak, buying tickets at the kiosk where Kit was delighted to be able to use his newly acquired Youth Travel card and get in for half the price. Sam and I have tried to see the Temple of Montu before and failed as it is not open to the public, so today we decided to be sneaky and walked around the edge of Karnak village to the North where we hoped we could see over the wall. Montu was an early falcon-headed god of Thebes, from a time before the god Amun gained prominence here and it was to him that this now derelict precinct on the northern edge of Karnak was dedicated. The temple itself was originally built by Amenhotep III and added to over time by many different kings, though it now looks like little more than an enclosed block field. As we were standing on a low wall at the edge of the precinct, trying to make out shapes from the jumbled heaps of stone, a guard came over and said we could have a quick look inside, taking us to a part with some of the oldest blocks where we could see the cartouche of Amenhotep. Once there had been many small chapels and shrines dedicated to various deities but we could just about work out that the temple had been oriented north to south and see the huge Ptolemaic propylon gate on the northern edge that dominated the complex. After about ten minutes scrabbling around trying to read anything recognisable on the stones, we were asked to leave as the guard said he would get into trouble if we were seen here. After thanking him and handing over baksheesh we went out the way we had come and walked around the outside wall to look at the massive elaborate gateway. This area had once been a quay and there were a few remains of ram-headed sphinxes. It looked very similar to the pylon gateway on the southern side of Karnak.
The day was hot and the walk around the edge of Karnak had been quite long, so when we got back to the main gate we all headed over to the cafeteria on the edge of Karnak’s sacred lake for a drink. I love sitting here overlooking the calm mirror of water where I could imagine the priests who may once have purified themselves before taking part in daily rituals, but this morning the cafe was crowded so we soon moved away to show Kit some of our favourite parts of the temple. By mid-day the crowds were thinning, the groups of tourists having gone for lunch or on to other sites in their franticly busy day and it was lovely to have the temple almost to ourselves for a few hours and spend time discussing the reliefs at our leisure. After only a few days in Egypt Kit was already beginning to pick up hieroglyphs and was asking questions we had not before considered. It was gone 4.00pm by the time we left and the evening crowds were making their way back.