Karnak’s Colored Columns

One of the things that struck me most on my recent visit to Luxor was to see just how much work the Egyptian authorities have done during the pandemic to clean, conserve and restore Egypt’s ancient monuments. In the almost-two-years since my last trip, it was great to see the opening of the Avenue of Sphinxes, the excavation of the Memorial Temple of Amenhotep III and the cleaning of Esna Temple to reveal its wonderful colored columns and ceiling. I have posted separately about all of these recently.

It’s fair to say though that seeing the work at Karnak Temple possibly impressed me the most.

I first visited Karnak as a 17-year old in 1984. I remember being staggered by its unimaginable size and the sheer gigantic scale of everything. Naturally, the Hypostyle Hall with its 134 towering sandstone columns made the biggest impression on me. I recall our guide telling us the temple was originally fully painted. I craned my neck back and peered up at the undersides of what remains of the roof, squinting to see the remains of the original color on some of the reliefs shaded from the bleaching effects of the sun. I tried to imagine what the entire temple must have looked like painted in bright hues. Tried, and failed.

Well, I’m happy to report that it no longer needs a stretch of the imagination to picture what it must have looked like. The authorities have used the last number of months to work on the enormous columns of the central colonnade to restore some of their color. It’s been subtly done. This short video shows you what it looks like now:

It’s not just the columns of the Hypostyle Hall that have been lovingly restored. I was also pleased to see the ram-headed sphinxes lined along both sides of the Open Court had received some much-needed attention. Our Egyptian friend told us that it was only when two of the sphinxes were removed and taken to Tahrir Square that the authorities realized quite how much they were in need of some TLC.

As ever, a visit to Karnak never disappoints. So, hats off to the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry for all the effort they continue to put into making the open-air museum of Luxor such a thrilling and rewarding place to visit.

With apologies to my English readers for the spelling of the word C O L O U R !! The text automatically converts to the American spelling, even when I try to change it back 🙂

Fiona Deal, author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt – Mysteries of modern and ancient Egypt – all available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both Kindle and paperback.

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