on 28 May 2009
I bought this book in advance of my first trip to Egypt, having no knowledge of the country's ancient history. First impressions were mixed : it seemed more academic than I expected, but the illustrations made it easier to understand. Now that I am in Egypt (Thanks to wi-fi I'm writing this on the bank of the Nile) the book makes complete sense, and really brings the monuments and artifacts I've seen to life. It also points out the holes in the local guides knowledge (I never point it out - they've got to make a living!)
To summarise, if you're looking for a primer in Ancient Egyptian History, forget this book. If you're coming to Luxor for the first time, and want to see the country through the eyes of it's inhabitants more than 2500 years ago, buy it! You will need no other
Another very useful book from the AUC's (American University in Cairo) Egypt Pocket Guide series. This book focuses on the temples of Luxor's east and west banks of the Nile, as well as Dendera to the north.
It is a short travel guide, light-weight and easily portable. It helps the visitor to Luxor to understand and find their way around the various temples on both east and west banks, and gives really useful pointers for key aspects of the sites to look out for. There are excellent site plans, 3-D reconstructions and useful maps.
The contents are:
- Chronological Table
- Luxor, Ancient Thebes
- Reconstruction of Thebes
- Temple of Luxor
- Luxor Cachette
- Avenue of Sphinxes
- Karnak and its Temples
- Plan of the Temple of Amen-Ra
- 3-D representation of the Temple of Amen-Ra
- The Karnak Cachette
- Open Air Museum
- Feast of Opet
- The Colossi of Memnon
- Medinet Habu
- The Ramessseum
- The Deir el-Bahri complex
- The Temple of Sethos
- Museum of Luxor
- Mummification Museum
- The Temple of Dendera
There is a fold out map of Luxor's east bank in the front cover and one of the west bank in the back cover. The map of the east bank in my copy is slightly out of date for tourist information. For example, since a bridge was built across the Nile neither the tourist ferry nor the vehicle ferry operates, the Novotel hotel is now an Iberotel and the New Winter Palace hotel has been knocked down. But all the archaeological information on the map is correct.
The book's introduction is short but includes a chronological table with details of Pharaonic dynasties, individual pharaohs and dates for the New Kingdom (the period when the temples were developed) and a superb 2-page artist's impression of how both east and west banks might have looked.
The book then goes on to look at the temples of Luxor and Karnak on the west bank in some depth. These two vast temples take up half of the book and include lovely photographs, excellent annotated site plans and 3-D illustrations of the temples and aerial views. The text gives just enough information to explain some of the sites' histories and importance, and the features to look out for. One of the most useful sections of the book provides a way of understanding the development of the Temple of Karnak, which is a vast and very confusing site for the visitor. A double-spread plan of the site uses colours to show how the site evolved over time - it is the most digestible overview of the development of the site that I have seen. I was glued to it during a recent visit to Karnak. Other useful pages show how various temples on the east bank were linked by avenues of sphinxes, and explain the Opet festival scenes carved into both temples.
The remainder of the book covers the mortuary temples on the west bank, Dendera temple to the north of Luxor (a nice trip by boat), the Luxor Museum and the Mummification Museum.
In summary, if you want an easily digestible travel guide to the temples of Luxor you cannot go wrong with this short, articulate and well-illustrated book. It would make a great souvenir too.