Temples were perhaps the most prominent features of the Egyptian landscape. Even today when people visit Egypt it is usually the temples – Karnak and Luxor, Medinet Habu and the Ramesseum – that make the greatest impression on the visitors. Thousands of years after they were built, these structures still have the power and grandeur to astound the viewer.
The temples are enormous. The Temple of Amun at Karnak (see Plan 1) is a complex of stone buildings that sprawls over 100 hectares of the town of Luxor. The Hypostyle Hall is a veritable forest of ten-meter-wide sandstone columns that soar twenty-three meters into the air, like great reeds in a primordial swamp. Pylon after pylon demark different sections of the temple. The visitor is surrounded by innumerable scenes of the deities and the king – everywhere one looks, the gods are present (Fig. 16). Today, most of the walls are a soothing near monochrome of gray and tan, punctuated by a doorjamb or statue of red granite or a shrine of alabaster. Apart from the visitors who are craning their necks to look upward following the prompts of their guide, or are looking downward into their guidebooks, the only sign of life is the scuttle of a beetle or a tiny gecko across the path, or the stirring of the waters in the sacred lake.