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Ramesses the Great, Father and Son
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The start of the 19th dynasty was a period that was about re-establishing the traditions of the Egyptian empire – and you can see that in the art of that period. Especially Seti I’s monuments, those at Abydos, Karnak, and his mortuary temple near the village of Gurna on Luxor’s West Bank all show the delicate raised reliefs and elegant style that this pharaoh was rightly famous for. So we start this tour at Seti’s mortuary temple, where the stunning reliefs will certainly have you in awe. And with some luck, the guardians will let us climb up on the roof to revel in the amazing view from there.

Next, we move on to Ramesses II’s mortuary temple, the Ramesseum. This impressive monument holds the famous fallen colossus that inspired Shelley’s poem Ozymandias, and inspires many fabulous pictures today. It was, once upon a time, the biggest freestanding statue in Egypt – and if you’ve seen the still-standing Colossi of Memnon, you know that is saying something! Ramesses’s temple has some magnificent reliefs, not because of the elegance of them like his father’s, but because of the subject matter: his battles against the Hittites at Kadesh and the siege of the fortress of Dapur are fascinating to puzzle out, even if they may not be completely truthful! But what pharaoh said happened, became history through the magical nature of the depictions, so… Other delights of this site include the surrounding temple buildings, which survive intact enough to give us a remarkable insight into what a hive of activity a temple such as this must have been.

Then, finally, as we move on to Ramesses’s son Merenptah’s mortuary temple, we see how decline is starting to set in. Merenptah already ruled in everything but name for the latter part of Ramesses’s 67-year reign, but in his own right, his rule was not that long. This period marked the steady decline that eventually led to Egypt being ruled by outsiders in the Third Intermediate Period – the Great Empire of Egypt had definitely seen its last glory days. Having said that, the scant remains of Merenptah’s temple hold some amazing relief work (a lot of which he pinched from Amenhotep III’s temple, just around the corner where those Colossi of Memnon stand as testimony to how great that temple must have been) as well as the famous Israel stela, the first historical reference to the land of Israel. There is also a museum with some magnificent exhibits.

Tip: combine this excursion with a visit to the truly awe-inspiring temple of Medinet Habu, one of the best-preserved temples in all of Egypt. This is the place where the last great Ramessid, Ramesses III (there were 11 in total) made his mark. Totally impressive.

Price: 45 euros per person
Price combined with Medinet Habu: 95 euros per person (also includes lunch, with tea and soft drinks)

Includes: set-up, transport, explanation, tickets


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