"Beyond a question, this ruin is the most stupendous relic of antiquity, the most grand achievement of human art, ancient or modern, that the world has seen." – American travel writer, William C. Prime, 1872.
Mr. Prime, visiting Egypt with his wife and friends, gushed over Karnak Temple's Great Hypostyle Hall when it was still choked with silt and rubble and some of the columns had tumbled. Imagine what he'd have to say if he could look at it today.
For a sense of scale, notice how tiny the local guardian looks compared to the massive columns.
The Hall began when King Seti I (Ramesses II's father) decided to turn the large open court between Pylons II and III into a huge stone papyrus swamp. The colossal petrified plants were reminiscent of the papyrus growing around the mound of creation, which rose above the primordial waters at the beginning of time. In this way the Hall became the symbolic place of the source of life.
During sacred occasions, such as the Opet Festival when the king's power and royal 'ka' (spirit) were renewed, a procession of priests carried the god Amun's sacred barque through the vast columns of the Hall. The god would emerge from the papyrus swamp, symbolically recreating the universe and delegating his ruler over Egypt to the King.
Personally, the Great Hypostyle Hall is one of my favourite places. I never tire of it. Jeff Burzacott, Editor.
Photo: Patrick Frilet
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