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Madinat Habu - Luxor / Egypt

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Published on Dec 21, 2010

Madinat Habu is one of Egypt's best preserved and most interesting temples. Unfortunately, most tourists arrive here at the end of a long morning of sightseeing and rarely get more than a quick peek at this fascinating monument. The temple deserves better. It is one of the few monuments in Egypt to convey the emotional impact that religious art and architecture must have had for the ancient Egyptians. The site of Madinat Habu lies at the southern end of the Theban Necropolis and is surrounded by a thick wall, 210 x 315 meters (682 x 1024 feet) that defines a 66,150 square meters (698,000 square feet) enclosure. Its name is Arabic and means "The City of Habu," perhaps a reference to the great Dynasty 18 architect, Amenhetep, son of Hapu, whose memorial temple lies 300 meters (1,000 feet) to the north. Another suggestion is that it derived from the word
hebu, the ancient name for the ibis, symbol of the god Thoth, who has a Ptolemaic Period temple a few hundred meters to the south. In earlier times, the site was called Djeme, after a nearby town. Djeme may come from a word meaning "troops" or "young men," and a play on that word, tchau-muwe, meaning "fathers and mothers," was the name of a temple predating the Dynasty 18 monument in Madinat Habu's forecourt.


In ancient times Madinat Habu was known as Djanet and according to ancient belief was the place were Amun first appeared. Both Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III built a temple dedicated to Amun here and Later Rameses III constructed his larger memorial temple on the site.

During his time Djanet became the administrative centre of Western Thebes. The whole temple complex was surrounded by a massive fortified enclosure wall, with an unusual gateway at the eastern entrance, known as the pavilion gate. This structure, a copy of a Syrian migdol fortresses is something you would no expect to see in Egypt. Rameses III, a military man probably saw the virtue in such a structure. It is likely Rameses resided here from time to time because a royal palace was attached at the south of the open forecourt of this temple, while priests' dwellings and administrative buildings lay on either side of the temple. Originally a canal with a harbour outside the entrance, connected the temple to the Nile. But this was obliterated by the desert long ago.

In later times, because of its strong fortifications, it was the place of refuge during the civil war between the High Priest of Amun at Karnak and the viceroy of Kush. In the period of the Twenty Fifth and Twenty Sixth Dynasties (700 BC) the wives of Amon were worshipped in the Chapels called the Divine Adoratrices of Amun. During the Greek and Roman periods the site was expanded and between the 1st and 9th centuries AD a Coptic city was built and the temple was used as a Christen church.

The exterior walls are carved with religious scenes and portrayals of Rameses III's wars against the Libyans and the Sea Peoples. The first pylon depicts the king smiting his enemies and also has a list of conquered lands. The interior walls also have a wealth of well preserved bas-reliefs some of which still retain their original paint work.

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