The Avenue of Sphinxes is just one of several historical sites in Luxor. Apart from being a popular hub for Nile River cruises, Luxor has many famous ancient attractions, and as a result, it features prominently in many Egypt tour packages.
Any traveler who decides to explore Luxor in Egypt probably already knows that it is the name of a city located on the banks of the Nile River. Nonetheless, it is also the name of a city which is home to a massive historic site. In fact, the city is home to many fascinating sites and is generally considered to be one of the top places to visit when in the country because of its strong links to the ancient past.
Interestingly enough, Luxor was also once the religious capital of Egypt. This was during the height of the Pharaonic period, when it was also known as the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom. However, it wasn’t called Luxor back in those days, but instead, it was known as Thebes, and it was actually situated on the western bank of the river.
The East And West Banks
The western bank of the Nile is where the burial tombs of the Pharaohs are located, and today the site is known as the known as the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. The eastern shore also has no shortage of historical sites either and it’s home to impressive sites such as Luxor Temple and the Luxor Museum.
A Brief History Of Sphinx Avenue
There is really no shortage of attractions in the area, but one of the definite “must-see” sites is without question the Avenue of the Sphinxes. This is part of the vast Karnak Temple complex located along the eastern shore of the river. The complex was initially started during the “Middle Kingdom” period by pharaoh Sesostris I, but was continually improved all of the way through the Ptolemaic period which in essence was the last of the Pharaonic era.
The first phases of the Avenue of Sphinxes were actually started during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut, and this included the construction of seven chapels. Unfortunately, none of the chapels remain today. Several years later, Pharaoh Nectanebo I decided to expand the original complex and created a 2.7 kilometer road or “pathway” flanked on both sides by hundreds of stone sphinxes. One interesting feature here is the fact that some of the sphinxes have ram’s heads instead of the traditional human head.
While one might think that such a vast and significant site like avenue of sphinxes would always have been visible, it was actually enveloped and hidden by the unrelenting urban sprawl of Luxor. Fortunately in late 2011, the Egyptian government announced that it had completed restoration of the Avenue of Sphinxes, and declared that it would re-open it to the public in an official ceremony.
Visiting The Avenue of Sphinxes Today
Today visitors to the Avenue of Sphinxes can traverse the entire 3km stretch of the avenue as they visit the Karnak and Luxor temple complex. There are some sphinxes lost to time or damage, but almost every pedestal remains. One amazing discovery during restoration was the cartouche (royal seal) of Cleopatra.
The presence of this seal demonstrates that Cleopatra herself paid a visit to the temple during her journey up the Nile River with Marc Antony, so visitors who are interested in this part of the country’s history should remember to ask their guide to point it out when they visit!
Many travelers simply fly to Luxor from Cairo, but there are several other options as well, including train travel and Nile River cruises. The cruises are particularly enjoyable since they offer visitors the best of both worlds, in that you get to enjoy a very relaxing break, while at the same time getting the chance to see numerous historical attractions. Train travel in Egypt can also be a great experience, especially if you use the overnight sleeper trains.
Looking to Visit Egypt?
If you are serious about seeing all the very best attractions in Egypt, including places like the Avenue of Sphinxes, please contact us now. We offer a huge range of Egypt tour packages to suit all tastes and budgets, but if you don’t see a tour you like, why not take advantage of our flexible guided Egypt tours which can be tailored according to your personal preferences.