Lonely Planet review
More than a temple, Karnak is an extraordinary complex of sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons and obelisks dedicated to the Theban gods and the greater glory of pharaohs. Everything is on a gigantic scale: the site covers over 2 sq km, large enough to contain about 10 cathedrals, while its main structure, the Temple of Amun, is the largest religious building ever built. This was where the god lived on earth, surrounded by the houses of his wife Mut, and their son Khonsu, two other huge temple complexes on this site. Built, added to, dismantled, restored, enlarged and decorated over nearly 1500 years, Karnak was the most important place of worship in Egypt during the New Kingdom. It was called Ipet-Sut, meaning ‘The Most Esteemed of Places’; Karnak is its Arabic name meaning ‘fortified settlement’. New Kingdom records show that the priests of the Temple of Amun had 81,000 people working in or for the temple, owned 421,000 head of cattle, 65 cities, 83 ships and 276,400 hectares of agricultural land, giving an idea of its economic, as well as spiritual, significance.
If you can tolerate the crowds and the kitsch, the sound and light show offers a nonetheless atmospheric introduction to Karnak. Check the website or tourist office for the current schedule.