Within the centre of Luxor is the temple once known as ‘Ipet-resyt’ or ‘the southern Opet’ which served as a focal point for the Opet festival. Once a year the divine image of Amun with his consort Mut and their son Khonsu would journey in their sacred barques from Karnak Temples to the temple at Luxor to celebrate the festival which was held during the inundation. Opet’s primary function was religious but the festival was also significant in maintaining the king’s divine role.
The earliest remains found at Luxor Temple date to Dynasty XIII and it is possible that there was a shrine or temple on this site during the Middle Kingdom, but it became more prominent in Dynasty XVIII. It would seem that Hatshepsut first began the overland processional way which linked Karnak and Luxor temples, with barque stations along the route. It was Amenhotep III who constructed the colonnade and court in the heart of the temple which was added to by other pharaohs. Reused blocks of Hatshepsut, Tuthmose III and Amenhotep II from earlier destroyed structures have been found.
Unusually, the temple does not face the river, but its main axis faces Karnak with the remains of an avenue of sphinxes pointing to the processional way. This remaining 200m avenue of human-headed sphinxes was erected by Necatnebo I to replace the original ram-headed sphinxes of Amenhotep III when Nectanebo built an enclosure wall around the precinct. A Roman shrine with a headless statue of Isis can be seen in the north-western corner of the forecourt.
The modern entrance to the temple is to the west and after descending the new stone steps the visitor faces the massive first pylon, 21m high, which was a later addition by Rameses II. Six statues of Rameses stood before the pylon, but only three remain today with one of an original pair of tall obelisks. The northwest obelisk now stands in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. The pylon is decorated on its outer face with scenes of the battles of Rameses II and the famous ‘battle poem’. This is best seen in the early morning sun. The inner face has a dedication text and records of the battle of Kadesh as well as festival scenes. On the south face of the east tower in the first courtyard is a relief showing the exterior of the temple when it was first built, with flags flying on the flagpoles.