Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
27 April - 3 May 2000
Issue No. 479
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

Front Page

The red chapel rises again

By Nevine El-Aref

At the end of the 19th century, a large part of the massive Third Pylon of Amenhotep III at Karnak toppled over during an earthquake. As the huge blocks of stone fell apart they revealed that the core of the pylon was filled with dismantled monuments of earlier periods, including the chapel built by Queen Hatshepsut.

It remained there until the 1930s when a Franco-Egyptian mission, which was investigating soil drainage in order to avert temple columns crumbling, removed 315 blocks. These were secured on concrete slabs and placed in an area to the north of the Great Court, which is now known as Karnak's outdoor museum. They were in excellent condition and, being displayed at eye level, it was possible to appreciate the detail and craftmanship of the exquisite low reliefs.

This chapel had been built by Queen Hatshepsut to house the barge of Amun-Re, the great god of Karnak, whose image was carried in procession between the temples of Karnak and Luxor during the annual celebration that took place at the height of the Nile flood.

Gaballa Ali Gaballa, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), explained that, when Amenhotep III decided to enlarge the temple by adding a new facade in the form of two entrance pylons, he pulled down many monuments which he no longer thought relevant, putting their stone sections in the core of the structure.

The red quartz temple is now being reconstructed by the SCA in collaboration with a French archaeological team. The project started one month ago and is being financed by Accor Company, which holds 30 percent of the hotel capacity in Luxor and is concerned with promoting both culture and tourism.

"Missing blocks will be replaced by blocks of the appropriate size and shape until such time as we hopefully find the originals," stated Gaballa.

Other Pharaonic monuments concealed in the Third Pylon and revealed by the earthquake were extracted and re-erected in the 1930s on the site of the open air museum. They include a pavilion made of fine quality limestone built by the Pharaoh Senusert, and an alabaster shrine of Thutmose III. These will be joined by Hatshepsut's red chapel early next year when the restoration is scheduled to be completed.

Queen with a beard
The most splendid of all

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