The Colossi of Memnon are faceless, timeless monuments of a bygone era, and they continue to be guardians of an ancient Egyptian temple that no longer exists. They are located just outside the city of Luxor in southern Egypt and are an attraction to include on any comprehensive Luxor tour. These colossi are the first things visitors see when they reach the west bank of the Nile just opposite Luxor.
Luxor is one of Egypt’s main attractions – here one can visit the impressive Luxor Temple, the Valley of the Kings, the timeless Abu Simbel Temple (built by the great Pharaoh Ramses II) and many more area attractions. Anyone planning to visit Egypt should also allow plenty of time to visit Luxor after visiting the Giza pyramids to the north.
The Pharaoh who built the Colossi of Memnon
The Colossi of Memnon are two massive stone statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. The temple in front of which they stand is the Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III (which is now completely in ruins). The Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III was once a very impressive sight and was the largest temple in the Theban Necropolis.
Stones from the mortuary temple were quarried to build new structures and monuments in the area. Today, the two colossal statues are the main things that remain of the temple. The temple is still being excavated by archaeologists.
- Represent: Pharaoh Amenhotep III
- Built: Around 1350 BC
- Part of: The Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III
- Dynasty: 18th Dynasty of Egypt
- Period: Egyptian New Kingdom (c. 1570-c. 1069 BC)
Amenhotep III’s father was Thutmose IV (1400-1390 BCE) who left him a kingdom in a prosperous and stable state. Amenhotep III was only 12 when he became pharaoh, and he married Tiye – a girl who was also only eleven or twelve at the time.
Amenhotep III set to work on a massive construction spree throughout Egypt. He commissioned over 250 buildings, temples, statues and stelae while his pleasure palace at Malkata near Thebes covered over 30 hectares. He built so much that for a time Egyptologists attributed an extraordinarily long reign to him because they did not believe such projects could have been completed in less than 100 years.
An ancient disarray for 3,300 years
The story of how they were built is also amazing. They were cut in sandstone from quarries near Cairo (in the region of the pyramids). This means that the sandstone must have been transported 420 miles or 675 km south to the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes (present-day Luxor). It is believed that they must have been transported overland as they would have been too heavy for the Nile.
These statues are really old as they stood there for over 3300 years and were built around 1350 BC. They are about 18 meters high and weigh about 720 tons each.
- Height: 60 feet or 18 meters
- Lester: 720 tons each
Over their many years they have received their fair share of inscriptions and graffiti, there are some 107 inscriptions in Greek and Latin which date back to Roman times. By the time of the Greco-Roman era, they were already over 1,000 years old and a popular tourist attraction.
- Inscriptions: 107 inscriptions from Roman times on the statues
Visit the Colossi of Memnon
Tours of the Colossi of Memnon are normally included in guided tours of other attractions around Luxor. They are normally part of guided tours of the ancient Theban necropolises of the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Hatshepsut.
An example circuit listed on Presentationegypt.com is a day trip to the most famous necropolis of ancient Thebes. On this tour, visitors can discover the tombs of pharaohs such as Tutankhamun, Ramses II, Ramses III, Set I, and queens such as Nefertari.
The tour begins with a pick-up from his hotel (or even by boat) and lasts 6 hours and includes an English-speaking guide.
- Duration: 6 hours
- Guide: English-speaking guide included
- Included: Pick-up/drop-off, transportation, guide, tickets to all monuments
- Price: Approximately: $75.00
Note that while the tour includes entry to all the monuments visited, it does not include entry to Nefertiti’s tomb (it’s around €50 or $55 more). It also does not include access to Tutankhamun’s Tomb, although guests can choose to visit it while in the Valley of the Kings for an additional $6.00.