While it is not among the most well-traveled sites on the West Bank,
Medinat Habu is considered by many visitors to be among the most impressive
sights they see in Luxor. This temple complex is impressively preserved,
especially in comparison to the Ramesseum, on which its plan is based.
While the Ramesseum was built by a more famous pharaoh (Ramesses II),
Medinat Habu, commissioned by Ramesses III, is a much more impressive sight
with its pylon and many of its walls still intact and much more of the original
painting visible on its carved surfaces.
Ramesses III (reign 1184—1153 BC) was the last of the great pharaohs of Egypt
After his reign, Egypt began a long decline that led to it being ruled by foreign powers
for the majority of its history after the New Kingdom. After the empire stretched
to its furthest extremes under Ramesses II, the pressure of invasion threats
from multiple frontiers eventually proved too much.
Ramesses III is the last pharaoh to whom there are great building projects
attributed and this temple complex was the biggest of them.
During his reign, Medinat Habu functioned as a walled city with a temple and
an administrative center inside of walls that protected the inhabitants of the area
during hard times. Later on, the complex became a walled town for Coptic Christians living in the area.
The first impression of the temple is immediately imposing as you
enter through a massive stone gate that seems out of place in Egypt.
It is a Ptolemaic addition to the complex that hides the main feature
of the complex behind it—the Temples of Ramesses III with its towering
pylon with relief carvings still very well preserved, depicting the king defeating Egypt’s rivals from Libya and the Sea Peoples.
The temples continue from there into several courtyards with well-preserved
reliefs and columns, many with their coloring still intact, and leading into a final hypostyle hall.