If there’s one site that I liked more than any other in Luxor, it would be the magnificent Medinat Habu. A stunning memorial temple, Medinat Habu was commissioned by Ramses III. While the temple itself is very impressive, its bucolic location also adds to the charm. The intrepid sleepy village of Kom Lolah lies in front of it and the stark golden Theban mountains form its backdrop. Medinat Habu is one of the West Bank’s most underrated sites and this makes it also less crowded. So, if you can imagine a magnificent, beautifully preserved Pharaonic temple being so empty that you have it all for yourself during most of your visit, then you have guessed the charm of Medinat Habu correctly. Despite my previous Luxor trips, I visited Medinat Habu for the first time in 2020. It was amazing and I was stunned as to how such an incredible site could be so underrated because apart from its loveliness, this temple also has immense historical importance.

The entrance to Medinat Habu

Medinat Habu is Ramses III extravaganza

One of the first places in Thebes to be closely associated with the local god Amun, Medinat Habu was more than just a temple. It was a big fortified complex that was the center of the city’s economic life for centuries. At the peak of its importance, this site contained temples, storage rooms, workshops, administrative buildings, a royal palace, and accommodation for priests and officials. This monumental extravaganza has beautiful carvings and these depict religious scenes and portrayals of Ramses’ wars against the Libyans, Nubians, and the Sea People. Although Medinat Habu is most famous for Ramses III’s funerary temple, other pharaohs like Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III also constructed buildings here. These structures were later added to and altered by a succession of rulers all the way to the Ptolemies. With the prohibition of the practice of the pagan cults, Medinat Habu became an important Christian center and was still inhabited until the 9th century AD, when a plague is believed to have ravaged the town. Today, although most of the temple is intact, not much of the urban dwellings of Medinat Habu remains and one can only see the mud-brick remains of the medieval town that gave the site its name (medina means ‘town’ or ‘city’) on top of the enclosure walls.

Beautiful reliefs at Medinat Habu

A magnificent well-preserved site

When the pharaoh Ramses III, like any other mortal, wanted to prove his salt, he was inspired to construct a temple that resembled the Ramesseum. Since the Ramesseum was built by his illustrious forebearer Ramses II, the pharaoh perhaps wanted a bit of this glorious legacy to rub off on him as well. Whatever the reason was, he decided that his own temple and the smaller one dedicated to Amun would be both enclosed within the massive outer walls of the complex. One enters the site through the remarkable entrance towers that imitate a Syrian migdol fortress. It is on the east side and has images of the pharaoh smiting his enemies. Inside to the left of the gate are the Tomb Chapels of the Divine Adorers. These were built for the principal priestesses of Amun. In the olden times, there was a landing quay outside the eastern gate. It was over a canal that once connected Medinat Habu with the Nile.

The Pharaoh’s ego wall

The well-preserved First Pylon seems to have been built entirely as Ramses III’s ego wall. Reliefs portraying him as a victor in several wars fill the pylon and some of the famous ones show him slaying the Libyans (whom you can recognise by their long robes, sidelocks, and beards). Remains of the Pharaoh’s Palace can be seen on the left of the First Pylon. The Second Pylon also features Ramses III. However, the reliefs here feature the pharaoh presenting the prisoners of war to Amun and his vulture-goddess wife, Mut. The Second Pylon is beautifully colonnaded and reliefs depicting various religious ceremonies decorate every inch of this space. The colours are still beautifully preserved and the sun filtering through the ancient turquoise, ochre, and gold pigments is an absolutely stunning sight.

Medinat Habu Travel Tips

  • Location – Medinat Habu is located on the west bank of the Nile River, on the outskirts of Luxor, Egypt. This attraction is less than a mile away from the Colossi of Memnon and the Valley of the Artisans and can be combined with these two.
  • How to Get There – Travelers can get to Medinat Habu by bicycle, car, taxi, or tour bus. Once you are in Luxor, you can find a driver to take you to Habu and other sites on the west bank. Look around and bargain before starting your trip. Alternatively, you can take a public boat to the west bank of the Nile and hire a taxi or a horse carriage there. Your hotel or guest house can also arrange this for you.
  • Opening Hours and Entrance Fees – Medinat Habu is open daily from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. To go inside, visitors will need to purchase tickets. The adult Entrance Fee is 100 EGP ($6 USD). The student admission costs 50 EGP but Student ID has to be shown at the ticket counter.
  • Facilities – Free parking is provided on-site. Restaurants, shops, and restrooms are also available near the property’s parking lot.
  • Best Time to Visit – Early morning or late afternoon

    Medinat Habu

P.S – This blog post is part of the weekly series called the Cairo Chronicles. Every week, Maverickbird will take on a new theme, emotion, and beauty of expat life in the exciting, maddening city of Cairo.

Follow the rest of the Luxor series