Category Archive : Africa

The Temple of Luxor in Egypt – legacy of a civilization long gone

One of the greatest testaments to human architecture is the Temple of Luxor in Egypt. This temple is actually a complex located on the east side of the river Nile in the city of Luxor and was constructed approximately in 1400 BC. Although it was built by 3 great pharaohs, Amenophis III, Tutankhamen, and Ramses II, it never reached its true potential.

Legacy of three pharaohs

Ramses II built the pylon and the first courtyard of the Luxor temple which had two obelisks at the entrance, marking the path inside. They were different heights but they looked as if they were the same. Besides the obelisks, there were two granite colossi of Ramses II at the entrance and there were originally four statues of Ramses II placed in front of the pylon. The courtyard was added during the 19th dynasty, and it was surrounded by a double row of columns.

The colonnade was started by Amenophis III but his son didn’t want to finish this project and moved his capital to a new city dedicated to Aton, Tell el Amarna.

This unfinished project was later completed by Tutankhamen who returned to Luxor. The area was originally planned to be another courtyard and Tutankhamen built columns with capitals shaped like open lotus flowers to complete the area. It is also said that he had the walls decorated with reliefs representing the festival Opet.

Between the Karnak Temple and the Luxor temple, there were six bark shrines serving as way stations for the barks of the gods during festivals. The avenue had a boulevard of sphinxes that connected the temples, but during the 30th dynasty, they were replaced with human-headed sphinxes. Some stations were set up for ceremonies such as the Feast of Opet which was very important for the temple. 

There is an active mosque there, located within the temple, called the Mosque of Abu Haggag. That part of the temple was converted into a church by the Romans in 395 AD and later to a mosque in 640, meaning that this building has been a center of worship for a very long time. 

Temple under the Roman Empire

During the Roman era, the temple was used as a legionary fortress and the home of the Roman government in the area. At this time, the chapel inside the temple that was originally dedicated to goddess Mut was transformed into a Tetrarchy cult chapel and later into a church.

The Hypostyle Hall was at the south side of the courtyard and had four rows of eight columns. The hall led into a few smaller rooms and the central one was used as a Christian church. This area was the most sacred one, with the gold-pleated statue of the god Amon as well as a birth room with some pictures referring to the birth of Amenophis III.

The Luxor temple is the oldest building in the world that has been partially active for purposes other than archeology or tourism.

Amazing Coptic churches in Africa

First of all, let’s remember who the Copts are. The Copts are an Egyptian subgroup who mainly lives in Northeast Africa, usually in Egypt, and they are the largest Christian denomination in the country. They are the largest denomination in Sudan and Libya as well. Their ancestry is mostly Egyptian and in the past, they spoke the Coptic language. The Copts built amazing churches in Egypt and nearby countries. 

Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral

This church is located in the Abbassia District of Cairo, Egypt. It is the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope, making it one of the most important churches. It was dedicated to St. Mark the Evangelist, an apostle of Jesus and also the founder of the Coptic Church. It is the largest cathedral in Africa and the Middle East. The land where this cathedral stands has been used for centuries as a cemetery for the Copts and it is rumored that the tomb of Alexander the Great is located there.

The Hanging Church

This church is one of the oldest and most famous churches in Egypt. Early travelers to Cairo named this church “The Staircase Church” because there is a staircase with 29 steps leading to the entrance. This is the most famous Coptic Christian Church in Cairo and possibly the first one built in the style of a basilica. It has twin bell towers, a courtyard decorated with some biblical art designs and a small courtyard leading to the outer porch.

Saint Barbara Church in Coptic Cairo

This church is located in the eastern part of Babylon Fortress and is also one of the oldest buildings in Cairo. Like many other Coptic churches, it has been rebuilt several times. It’s famous for its many precious items that are kept at the Coptic Museum, which is only 2 minutes away from the church on foot. It was built in the shape of the ancient basilicas, having an entrance, a narthex, a long nave, several aisles, and three sanctuaries. The middle sanctuary is dedicated to St. Barbara.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church

This church is also known as Abu Serga. It is one of the oldest Coptic churches in Egypt. It is traditionally believed that it was built on the spot where the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus Christ rested at the end of their journey to Egypt. It is also famous because many of the patriarchs of the Coptic Church were elected there. The church is dedicated to Sergius and Bacchus.

The Church of the Virgin Mary at Zeitoun 

The church was built by Tawfik Khalil Ibrahim as a miniature version of the famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. The site on which the church was built is supposedly another location where the Holy Family stayed during their trip to Egypt. It is also famous for its supernatural phenomena. People there have seen the Holy Virgin Mary kneeling next to the big cross located on the largest dome of the church.

Ten Breathtaking South African Temples to Visit

When traveling, some countries just prove to be a treat, when you consider all the historical and cultural variations that affected them. South Africa is no exception –this country has a rich and diverse cultural heritage, which is best reflected in the monumental temples that leave visitors amazed and breathless.

Madhya Kailash Temple in Midrand

This Hindu temple with vibrant colors is dedicated to the god Shiva, the destroyer, who is supposed to annihilate all the evils of the world. The temple is based around a Hindu sect that believes Shiva to be timeless and spaceless.

Hare Krishna Temple, Chatsworth

This is another Hindu temple, located within a predominantly Indian part of Chatsworth. Its unusual outside architecture with white towers attracts tourists and leaves long-lasting impressions. This temple is dedicated to the colorful Hindu god Krishna.

Durban Hindu Temple

This is yet another Hindu temple, although this one is believed to be the oldest one in the country, which is why it has been protected as a national treasure for almost 40 years. It was founded by some of the first Indian immigrants to the country in the late 19th century. This temple complex has three parts, each of them dedicated to a different Hindu god: Shiva, Draupadi, and Mariamman.

The Melrose Temple

This Hindu temple also has a long history that dates back to its construction, more than 130 years ago. This temple is believed to be the oldest temple in the Johannesburg area, and it is dedicated to the Hindi deities of Lord Vinayaka and Lord Parameswara.

Shree Ayyappa Kshetram Centurion

It is very difficult to miss this temple for several reasons –the first and the most obvious one being its size, and the second, but certainly not any less obvious, its intricately decorated exterior. Hundreds of figures and thousands of colorful ornaments decorate this temple dedicated to the Southern Indian god Ayyappan, the son of Shiva, who is believed to be the bringer of good luck and prosperity. Even if you are not a religious person, you will be enchanted by the vibrant and colorful appearance of this temple.

ISKCON Cultural Center in Pietermaritzburg

This is one of the most recently opened temples by the Iskcon, but it is by no means less important because of it. Dedicated to the god Krishna, this temple, opened in 2017, was followed by the opening ceremony where followers from around the world came to join in the celebration and joy of opening a new temple. 

Clairwood Shree Siva Soobramoniar Temple

This temple with a bright golden exterior dates back to the end of the 19th century. Indians, who live in South Africa, visit this temple to worship the deity Muruga. Aside from that, this temple is well known for its Thaipusam Kavadi festivities that take place each year.

Mariamman Temple Pretoria

This is another temple that visitors cannot help but marvel over, due to its exterior decorated with incredibly lifelike statues of people. It is also one of the oldest Hindu temples in South Africa, established in 1905 and dedicated to the goddess Mariamman.

Lam Rim Buddhist Center in Johannesburg

The first temple on this list that is not a Hindu temple is the Lam Rim center. This Buddhist temple has equipment for reaching devotees all around the world via the Internet and is known for often screening Buddhism-themed movies.

The Kagyu Samye Dzong Buddhist center in Cape Town

This is one of the main Buddhist centers in South Africa and is very significant as it attracts a great number of devotees from all around the country, who seek peace, mindfulness, and happiness.