The Opet Festival
Although the main temple of the god Amun was Karnak, another temple, further south also in Luxor, was dedicated to another version of him called Amenemopet. This was Amun in his aspect of creator and god of male fertility. A long processional way lined with sphinxes connected these two temples. The magnificent procession of the annual Opet Festival, protected by these sphinxes, used it to travel from Karnak to Luxor Temple and back. The walls of the Great Colonnade in Luxor Temple depict this procession with exquisite detail. This was truly a procession that was worthy of the most important festival of the ancient Egyptian calendar. Troops from the army, armed with their weapons, marched to the sound of music, Nubian soldiers blew into their horns and banged their drums as dancers and acrobats added even more liveliness to the festivities. Fattened up oxen, ready for sacrifice, were led, and the nobility rode their chariots as priests and priestesses chanted. The purpose of the Opet Festival warranted the attention that it received. The ancient Egyptians observed the nature that surrounded them closely. What they saw was that nature, and everything in it, had to be periodically regenerated. The sun set and died every day, plunging the world into darkness, only to be reborn, young and new, in the eastern horizon, recreating the world once again. The annual Nile flood, although a powerful force that drowned the fields and caused destruction if it was too high, was still necessary for the new crops to regrow because it regenerated the soil. Thus, once a year, when the Nile Flood was due to return, in the second month of the year, the cult images of Amun of Karnak, his wife Mut, and their son, the lunar god Khonsu, were taken from Karnak to Luxor Temple. There, they united with Amenemopet’s creative and regenerative powers, rejuvenating themselves, the king, and all of nature in the process, before returning north to Karnak, bringing the Nile flood with them, which then continued on its life-giving northbound journey to the rest of the Nile valley.