Colossi of Memnon

West of Luxor, Egypt

Photo Credit: Rachel Kafka

The Colossi of Memnon (Arabic: el-Colossat or es-Salamat) are two massive stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, who reigned in Egypt during the Dynasty XVIII. For the past 3,400 years (since 1350 BC), they have stood in the Theban Necropolis, located west of the River Nile from the modern city of Luxor.

The twin statues depict Amenhotep III in a seated position, his hands resting on his knees and his gaze facing eastwards towards the river. Two shorter figures are carved into the front throne alongside his legs; these are his wife Tiye and mother Mutemwiya, while the side panels depict the Nile god Hapy.

The statues are made from blocks of quartzite sandstone which was quarried near modern-day Cairo and transported 675km (420mi) overland to Thebes (Luxor). The stones are believed to be too heavy to have been transported upstream on the Nile. Including the stone platforms on which they stand, the colossi reach a towering 18m (60ft) in height and weigh an estimated 720 tons each.

The original function of the Colossi was to stand guard at the entrance to Amenhotep’s memorial temple (or mortuary temple). The temple was a massive construct built during the pharaoh’s lifetime where he was worshipped as a god-on-earth both before and after his departure from this world. In its day, this temple complex was the largest and most opulent in Egypt, covering a total of 35 hectares (86 acres).

Stationed just outside the statues is a guard post of the Tourism & Antiquities Police, one sector of the Egyptian National Police and the department of the Ministry of Interior of Egypt. These posts are seen at many tourism locations in the country including such as the Great Pyramid of Giza, Memphis Giza, Egyptian Museum, as well as other museums, hotels, etc. The guard carry the same weapons as law enforcement police and hold the same power.

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