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The Barque of Amun in procession
© 1993 Neferuhethert. All Rights Reserved.

The Opet Festival, also called the "Beautiful Feast of Opet" became one of the most important yearly festivals of the Theban area.  The word "Opet" means "secret chamber" and it refers to the private and secluded rooms adjoining the holy sanctuary of Amun of Luxor in the innermost chamber of Amenotep III's temple. These rooms stood on a low mound considered to be the original Mound of Creation which rose out of the primeval waters.  The Festival of Opet is the birthday of the Kingly Ka, and through special rituals at this time the divine kingship was regenerated and the king's right to rule re-confirmed.

The Barque of Amun of Karnak would leave the sanctuary in a gleaming procession that would take him to the sanctuary of the Luxor Temple located over one mile to the south.  It was a grand spectacle, coming at the time of the second month of Akhet, the Inundation, and so was associated with both the flood season and fertility arising from the rich black soil.  During Hatshepsut's reign, the barque was carried on the shoulders of wab-priests the entire journey.  However, by the time of the later New Kingdom, both journeys were sometimes made by river.  The procession was accompanied by dignitaries and priests, soldiers, singers, acrobatic dancers, drummers, musicians, and chariots of the king.  Booths of food and drink for offerings lined the route from the river to the temple.  After arriving at Luxor, the sacred statues were moved into the shrines within the temple.  Among the religious rites performed were the ritual repetition of the coronation rites of the King and offerings made by the King to Amun-Ra. 

Much of our information about this festival comes from the beautifully engraved scenes on the walls of the great colonnade of Amenhotep III at Luxor Temple. The western wall shows the southward procession from Karnak to Luxor, and the eastern wall shows the return journey. 

This boat procession is still practiced today, in a slightly different guise.  Every year during the Saints Festival, a boat is carried from the Mosque of Abu-el-Haggag into the streets of Luxor.

References

Painting of the Barque of Amun is ©1993 by Neferuhethert. All Rights Reserved.

Farid, Shafik, The Temple of Luxor, Simpkins Splendor of Egypt series, Book 3, Simpkins Souvenirs, Salt Lake City, Utah, c. 1982.
Sadek, Ashraf Iskander, Popular Religion in Egypt during the New Kingdom, Hildesheimer Ägyptologische Beiträge 27 (1987).
Wilkinson, Richard, The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt, New York, Thames and Hudson, c. 2000.

 

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Text and original graphics copyright © 1999-2007 by Neferuhethert. All rights reserved. All graphics which are not original works have been credited to their source or used with permission, and their copyright remains the property of the source cited. No use of any original written or graphical material is allowed in any form whatsoever without prior written permission.  Questions should be directed to neferuhethert at aol.com. This is a non-profit website for educational purposes only. Last updated 01/27/10.