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