Thebes - Introduction


Ancient Thebes, now known as Luxor (in Arabic al-Uqsur - أَلْأُقْصُر ) is a city in Upper (southern) Egypt and the capital of Luxor Governorate. 
The population numbers 376,022 (1999 survey), with an area of approximately 416 square kilometres (161 sq miles). 
As the site of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes, Luxor has frequently been characterized as the "world's greatest open air museum", as the ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor stand within the modern city. 
Immediately opposite, across the Nile River, lie the monuments, temples and tombs on the West Bank Necropolis, which include the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. Thousands of international tourists arrive annually to visit these monuments, contributing a large part towards the economy for the modern city. 
Luxor was the ancient city of Thebes, the great capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom, and the glorious city of the god Amun-Ra. The city was regarded in the Ancient Egyptian texts as Waset , which meant or "city of the sceptre" and also as Taipet, meaning "the shrine". Taipet, in the later Greek period, was called Thebai, and the Romans after them called the city Thebae. 
Thebes was also known as "the city of the 100 gates", sometimes being called "southern Heliopolis" ('Iunu-shemaa' in Ancient Egyptian), to distinguish it from the city of Iunu or Heliopolis, the main place of worship for the god Ra in the north. 
It was also often referred to as niwat, which simply means "city", and was one of only three cities in Egypt for which this noun was used (the other two were Memphis and Heliopolis); it was also called niwat rst, "southern city", as the southernmost of them. 
The importance of the city started as early as the 11th Dynasty, when the town grew into a thriving city, renowned for its high social status and luxury, but also as a centre for wisdom, art, religious and political supremacy. 
Montuhotep II who united Egypt after the troubles of the first intermediate period brought stability to the lands as the city grew in stature. The Pharaohs of the New Kingdom in their expeditions to Kush, in today's northern Sudan, and to the lands of Canaan, Phoenicia, and Syria saw the city accumulate great wealth and rose to prominence, even on a world scale. 
Thebes played a major role in expelling the invading forces of the Hyksos from Upper Egypt, and from the time of the 18th Dynasty through to the 20th Dynasty, the city had risen as the major political, religious and military capital of Ancient Egypt. 
The city attracted peoples such as the Babylonians, the Mitanni, the Hittites of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), the Canaanites of Ugarit, the Phoenicians of Byblos and Tyre, the Minoans from the island of Crete. 
A Hittite prince from Anatolia even came to marry with the widow of Tutankhamen, Ankhesenamun. 
The political and military importance of the city, however, faded during the Late Period, with Thebes being replaced as political capital by several cities in Northern Egypt, such as Bubastis, Sais and finally Alexandria. 
However, as the city of the god Amun-Ra, Thebes remained the religious capital of Egypt until the Greek period. 
The main god of the city was Amun, who was worshipped together with his wife, the Goddess Mut, and their son Khonsu, the God of the moon. 
With the rise of Thebes as the foremost city of Egypt, the local god Amun rose in importance as well and became linked to the sun god Ra, thus creating the new 'king of gods' Amun-Ra. His great temple, at Karnak just north of Thebes, was the most important temple of Egypt right until the end of antiquity. 
Later, the city was attacked by Assyrian emperor Assurbanipal who installed the Libyan prince on the throne, Psammetichus. 
The city of Thebes was in ruins and fell in significance. However, Alexander the Great did arrive at the temple of Amun, where the statue of the god was transferred from Karnak during the Opet Festival, the great religious feast. 
The grandeur of Thebes would still remain a site of spirituality, and attracted numerous Christian monks in the Roman Empire who established monasteries amidst several ancient monuments including the temple of Hatshepsut, now called Deir el-Bahri ("the northern monastery"). 

The economy of contemporary Luxor, like that of many other Egyptian cities, is heavily dependent upon tourism. 
Large numbers of people also work in agriculture, particularly sugarcane. 
A bridge was opened in 1998, a few kilometres upstream of the main town of Luxor, allowing ready land access from the East Bank to the West Bank. 
Traditionally, however, river crossings have been the domain of several ferry services. The so-called 'local ferry' (also known as the 'National Ferry') continues to operate from a landing opposite the Temple of Luxor. 
Luxor, once Thebes, the capital of Egypt, is now a city of hotels, restaurants, bazaars and shops. 

And did Thebes ever have a thousand gates – who knows ? 
But rather less elevated than 'gates', there are thousands of doorways, and behind each doorway there is an open hand, awaiting the 'filoos' (money), from the visitors. Money given for various services – a tacky souvenir, a meal, a taxi ride, a boat trip or some kind of sex – but often, in that inimitable 'Arab' way, particularly common in Egypt, money for no reason at all. Money for 'old rope', or even less – money for nothing ! 

Peter Crawford - with Dr Ahmed Tiab
 أحمد محمد الطيب‎
Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar - Cairo

Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb is the current Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar University, and by extension the al-Azhar Mosque.
He was appointed by the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, following the death of Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy in 2010.
He is considered to be one of the most moderate Sunni clerics in Egypt.

Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb  was born in 1946 (the same year as Peter) and joined an Al Azhar affiliated school at the age of 10.
He earned a PhD in Islamic philosophy from France's Sorbonne University.
He became a faculty member at Al Azhar University and later became dean of the philosophy department.
He is an expert on religious philosophy and issues of faith and has written books about science, Marxism, Islamic philosophy and Islamic culture.
Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb  heads the Committee of Religions Dialogue and is a member of Al Azhar Research Centre, the highest scholars' association within Al Azhar.
In addition to Arabic, he speaks English and French fluently.

El-Tayeb has outwardly criticised hardline Islamists, saying the focus on rituals and outward manifestations of piety - such as Islamic garb and beards - comes at the expense of true spiritual development.
He angered radical Islamists for once telling an Islamic conference that "the logic of things is change" and again when he said it was permissible for Muslims to sell alcohol to non-Muslims abroad in non-Muslim countries.
In 2006, he condemned Al Azhar University students belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood after they conducted a military-style parade inside the university's campus in which they wore black face masks. El Tayeb likened the students to "Hamas, Hizbollah and the Republican Guard in Iran" and vowed that the university would "never be an open field for the Brotherhood" to spread their political or religious agendas.
More than 100 students were arrested with their senior leaders eventually being convicted by a military court and sentenced to up to seven years in prison.
Al Azhar, which runs schools, universities and other educational institutions across Egypt and sends scholars to teach in countries across the Muslim world, receives most of its funding from the state.

Given al-Azhar's historical position as the center of Sunni Islamic thought and jurisprudence,  Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb is able to wield vast influence over how political Islam is implemented regionwide.

Mohammed - Peter - Ali

Peter and Mohammed

Peter and Hossam

Peter - Hamdi and Family

Peter and Hossam

Peter and Hossam

Peter and Hossam

Hamdi - Peter - Hossam

Peter and Hamdi

Peter and Khome

Peter and Medo

Ismail Amr