One of my favorite sites to visit in Egypt is the Temple of Karnak, located just north of downtown Luxor in southern Egypt. The sheer scale of its massive pylons, the enormous girth of the lotus-topped columns in its Hypostyle Hall, the near excessiveness of the hieroglyphic reliefs, the serenity of some of its less-trafficked outer rooms all combine to make a visit to Karnak a magical and moving experience. But every time I visit Karnak these days, which is currently about once a month on average, I’ve started to become most intrigued by a more organic, more recent, more mysterious addition to the ancient temple – as I like to call them, the Sleeping Dogs of Karnak.
No, this isn’t a metaphor for some yet-to-be-awakened god woven into the lore or inscribed onto the walls of the site. In this case I literally mean the pooches that are always (always!) lying around the temple in different locations within the complex literally every time I go there now. I seriously didn’t know for many months whether these dogs were dead or alive, as they lie perfectly still on the stone, often fully exposed to the searing sun, as hundreds and thousands of tourists traipse on by.
Eventually I started snapping photos of these new permanent fixtures each time I visited. Sometimes I only see one; on other visits I see two or three. Sometimes they’re sprawled out just inside the first set of pylons, and at other times they’re on the floor in the Hypostyle Hall or perched on the base of one of the massive columns. But they’ve always been dead asleep the whole time I’m there, no matter their location… until this last visit.
Finally I saw the Sleeping Dogs of Karnak move on my last visit there accompanying clients and local staff. So perhaps it’s not just some cruel joke being played by the staff of Karnak – to place dog carcasses around the temple as morbid decoration. They’re actually alive – modern guardians of this ancient holy place, even though they seem to have made a habit of sleeping on the job.
I don’t think I could ever tire of visiting the temple of Karnak. But if I ever did, at least these pups give me something new to look forward to each time. Where will I find them lounging next month?