(Last updated on: 02/04/2020)
Egypt is home to hundreds of ancient monuments, and the Colossi of Memnon are high on the list of things to see. We visited on our travels through Egypt and it is a stop that should be added to any Egypt travel itinerary!
Here’s your complete guide to visiting the Colossi of Memnon!
What are the Colossi of Memnon?
Located just west of Luxor, the Colossi of Memnon are two statues that are over 3,400 years old. They used to be identical, both representing the Pharaoh Amenhotep III – originally flanking his mortuary temple, which was lost through flooding. He reigned in Egypt during the Dynasty XVIII.
In 27 BC there was an earthquake in the area. The northern colossus was shattered – its top collapsed and its lower half was cracked. But as well as being damaged, it also began to sing. Each day at dawn the statue would emit a powerful tune that attracted tourists from all over the Greco-Roman world. However, in the third century AD the singing had stopped. Emperor Septimius Severus wanted to gain some popularity so he had got the statue repaired. Sadly, this actually meant the singing voice was lost forever – and the two statues no longer looked like twins.
The singing is actually how the Colossi of Memnon got their name, which comes from ancient Greece. In Greek mythology, the story goes that Memnon (mortal son of Eos, who was the goddess of Dawn) was slain by Achilles. The sound that came from the northern colossus every morning was said to be him crying to his mother.
Fun fact: modern scientists say that the singing was actually dew trapped within the cracks in the statue, evaporating due to the early morning heat and causing a series of vibrations echoing through the air!
The statues depict the pharaoh in a seated position. Two shorter figures are carved into the front – his wife Tiye, and his mother Mutemwiya. The side panels show Hapy, the god of the Nile. The Colossi of Memnon are made from quartzite sandstone which was quarried at el-Gabel el-Ahmar. This is near Cairo. The colossi are 18 metres (60 ft) tall, and each weigh approximately 720 tons!
Getting to the statues
The nearest city to the Colossi of Memnon is Luxor. It takes around 36 minutes to drive to the statues from the city, or you can walk and take a ferry across the Nile – this takes around an hour from the city centre. You don’t need a guide, but they are readily available.
To get to Luxor, the nearest airport is Luxor International Airport (LXR). The airport is 4 miles east of the city, and it generally takes just under 20 minutes to drive the centre. Car hire is available from the airport.
If you are already in Egypt and want to travel to Luxor, here’s how you can do so…
From Cairo to Luxor, it is a 7 hour drive via the Asyuit Desert. Flights from Cairo to Luxor take just over an hour and cost anywhere between £50 and £300. There are multiple options for taking the train from Cairo to Luxor: the train journey takes between 8 and 10 hours and can be done during the day or on a sleeper train. Here is some more information about routes, times and trains.
From Alexandria, slightly further north than Cairo, it takes 9.5 hours to drive to Luxor. If you’re a total DIY traveller, you can get the bus from Alexandria to Hurghada, and then from there to Luxor. This will take you almost 13 hours, but only costs around £5. You can also take a train to Cairo, and join the route mentioned above.
To get to Luxor from Aswan, it takes just over 3 hours by car. A 3.5 hour train journey is available a few times each day.
There are also day trips that will take you to Luxor to see the Colossi of Memnon and other sites. You can find out more about that here.
Place to stay near the Colossi of Memnon
There are many private villas and apartments to stay in near the statues. The Queen Valley Apartment on the West Bank is just 0.3 miles from the Colossi of Memnon, and 6.1 miles from LXR airport. It is a whole apartment with a large double bed, a balcony, patio & garden, air conditioning and an en-suite bathroom. There is a kitchen and dining area, laundry facilities and bright modern decor.
There is another private villa available which has more traditional decor: dark wood, patterned rugs and curved balconies. It sleeps four, with a double room and a second bedroom with two single beds. There is a kitchen, bathroom, air conditioning and free private parking. It is 0.2 miles from the Colossi of Memnon.
New Memnon Hotel is a mere 100 metre walk from the Colossi of Memnon. With a 24 hour front desk, airport transfers, a laundry service and bike hire, everything is convenient. There are single, double and king rooms available with free WiFi and public parking as well as outdoor seating, breakfast and lovely views.
The stunning Thebes Hotel is 0.5 miles from the Colossi of Memnon. It has free WiFi and private parking, stunning Ancient Egyptian art painted on the walls, a pool and bright, spacious rooms. There are coffee shops, supermarkets and restaurants nearby, and the hotel itself boasts a bar and restaurant too.
Other things to see near the statues
There is so much to see in Luxor, which is probably already on your list. However, specifically near to the Colossi of Memnon you can see all sorts…
- Habiba Hand Weaving (0.6 miles away) – see fabric and scarves being weaved in front of you. Can be purchased at a fair price.
- Temple of Medinat Habu (0.6 miles away) – lesser visited ancient temple. Tranquil in comparison to other sites, with some shade.
- Ramesseum, the Mortuary Temple of Ramses II (0.5 miles away) – another quieter temple site; the perfect place to soak up some ancient history.
So there you have it – a complete guide to visiting the Colossi of Memnon in Luxor, Egypt. Enjoy your trip!