Situated on the eastern bank of the Nile, the remains of the most extensive temple complex of the Dynastic Egyptians cover a considerable area and is divided between the temples of Luxor, meaning the palaces and the temples of Karnak, derived from the name of the Arab village of Al-Karnak. The entire archaeological site known as Thebes to the Europeans was called ‘West’ by the Egyptians, while the Greeks called it Thebai. However, the word Thebai was derived from the Egyptian word Apet, the name of the most important festival held each year at Luxor.
Usually covered with inscriptions on pink granite, quarried from the distant quarries at Aswan, the Egyptian obelisks were essentially carved from single pieces of stone. But how those huge stones were transported from hundreds of miles and how they were installed without block and tackle, is unknown. The obelisks symbolized homage to the Sun God and the Pharaohs were considered the sons of the sun. They erected their obelisks in honour of certain events, symbolizing stability and permanence. The upper part of an obelisk, carved in the form of a pyramid and representing the rays of the sun falling on the earth, was usually covered with any metal like gold, bronze or any metal alloys, so that they would shine when the sunlight would fall on it.
It is believed that the complex of the temple of Karnak was almost in a constant state of construction and deconstruction and the mysterious dismantling of temples, found at Karnak and numerous other places in Egypt, has to do with the changing of the astrological cycles. However, almost every king of the Middle Kingdom left some mark of his presence at Karnak. The central temple at Karnak was dedicated to the state god, Amon and is directionally oriented to admit the light of the setting sun at the time of the summer solstice.
The obelisk, known as the Queen Hatshepsut Obelisk is considered to be originally commissioned by Pharaoh Tutmosis II, who could not complete it before his death. It was completed by his wife and his successor to the throne, Queen Hatshepsut, who had the finished obelisk transported to Karnack and installed it near the temple of Amon in Karnak, close to the smaller Thutmosis I Obelisk. Standing 97 feet (29`56 m) tall and 6 feet (1`82 m) wide at the base, the obelisk weighs between 143 and 160 tons and is believed to be erected in 1457 BC. The inscriptions on its base indicate that it took seven months to complete the project. The Temple of Hatshepsut at Thebes is decorated with the scenes of the transportation of the Hatshepsut Obelisk down the Nile by barge. At its destination, the workmen put the shaft into place upon its detached base by hauling it up a ramp made of earth and tilted it.
The Hatshepsut Obelisk, the tallest obelisk among the existing obelisks in Karnak, was buried halfway for a pretty long time by a wall. As a result, the degree of weathering is different at the exposed top portion and below the middle portion, which was covered by the wall. It is evident that the colour of the obelisk, especially the north side has changed considerably.
Unfortunately, today only one of the obelisks of Hatshepsut stands high in its original place, while its pair can be seen on the floor of the temple. Although all the obelisks were built in Egypt, from the time of the Roman Empire they have been transported to adorn the most emblematic squares in the world. They were mostly stolen or sometimes bribed by the Egyptian authorities in the name of a gift, as a result of which, today Egyptian obelisks can be found in Rome, Paris, London, Istanbul and New York. Currently, out of the 27 conserved obelisks in the world, only 6 are in Egypt, which includes the three of Karnak.