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Begun by Sethos I and completed by his son, Ramesses II, this temple - the 'Memnonium' of the Greeks - was built of fine white limestone and is one of the most impressive religious structures in Egypt. The temple is approached through its ruined outer courts (the first with massive tanks for the priests' ablutions), with rows of mud-brick storage magazines grouped around a stone entrance hall visible to the left. This area of the temple's outer pylons and courts and the first hypostyle hall were completed and somewhat hastily decorated by Ramesses II, who is shown in part of the decoration worshipping the temple's major triad of Osiris, Isis and Sethos I. The wall of the portico leading to the first hypostyle hall was originally pierced by seven doorways which opened to the same number of processional paths leading, between cluster columns, to the seven chapels at the rear of the temple. Most of the doorways were filled in, however, when Ramesses added the outer sections of the temple - revealing, perhaps, an abbreviation of the temple's original plan. The second hypostyle hall, which thus serves as a vestibule for the chapels beyond, contains 36 lotus-bud columns carefully aligned to give access to the multiple sanctuaries. The columns are of somewhat squat dimensions typical of a number of 19th-dynasty structures, but the raised reliefs carved in this part of the temple in Sethos' own reign are of superb quality - ranking with the finest produced in any Egyptian temple. Ritual scenes of many types are depicted - including representations of Sethos before various gods, performing sacrifices and presenting the image of Maat. The quality of the carving extends from the carefully modeled figures to even the smallest details of minor items and hieroglyphs.
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