Colossi of Memnon - The two massive statues of Amenhotep III
Colossi of Memnon

The Colossi of Memnon are two enormous statues of 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Amenhotep III originally designed to guard his mortuary temple, located on the western bank of the Nile, opposite Luxor.

These two faceless colossi (the plural of colossus, which just means larger-than-life statue) are the first thing visitors see when they reach the west bank of the Nile opposite Luxor. This isn't surprising when you hear their dimensions: they tower 60 feet (18 m) above the plains and are estimated to weigh an enormous 720 tons each. 

Carved from sandstone from the quarries near Cairo, Egyptologists believe these must have then being transported the 420 miles (675 km) south to Thebes, or modern-day Luxor, over land, as they would have been too heavy to be carried on the Nile.

The statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, showing him seated, were built to guard his funerary temple. The complex, the largest on the west bank, is still being excavated by archaeologists.

So the legend goes...

The Colossi of Memnon were completed in 1350 BCE, and by the time of the Greco-Roman Era over a thousand years later, they were already a popular tourist attraction. According to legend, the northern statue would whistle at sunrise - probably caused by a crack in its body, a result of the earthquake of 27 BCE. Attributing the statues to the African King Memnon, the ancient Greek and Roman visitors considered it good luck to hear the statue's song, believing it to be the cry of the king greeting his mother Eos, the goddess of dawn. 

Visiting the Colossi

The Colossi of Memnon are usually included on guided tours of the ancient Thebes necropolises of the Valleys of the Kings and Queens, and the Temple of Hatshepsut: