Luxor Temple is located in the south of Egypt in the city of Luxor. The temple was known in ancient times as “Ipet ryset” (the southern sanctuary) and it was built with sandstone from the Gebel el-Silsila area, which is located in southwestern Egypt in 1400 BC. The process of building the temple was started by King Amenhotep lll of the 18th dynasty, and many other kings had their buildings located inside the temple, including Ramesses ll and Tutankhamun. One of the structures that distinguishes the temple is a river port linking the Temple of Luxor and Karnak Temple, which attracts millions of visitors annually from all over the world. 

In the mid 1980s, while the Water and Sanitation Department of Luxor was working right behind the temple, they accidentally found large stones where they wanted to install new pipelines. A team was created to investigate this new findings, which included my father, Mr. Rachid Migalla. They carried out an excavation in order to find out what the blocks were for, and after an intensive studies along with the excavation site, they determined that structure was a Roman gate and that there were several others located nearby. Luxor Temple itself took the shape of a fortress — the Romans dismantled some ancient Egyptian (Pharaonic) blocks and used them in the construction of the gates.

archaeology in egypt joe migalla
Photo by Joe Migalla.

My father made a topographical and archaeological sketch of the findings and it was published in a book called “Romans and Luxor” with some co-writers. Upon a request of Luxor City Council return the site to how it appeared in Roman times, the plans for building new pipes were changed in order to make it a tourist site. This never actually ended up happening, and my father passed away not long after — leaving the project for me to take on.

It was an important discovery, and it hurts me personally when every time I walk on the street knowing that part of my father’s legacy is buried underneath them. I always wonder if the people walking on that road know what is underneath. What would they say if they knew?

I remember a line from a movie, “You have the luxury of not knowing what I know.” It troubles me greatly every time when I hear all over the news that some people have had discovered a little chamber underground somewhere else in Egypt, but that my father and colleagues found such an important part of Egypt’s history and it is unrecognized.

archaeology in egypt joe migalla
Photo by Joe Migalla.

I have given away a wooden model of Luxor Temple during the Roman era that was made by my dad to the ministry of antiquities in order to have it exhibited at Luxor Temple. It is located at the front gate — if people can’t see the findings below, they can look at the model, and maybe that might bring awareness to the discoveries.

The whole area of Luxor Temple brings back memories, especially the area featuring the majestic Winter Palace Hotel. It was built around 140 years ago and visited by significant guests from all over the world including kings, queens, actors, and writers. The Winter Palace is the most luxurious hotel that still remains in Luxor, and there are still vestiges of times gone by. I’m often reminded of Agatha Christie, who wrote her famous tale “Death on the Nile” here. 

archaeology in egypt joe migalla
Photo by Joe Migalla.

When my father would finish his work in the Temple of Luxor, he would to go Winter Palace Hotel where his art gallery was located and where he used to paint. I accompanied him in order to see the way he created his art and see others’ admiration of his drawings. Once we finished at the Hathor Art Gallery, we used to go to the primary school for girls in order to pick my mother up, as she was an art teacher at the time. It’s a mystery why those days had to end so abruptly, just as the area my father discovered remains a mystery to those who know nothing about it.

I wonder what will come of this project, and whether I will be able to solve some of the mysteries that my father left behind.

Curious about traveling to Egypt? A Nile River cruise might be the way to go!

Header photo by Joe Migalla.

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Joe Migalla
Joe joined the Egyptian army as an infantry soldier and a translator. He has worked as an international trainee lawyer for two years before he became the Vice Chancellor at the United Nations Development Program. He is currently working a cultural counselor for the EU in North Africa. He is also a poet.