Egypt: Malkata, Palace of the Sun King Today

Malkata Today

by Jane Akshar

A general view of the Malkata Site

Notation: Jane Akshar, operates Flats in Luxor, a member of the AETBI, that offers flats for lease as well as local tours of the Luxor Region.

Malkata is the name of the site of the palace of Amenhotep III, which is situated to the south of Medinet Habu on the West Bank of Luxor (ancient Thebes) in Egypt. It is not a tourist site and special permission has to be obtained to visit it but that is not difficult. It is not mentioned in the guide books much, and resources about it are slim. Like many of the more obscure sites there is no sign or indication of its existence. However, when I came along to explore the site, the guardian saw me as my taxi dropped me off and escorted me round.

All that remains of a decroative frieze that once adorned the palace

Places were people lived as apposed to where they worshiped or intended to be buried are rare in the Nile Valley. This is one of the very unusual examples coincidentally located near another example, the workmans village at Deir el-Medina. Palaces and homes were built of mud brick and were only supposed to last a lifetime, where as a temple or tomb was supposed to last for eternity, or at least a million years, and were therefore built of stone.

Amenhotep III was the successor to a number of successful military Pharaohs such as Thutmose III, the Napoleon of Egypt who during his reign stretched Egypts Empire to its furthest reaches; Amenhotep II, shown in the Luxor Museum as a fantastic athlete shooting his arrows through copper targets; and finally Thutmose IV who allied himself with the Mitanni kingdom by a judicious marriage. Amenhotep III did the same and as a consequence money flowed into the royal treasure chests.

Meager conservation efforts for the Palace at best consist of cardboard to prevent erosion

This enabled Amenhotep III to build on an immense scale. In Thebes alone he built part of the temple of Luxor and the avenue of Sphinxes which joins the various temples, including Karnak. His mortuary temple was a large complex although little of of it remains these days save for the Colossi of Memnon.

The palace at Malkata was another huge complex for good reasons. The King had a large harem and many of these princesses, especially the foreign ones, would have had large retinues of slaves and servants. One foreign princess alone arrived with a troop of some 300 harem ladies. In addition, there would have been functions throughout the year, as well as less frequent events such as the Heb Sed festivals, when he celebrated the jubilee of his coronation, all of which would have required the king to entertain large numbers of people.

Crumbled Remains of painted rock at the Palace

Maybe this is one reason why the enormous harbour of Birket Habu was built. A T shaped lake covering 900 acres; the volume of earth excavated was three to four times the size of the great pyramid. It has left its trace on the landscape to this day. It is so large in fact that it is often missed because people think it is part of the original landscape.

Amenhotep III called the palace the House of Joy, and what a wonderful image that conjures up. We have visions of pretty ladies laughing and dancing their way through life with Amenhotep III looking on indulgently. OK a bit of a flight of fancy but judging by the finished article not that unreal.

Stone Column Base at the Palace

The entire site covers an area of 80 hectares and I only visited a small part of it. Today, it consists of the bottom courses of mud brick walls which covers a huge area. The walls were quite thick which would have probably made the interior acceptably cool during the summer months. There were some remnants of colour left on the walls, just the bottom friezes, but some were lovely. Also, a lot of the mud bricks had cartouches of the king stamped on them. Regrettably, more and more of this is being lost over time. We recently had a severe rain storm in Luxor, the first in eight years, and the guardians told me that this had crumbled even more of the walls. Attempts at protection and conservation were limited to bits of cardboard being put up in front of the wall to keep the sun off it.

Although most of the site consists of mud brick there were some pieces of stone incorporated. I saw stone column bases and there might have been stone lintels, at least according to the guardian.

Entrance to the Christian Village at Malkata

It was quite possible I was walking in the steps of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye. Amenhotep IV, better known as Akhenaten, and his wife Nefertiti made their home here in the early years of their marriage. Tutankhamen is believed to have been born here and it was here that he returned after the Amarna period. That really puts the site into perspective

Malkata is also a popular destination for longer camel rides into the desert and although not part of the pharaonic remains, another interesting place to visit is the Christian village next to the site. There is a tiny church and monastery dedicated to St Tawdros and an opportunity to buy some local honey.

See Also:


A History of ancient Egypt Nicholas Grimal
The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt Aidan Dobson/Dyan Hilton
Discovering Ancient Egypt Rosalie David
Atlas of Ancient Egypt John Baines/Jaromir Malek