Thebes, known to the ancient Egyptians as Waset, was an ancient Egyptian city located east of the Nile about 800 kilometers (500 mi) south of the Mediterranean. Its ruins lie within the modern Egyptian city of Luxor. Thebes was the main city of the fourth Upper Egyptian nome (Sceptre nome) and was the capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom. It was close to Nubia and the eastern desert, with its valuable mineral resources and trade routes. It was a cult center and the wealthiest city of ancient Egypt at its heyday. The site of Thebes includes areas on both the eastern bank of the Nile, where the temples of Karnak and Luxor stand and the city proper was situated; and the western bank, where a necropolis of large private and royal cemeteries and funerary complexes can be found.
Thebes was located along the banks of the Nile River in the middle part of Upper Egypt about 800 km from the Delta. It was built largely on the alluvial plains of the Nile Valley which follows a great bend of the Nile. As a natural consequence, the city was laid in a northeast-southwest axis parallel to the contemporary river channel. Thebes had an area of 93 km2(36 sq mi) which included parts of the Theban Hills in the west that culminates at the sacred 420-meter (1,378-foot) al-Qurn. In the east lies the mountainous Eastern Desert with its wadis draining into the valley. Significant of these wadis is Wadi Hammamat near Thebes. It was used as an overland trade route going to the Red Sea coast. In the fourth Upper Egyptian nome, Thebes was found to have neighboring towns such as Per-Hathor, Madu, Djerty, Iuny, Sumenu and Imiotru.
More than sixty annual festivals were celebrated in Thebes. The major festivals among these according to the Edfu Geographical Text were: the Beautiful Feast of Opet, the Khoiak (Festival), Festival of I Shemu, and Festival of II Shemu. Another popular festivity was the halloween-like Beautiful Festival of the Valley.
In 1979, the ruins of ancient Thebes were classified by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage site. The two great temples—Luxor Templeand Karnak—and the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens are among the great achievements of ancient Egypt.