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Pharaohs in France? This Year’s Program at the Carrières des Lumières

Carrières des Lumières, the fabulous immersive art show held inside a giant cavern near Les Baux-de-Provence, usually features a significant artist like Vincent van Gogh or Paul Cézanne. Works by the artist are displayed along with music in a brilliant choreography. But this year, the organizers decided to do something different and feature a place and a time rather than an artist.

2024 Program Carrières des Lumières

For the 2024 long program, we have The Egypt of the Pharaohs, from Cheops to Ramses II. Rather than paintings, photographs mixed with animations bring the past to life.

Carrieres des Lumieres Egypt Culturespaces

©Culturespaces / V. Pinson

The program opens at the universe’s beginning, showing us how the ancient Egyptians believed the world began. We learn about different gods, like those of the sky, sun, and earth, and how they battled a great serpent to bring about the world. Then we move forward through time, watching as Egyptian society was established, powerful pharaohs arose, and grand monuments were built.

Carrieres des Lumieres Egypt Culturespaces

©Culturespaces / V. Pinson

Some of the best parts of the program are when there is a mix of the real and the animated. For example, we see how some temples once looked, with colourful columns and torches burning, and then photos of how they look today.

Program Carrières des Lumières

©Val Van Sickle

My favourites were the closeup photos of statues, some quite exquisite, and of course, those of King Tut’s sarcophagus.

Overall, the program is exciting, but it helps to see it from the beginning. The show runs continuously throughout the day, and I arrived in the middle and found it confusing. If the same thing happens to you, stay until it runs again from the beginning, and you will understand it much better.

The short program is The Orientalists: Ingres, Delacroix, Gérôme—in this case, “orient” refers to the Middle East.

Program Carrières des Lumières

©Culturespaces / V. Pinson

The paintings shown are a great example of how Europeans thought of the “exotic orient” in the 19th century. There are many voluptuous young women in flowing garments and languid poses, various scenes of palm trees and gardens, and more voluptuous young women. Many women looked surprisingly European, which made me wonder if these painters had ever left France.

A few realistic paintings are included, like one of a farmer and his water buffalo, but mostly, the show reminds us how we can romanticize places we don’t understand.

Beginning in July, a special 40-minute evening program called Jimmy Nelson, Les Gardiens de l’Humanité: The Last Sentinels will explore indigenous cultures and landscapes from around the world using hundreds of photos by the celebrated artist Jimmy Nelson. This program will only be shown on certain evenings, so check the Carrières des Lumières website for details.

Key Visitor Tips for Carrières des Lumières

Carrières des Lumières (website)
Route des Carrières
13520 Les Baux-de-Provence

Carrières des Lumières is the largest fixed multimedia installation in France. Its 14-metre-high walls are the backdrop for 70 video projectors, which broadcast images.

Buy your tickets online to avoid the lineup. You can also purchase a combination ticket to access the Château des Baux-de-Provence.

The best time to visit Carrières des Lumières is early morning or late afternoon after 17h; parking can be challenging at any time.

As mentioned, there are two programs. The extended program typically lasts about 35-40 minutes and repeats throughout the day. This is followed by a short program that runs for about 10 minutes. There is a 2-minute gap between programs. Once you have paid the entry fee, you can stay and watch the loop as many times as you like.

The free smartphone application provides additional details and images about the program, allowing you to explore it more deeply.

Program Carrières des Lumières Smartphone Application

©Culturespaces

This show is suitable for anyone with mobility issues as there are few stairs and wheelchair (or baby pram) ramps where necessary.

Inside, the Carrières des Lumières is fresh, which is fabulous on a hot summer day. However, it can feel cold, so it’s best to bring a sweater or coverup.

The Café des Carrières is on-site for a drink or light snack and open daily.

Open daily:
January, March, November and December: 10h-18h
April, May, June, September and October: 9h30-19h
July and August: 9h30-19h30
The last entry is one (1) hour before closing

Learn more about Les Baux de Provence

If you’d like to taste some of the best olive oil in Provence, look no further than the Moulin Castelas, situated just below the famous fortress of Les Baux-de-Provence.

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Keith Van Sickle

Keith Van Sickle

Keith and Val Van Sickle made their first trip to Provence decades ago, and it was love at first sight. After that, they came back every year until 2008, when they began a part-time life there, splitting their time between Provence and California.

Over the years, they’ve travelled all over Provence, seeing sights both well-known and obscure. Their French friends have introduced them to favourite restaurants and wineries and picnic spots and taught them funny local expressions (not all for polite company).

Keith now shares this local knowledge in his new book, An Insider’s Guide to Provence. Packed with the Van Sickles’ favourite things to see and do, it’s a must-have for anyone travelling to this glorious corner of France.

Keith previously published two books about the couple's experiences in Provence. One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence, and Are We French Yet?, both are available from Amazon.

You can see all of Keith’s blog posts at Life in Provence.

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