We saw a whole whack of temples throughout our Egyptian trip. Probably the most famous one, the iconic one, is the Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel. It was truly awesome in the real sense of the word!
Next to Ramses’ temple is the lesser-known Temple of Hathor. There are six 10m statues in front, and they represent Ramses II, his wife Nefertari (who is wearing the costume of Hathor the cow goddess of love, motherhood and joy, among other things) and several of their children.
The most amazing thing to me about these 3000-year-old temples is that they would have been completely submerged in the newly created Lake Nasser when the Aswan High Dam was built. With the aide of UNESCO, the whole thing was moved to an artificial mountain that was constructed to look exactly like its original site, but 210m away from the water and 65m higher. There’s a whole display that chronicles the entire operation – fascinating!
The same situation occurred with the buildings on the island of Philae, which is quite near Aswan. The multiple structures here were all relocated, between 1972 and 1980, 20m higher on an existing island that was then landscaped to resemble the original one. Here you will find the magnificent Temple of Isis. I quite liked the Greek influence here (mmmm, columns!), mixed with all the Egyptian art and hieroglyphics.
Another significant temple we saw was the Temple of Horus at Edfu. Horus is the son of Isis and Osiris, and is represented as a falcon. He is also the personification of the ruling pharaoh, so he’s pretty powerful. We had to get up at stupid o’clock to beat the heat – and so did everybody else. This was the most crowded place we visited (though it doesn’t really look like it in the photo below!), so it was a little difficult to wander around and absorb all the beauty and the history. And beat the heat? Ha! Even at 7 a.m., it was over 30 degrees!
Horus was a popular god, and there’s another major temple at Kom Ombo that is dedicated to him and also to Sobek, who is a god personified as a crocodile. Some combination, eh – a falcon and a crocodile! But apparently, this is the only dual temple in Egypt, so that’s why it’s important. Inside, it was quite symmetrical, so that each god would have equality.
Near Luxor, there’s the Temple of Hatshepsut, which is the only place we visited that was reconstructed from ruins. I think it looks rather modern, not almost 3500 years old at all! This temple is built into the limestone mountains (If they’re only 300m high, are they really “mountains”? Just wondering …), and on the other side of said mountains, is the Valley of the Kings. Hatshepsut was the only female ruler of Ancient Egypt (she ruled from 1473-1458 BC), and she apparently had herself represented as a man most of the time, so that the people would respect her more. She supposedly did a bang-up job of ruling, so her stepson had to kill her in order to take the throne himself. Yeah, well, nowadays HER temple rocks and his, right next door, is just a pile of rocks! Woot for girl power!
Located right in the city of Luxor, Karnak is a whole complex of about 2 sq km, dedicated to the various gods and to the glory of the pharoahs. It was started in about 1965 BC, and there were additions, rebuilds, enlargements, decorations, dismantlings, restorations, etc for something like 1500 years. There’s lots of temples, sanctuaries, obelisks, and pylons (which are gateways, I’ve just discovered. Thanks Google!).
We, stupidly, were there around noon, so while it wasn’t terribly crowded, we almost melted and so we didn’t stay long. (Yes, that’s me in the photo under the pink umbrella. I’m channeling my inner Vancouverite, as we Vancouverites are never without an umbrella, even when there is NO chance of rain.) Also, this was near the end of the trip and we were a bit “templed-out”, so perhaps we can be excused for not staying too long despite the midday heat …