Visit Temple of Horus at Edfu, Egypt

The Temple of Horus is located in the ancient city of Edfu, on the western bank of the River Nile, approximately halfway between the two main ports of Luxor and Aswan. As one of the best-preserved historical sites in Egypt, it is a favorite stop for tourists and independent visitors traveling overland through the Nile Valley. There are two reasons for its incredible status. First, it was built much more recently than the oldest pharaonic monuments in Egypt; And secondly, it was filled with protective desert sand for centuries before being excavated in the mid-19th century.

Discover one of the most atmospheric ancient temples in the country!

Temple history

The existing Temple of Horus was built on the site of an earlier temple, also dedicated to Horus, the falcon-headed god of the sky. Being considered the protector of the pharaohs, Horus was a popular choice for temple dedication in Ancient Egypt. The current temple is Ptolemy rather than Egyptian, however, it was commissioned by Ptolemy III Euergeta in 237 BC. C. and finished in 57 a. During the reign of Cleopatra's father, Ptolemy XII Auletes. The Ptolemy dynasty was founded in 305 BC. C. by a Macedonian compatriot of Alexander the Great and was the last and longest-ruling dynasty in the history of Egypt.

The temple was the largest dedicated to the cult of Horus in all of Egypt and would have hosted many festivals and celebrations in his honor. Its size gives an idea of ​​the prosperity of the Ptolemaic era, and the richness of its inscriptions contributed much to our knowledge of Egypt as a Hellenistic state. The temple continued as an important place of worship until AD 391, when the Roman Emperor Theodosius I issued an edict prohibiting paganism throughout the Roman Empire. Converted Christians attempted to destroy many of the temple reliefs, while the black burn marks on the ceiling of the hypostyle hall suggest that they attempted to burn it to the ground.

Fortunately, his efforts were unsuccessful. Over time, the temple was buried under desert sand and silt from the Nile River until only the upper sections of its monumental pillar or portal were visible. The mortar was identified as belonging to the Temple of Horus by French explorers in 1798. However, it was not until 1860 that the legendary French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette began the arduous task of excavating the site and returning it to its former glory. As the founder of the Egyptian Department of Antiquities, Mariette was responsible for the restoration and restoration of many of Egypt's most famous ancient monuments.

Layout and Points of interest

The Temple of Horus is built from sandstone blocks and, although commissioned by the Ptolemies, it was designed to reproduce the building traditions of the early Pharaonic eras. As a result, it provides invaluable information on architectural details that were once lost in earlier temples such as Luxor and Karnak. Visitors enter through the imposing and monumental portal, which is over 38 meters high and is flanked on both sides by granite statues of Horus in his falcon form. On the door itself, the high reliefs show Ptolemy XII Auletes beating his enemies as Horus watches.

Pass the pole and enter the large courtyard, where 32 columns line three sides of an open space that would have previously been used for religious ceremonies. More reliefs decorate the courtyard walls, and one of particular interest shows the annual gathering of Horus and his wife, Hathor, who came to visit them from his temple at Dendera. Across the courtyard, a second entrance leads to the outer and inner hypostyle corridors. Unlike most of the older temples in Egypt, the ceilings of these corridors are still intact, adding an incredible sense of atmosphere to the experience of entering.

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Twelve columns support the two hypostyle corridors. The outer room includes two chambers on the left and right, one of which served as a library for religious manuscripts and the other was the Hall of Consecrations. One of the chambers that led to the inner hypostyle room would have served as a laboratory for the preparation of incense and ritual perfumes. In addition to the hypostyle corridors, there are the first and second antechambers, where the temple priests supposedly left the offerings of Horus. The most sacred site of the temple, the sanctuary, is accessed through these antechambers and still houses the sanctuary of polished granite on which the golden cult statue of Horus would have stood. The wooden barge (used to transport the statue during festivals) is a replica of the original, now on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Also of interest on the temple grounds is the Nilometer, used to measure the water level of the river, predict the success of the approaching harvest, and the collapsed pillar belonging to the old New Kingdom temple that replaced the current structure.

How to Visit

If you are planning a Nile cruise between Luxor and Aswan (or vice versa), your itinerary will almost certainly include a stop in Edfu. Many companies also offer day trips to Edfu from Luxor, often stopping at Kom Ombo Temple. See Viator for an overview of the different options. Traveling as part of a tour has its benefits; Mainly an Egyptologist guide who can explain the meaning of the temple reliefs and statues. However, if you want to go on an independent tour, you can rent a private car or taxi in Luxor, or take the local train. The train takes 1.5 hours from Luxor and just under 2 hours from Aswan. There is a visitor center at the temple with a ticket office, a refectory, restrooms, and a theater where a 15-minute film on the history of the temple is shown.

Things to See nearby

As a city, Edfu itself predates the temple by several thousand years and once served as the capital of the Middle Name of Upper Egypt. The remains of the ancient settlement are to the west of the temple and are known as Tell Edfu. Although many of the buildings have been destroyed or eroded over the centuries, what remains gives an idea of ​​the growth of Edfu from the end of the Old Kingdom to the Byzantine era. About three miles south of the city are the remains of a small stepped pyramid. Although unimpressive compared to the largely intact pyramids of Giza and Saqqara, it is believed to date back to the reign of Pharaoh Huni of the Third Dynasty, of more than 4,600 years.

Practical Information

Edfu has a hot desert climate and summer temperatures can be sweltering, with average highs hovering around 104 degrees Fahrenheit. December and January are the high season and can be very crowded, so for many travelers, the best time to visit is during the seasons from February to April and from September to November. Even during these months, temperatures are still high, so remember to bring plenty of water and sun protection. If you have a choice, visiting early in the morning or late in the afternoon is usually more pleasant in terms of heat and crowding. It is also the best time to photograph the temple. Admission is 100 Egyptian pounds per adult.

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