When you think of Egypt, you think of Pyramids; however, the most striking ancient structures in Egypt are the temples.
Our two-week tour of Egypt took us as far south as Abu Simbel, which sits eleven miles from the Sudan border, west to the Fayum Oasis and north to Memphis. It was a wonderful trip spent talking about the ancient world and archaeology. I must admit that I had mixed expectations. As a historian, I knew ancient Egypt had large, vast structures, but I didn’t think much of the temples. They never crossed my mind. They should have.
The intricate design and massive architecture of the temples blew my mind. The fact that the ancient people were able to create such structures was amazing. Hieroglyphs dances across the walls. Gods and goddesses helped the humans through life. Yellow people, green falcons told stories.
Temple fatigue is real. The first three or four temples stirred something in me. By the time we came and went from Abu Simbel, I was done. I started skipping the temple excursions to sleep. Each temple has a similar set up: courtyard, inner courtyard, area for the important people, a roof here, not a roof there, holy of holies, etc. They all blended together after a while. That doesn’t mean though that I didn’t enjoy my time! Below you’ll find a list of the temples that I did venture into. Hope you enjoy!
This was the very first temple we visited. I remember asking the guide, “Can I touch it?” He said, “You may touch anything you like.” So I touched everything. I put my palms right on the side of the temple and started to cry. It was such a wonderful feeling to be able to touch something from the ancient Egyptian world.
At this temple, our group had the first glance at colored hieroglyphs. Up to this point, all the temple’s paint had been washed or faded away. I also held a crocodile!
The statues of Ramses II at Abu Simbel are 95 feet high! The fallen head was on the ground. I crouched down next to it for a photo. My crouched body is basically the same size as his ear. So there’s that. Abu Simbel was amazing. Inside the temple more colossal statues of Ramses stand and the walls are heavily painted. Just don’t try to take pictures!! They strictly enforce the no photos rule.
Temple of Philae
This was one of the most highly anticipated temples, but I’m not going to lie. It was just another temple… I think the main reason I was so turned off from this particular temple was because of the crowd. 1000s of people waddled through the tight quarters of the temple. Not a fan of crowds.
Dendara was my favorite temple. At my job, (I work at Biblical History museum) I talk about Hathor (the cow goddess) a lot. It was AWESOME to be at a temple dedicated to her. I like to wander off from the group and explore on my own. When I entered the temple, I looked up. My jaw hit the floor. Above me was a turquoise ceiling with hieroglyphs all across it. I knew the best way to view the ceiling was to lay flat on the stone floor, so I did. When the group finally caught up with me, they laughed and asked what I was doing. I simply pointed to the ceiling. They awed in unison, but I was the only one to lay on the floor.
Karnak is the largest temple complex in all of Egypt, and it did not disappoint. Like Philae though, the crowds a this temple were overwhelming. People with selfie-sticks flocked to this entrance and that column making it rather difficult to move around.
Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut
Hatshepsut’s temple was destroyed in the ancient world by her step-son Tuthmoses III. Archaeologists have since completely rebuilt her temple. Her mortuary temple was the first temple/tomb complex at the Valley of the Kings in Luxor!