Pharaonic temples in Upper Egypt from the Ptolemaic and Roman periods
Pharaonic temples in Upper Egypt from the Ptolemaic and Roman periods is part of the Tentative list of Egypt in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
Click here for a short description of the site, as delivered by the state party.
Map of Pharaonic temples in Upper Egypt from the Ptolemaic and Roman periodsLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
The Ptolemies ruled over Egypt from 304 to 30 BC. They were descendants of Macedonian Greeks, whose leader Alexander the Great had conquered the pharaonic lands and set up his capital in Alexandria in the far north. The Ptolemies (all their kings were named Ptolemy) did however contribute their own set of temples to the already existing landscape of sacred sites upstream along the Nile. Four of these temples are combined on the Tentative List under the name Pharaonic temples in Upper Egypt from the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. They are located in Dendera, Esna, Edfu and Kom Ombo. I visited the latter two as side trips from a dahabiya cruise along the Nile.
Edfu is a mid-size commercial town without any charm. Together with my 5 shipmates I crossed it quickly by horse carriage, the traditional form of taxi transport that also still can be found in Luxor. The temple’s parking lot even has a shaded section to park the horses.
The temple at Edfu is dedicated to the falcon-headed warrior god Horus. His image is the trademark of this temple, and the various granite sculptures of his face that stand guard at the site are especially picturesque. Due to having its roof intact, the temple itself feels more like a complete building than the ones I visited so far in Egypt. Inside there are dozens of separate rooms that were used for storage and as chapels. All of its walls are decorated with bas-reliefs. They have lost most of their colours however, and the ceilings have been badly damaged by smoke. Numerous pigeons contribute daily to the deteroriating condition of the building. Access to the roof has even been closed off – this is to fend off another annoying animal species: bats.
I enjoyed roaming around this temple on my own, discovering fully decorated corridors that lead nowhere. I stayed for two hours and there were hardly any other visitors.
Kom Ombo lies a few hours upstream from Edfu. This temple is also located near a sizeable (and eponymous) town. No need for a taxi this time: the temple of Kom Ombo lies directly on the eastern bank of the Nile. From a distance it strongly resembles a Greek temple, showing off its many columns.
The distinguishing feature of the temple of Kom Ombo is that it is a double-temple, dedicated to two gods at the same time. They are Horus (like in Edfu) and Sobek, the crocodile god. This is one of the few places in Egypt where a cult around crocodiles developed. A live specimen used to live inside, and when it died it was mummified and replaced by another living crocodile. A number of the crocodile mummies can be seen at the on site museum.
Kom Ombo also has a fine example of a Nilometer (that measured the height of the river’s water level), and numerous interesting bas-reliefs in good condition. The display of surgical equipment is possibly the best-known among them. We had arrived early enough to have unobstructed views of the temple’s highlights, but after 3.30 p.m. the passengers of large cruise ships started streaming in. At least 12 of them were docked near the temple when we left.
These two sites are examples of the value that in my opinion still can be taken from Egypt’s Tentative List. It’s a miracle that these sites have never been nominated, as is the case with nearby Dendera. Dating from the Ptolemaic Period, they all represent a part of Egypt’s ancient history that is not covered yet by its WHS.
Of the four temples mentioned in the description of the site, I have visited three. The largest, the Temple of Hathor at Dendera has some spectacularly engraved walls, columns and ceilings, a significant number of which still retain their original colouring. While some engravings have been defaced by religious zealots in more recent times this temple deserves listing and the protection this will provide.
The Temple of Horus at Edfu was outstanding for its carved stone figure of a falcon at the entrance, as well as engravings of Horus, the falcon and Seth, a yellow hippopotamus battling one another.
The Temple of Sorek the crocodile at Kom Ombo also contained a fine collection of engravings, including a calender and a medical library depicting a set of surgical instruments of 5000 years ago.
2003 Added to Tentative List
The site has 4 locations