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Edfu Temple – The Temple of Horus; a spectacular temple in Egypt with a well preserved structure




Of all the temples of ancient Egypt, the one at Edfu is the most complete and best preserved. The reason is that the temple had been totally submerged under the desert sand (so it got saved from the earthquakes and other natural events that caused damage to the other temples) except for the very top of the pylon entrance. A small amount of stone had been removed from the exposed part, but when excavated it was found to be in near perfect condition. The temple was built by the Greek pharaohs.

Location of Edfu temple

Edfu is located 60Km to the north of Aswan. The town of Edfu is located on the west back of the Nile River, some sixty miles south of Luxor, with Aswan further south. Edfu is located about halfway between Luxor (115km away) and Aswan (105km) and 65km north of Kom Ombo. It was the 2nd Nome of Upper Egypt and the centre of the cult of a triad of Gods, which consisted of Horus of Behdet, Hathor, and their son, Hor-Sama-Tawy.

How to get there

The temple is often included on Nile cruise itineraries but can also be reached from Aswan or Luxor, by train or road. The railway station is on the east bank and coaches often only stop on this side too. A taxi from Luxor takes around two hours and one and a half hours from Aswan. As of 2009 visitors no longer need to travel as part of the police convoy.

Location of Edfu temple on Google Maps:


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History of Edfu temple

– Dedicated to Horus, the falcon headed god. It was built during the reigns of six Ptolemies.
– In 332 BC, Alexander the Great conquered Egypt. After his death in 323, his successors ruled Egypt under the Ptolemaic Dynasty.
– The Temple of Horus at Edfu was built during the Ptolemiac era on top of an earlier temple to Horus.
– This is not only the best preserved ancient temple in Egypt, but the second largest after Karnak.
– The modern Arabic name of Edfu is derived from the ancient Egyptian name Djeba, or Etbo in Coptic. Djeba meant “Retribution Town”, since the enemies of the god were brought to justice therein.
– The Temple of Edfu is nearly intact and a very good example of an ancient Egyptian temple.
– The Temple of Edfu’s archaeological significance and high state of preservation has made it a center for tourism in Egypt.
– The falcon-headed Horus was originally the sky god, whose eyes were the sun and moon.
– He was later assimilated into the popular myth of Isis and Osiris as the divine couple’s child. Raised by Isis and Hathor after Osiris’ murder by his brother Seth, Horus avenged his father’s death in a great battle at Edfu. Seth was exiled and Horus took the throne, Osiris reigning through him from the underworld. Thus all pharoahs claimed to be the incarnation of Horus, the “living king.”
– The town of Edfu is today an important centre for sugar production and pottery-making.

Attractions at Edfu Temple

Pylon : The front shows illustrations of Horus and Hathor, and captives offered in sacrifice to the gods. The four niches held
flagstaffs when the temple was in use. This is the Great Pylon.

Edfu temple in Egypt - the first pylon along with tourists
Edfu temple in Egypt – the first pylon along with tourists

The Temple of Edfu was actually not the first one here. It was built on top of a temple built for Thutmosis III by the famous architect Imhotep, who later was proclaimed a god himself because of his great works. You find him pictured in that role at the temple of Kom Ombo.
GOD Horus : Guarding the entrance of the temple are two statues of the god Horus. His importance was such that he was equalled with the king. The pharaoh was seen as a human manifestation of the god Horus.

Edfu Temple in Egypt - the statue of Horus

Edfu Temple in Egypt – the statue of Horus

Birth House : The first structure we come to, at the south-west corner before the great temple pylon, is a rectangular colonnaded building peculiar to Graeco-Roman temples, known as a mammisi or birth-house, built to celebrate the divine birth of Horus. The Roman mammisi at Dendera was modelled on this structure.
Court of Offerings : Beyond the Pylon is the spacious Court of Offerings, where people could enter to make offerings to the image of Horus. The court is surrounded by columns on three sides and is decorated with festival reliefs. depict the Festival of the Beautiful Meeting, during which Hathor’s image sailed from Dendera to spend some intimate time with Horus in the sanctuary of the Temple of Edfu before sailing back.

Edfu temple in Egypt - Court of Offerings, surrounded by columns on 3 sides

Hypostyle Hall : The rectangular Hypostyle Hall was built under Ptolemy VII (145-116 BC) and has two rows of six pillars supporting an intact roof. The ceiling has astronomical paintings symbolizing the sky. This is the outer hypostyle hall or pronaos, with 18 tall carved columns to support a ceiling decorated with astronomical figures representing the sky. The usual offering scenes decorate the walls but there are also well-preserved reliefs from the temple foundation ceremony.

Edfu temple in Egypt - the grand Hypostyle Hall with astronomical paintings on the ceiling
Edfu temple in Egypt – the grand Hypostyle Hall with astronomical paintings on the ceiling

Festival Hall : It marks the beginning of the oldest part of the temple, built 237-212 BC under Ptolemy III and IV. During festivals, this hall was decorated with faience, flowers and herbs and scented with incense and myrrh.

Hall of offerings : A small doorway, decorated with splendid reliefs of the sacred barques of Horus and Hathor, leads from the Festival Hall into the Hall of Offerings. During the New Year Festival, the image of Horus was carried up the ascending stairway on the left to be revitalized by the sun, then carried back down the descending stairway.

Sanctuary Of Horus : The Sanctuary of Horus, with ritual barque (barge) granite shrine in back is the holiest part of the temple. The sanctuary centers on a black-granite shrine that was dedicated by Nectanebo II, making it the oldest relic in the temple. This once contained the gilded wooden cult image of Horus. Next to the shrine is an offering table and the ceremonial barque (barge) on which Horus was carried during festivals.

Edfu temple in Egypt - Sanctuary Of Horus, the holiest part of the temple
Edfu temple in Egypt – Sanctuary Of Horus, the holiest part of the temple

Nilometer : One of the most remarkable elements of the Temple is the existence of a Nilometer, as well as a chapel, which was dedicated to the Goddess Nut.

Edfu temple in Egypt - Nilometer, for measuring the height of the Nile
Edfu temple in Egypt – Nilometer, for measuring the height of the Nile

Edfu temple in Egypt - taking a horse carriage from the cruise to the temple
Edfu temple in Egypt – taking a horse carriage from the cruise to the temple

Edfu temple in Egypt - view of the temple from a distance
Edfu temple in Egypt – view of the temple from a distance

Edfu temple in Egypt - tourist taking a photo of some of the pillars
Edfu temple in Egypt – tourist taking a photo of some of the pillars

Edfu temple in Egypt - the huge carving in the first pylon
Edfu temple in Egypt – the huge carving in the first pylon

Edfu temple in Egypt - the large carving in the first pylon
Edfu temple in Egypt – the large carving in the first pylon




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