Devoted to the falcon-headed deity, Horus, revered by the Ancient Egyptians; the Temple of Horus ranks second in the list of the largest temples in the nation. It is nestled on the west bank of Nile and on the border of the Edfu town – the site where the deity fought with his enemy, Seth in a war. Since its excavation in 1860s, the temple is very well maintained, which is the main reason for attracting thousands of tourists annually.
The Temple of Horus was erected during the era of six Ptolemies and used to hold the statue of Horus in a grass shed. However, today, the main highlights are the 90 degree pylon of Ramesses II, reliefs with the episodes of the Feast of the Beautiful Meeting as well as the yearly reunion with his wife Hathor, and main building with the Hypostyle Hall. And yes, for the tourists, the facilities include a cafeteria, coach park, and an open-air museum via which you reach up to temple’s facade.
Just before the pylon, you will come across a rectangular edifice known as the Birth House in the southwest corner. This is assumed to be the birthplace of the holy Horus. While you take a tour, your eyes will glare at the stunning reliefs showing the god Bes, birth episodes, Ihi (Harsomptus), and the sons of Horus and Hathor relished in the swamps by the mother. At the big towers and pylon, there are traditional portrayals of the king slaying his enemies in front of the falcon-headed deity. Next, at the gateway, two statues of Horus can be seen after which you stand in a paved courtyard flanked by the cloisters that reveal the ‘Feast of the Beautiful Meeting’ festival along with the associated ceremonies. In this feast, the statue of Hathor of Dendera was being brought on a barge to reach this town to meet his husband, Horus.
Now, you can see the temple’s facade in whose front is the popular and giant statue of Horus in black granite, which is adored in double crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt. Within, the first highlight is the group of the noisy birds chirping over the ceiling that itself is coated with the astronomical figures – all adorning the outer hypostyle hall of 18 tall columns, which is also called the pronaos. On the walls, you can see those traditional scenes of offerings. Spot the two small chambers in south: the House of Books on the east and the House of the Morning on the west.
In the second hypostyle hall or the smaller pronao, there are 12 columns along with several chambers such as the Chambers of Offerings as well as a lab that was the storage room for the recipes of ointments, incense, and additional temple provisions. Just in the opposite, there lies a treasury of valuables like silver and gold, which is dug with protective locks.
At the hall’s rear, a small sloping zone takes one o the eastern and western staircases that end at the roof. This is where you can enjoy a spectacular vista of the temple site. As you ascend these steps, look for a priest procession in reliefs. Just nearby is the Pure Place, an open-air court where the ceiling reflects the sky-goddess Nut.
And it was now that I reached the holy of the holies – the sanctuary where the most ancient statue of Horus was housed. This is a granite naos shrine where also the statue of Nectanebo II of Dynasty XXX was kept. Go beyond this and you come across a chapel featuring a low podium holding the replica of the barque of Horus. Flanking the sanctuary are the several chambers devoted to more deities and reserved for temple rites as well as crypts of which a few are covered inside the walls, which you are not allowed to see.
Flanking the inner temple is a corridor still boasting some great scenes of the Edfu Drama that shows how Horus defeated Seth. It is this drama that is annually enacted as a play. At the north enclosure wall, do look for a relief showing the important ritual – ‘Installation of the Sacred Falcon’ – where a live falcon is revered as god Horus.
The Temple of Horus is accessible via a Nile cruise, while via train and road, it is near to Aswan (2.5 hours).
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