After two days in Luxor, our boat set sail south for Esna passing the Nile lock before continuing to Edfu which was a flourishing Greek city in the ancient times. It has been settled from 3000 BC onwards. Most tourists come here to visit the Temple of Horus. We disembarked early in the morning and were taken from our boat by horse-drawn carriage to the temple passing by the main part of Edfu town with people starting their day.
Chilling out on the sun deck while we cruise towards Esna
Fertile farmland along the Nile
Fishermen with the catch
Horse-drawn carriage ride to Edfu Temple
Streets of Edfu
The town of Edfu is known for the large Ptolemaic Temple of Horus built by Ptolemy III in 237 BC and completed by Ptolemy XII, father of Cleopatra VII, in 57 BC. Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris and husband to Hathor, was worshipped in ancient Egypt as the God of the Sky and later identified as Apollo by the Greeks. He was usually depicted as a falcon or a falcon-headed man whose right eye was the sun and the left eye was the moon. According to ancient Egyptian royal traditions, the ruling pharaoh was always considered the living form of Horus and when he died, he became Osiris, the god of the dead and the father of Horus. He was also considered the god of war and the king’s protector resulting in many images with Horus hovering above the king’s head. The Temple of Horus was built on the site of an earlier New Kingdom temple and is the largest temple dedicated to Horus in ancient Egypt. It is also said to be the most completely preserved temple remains in Egypt. It was buried under 12 meters of desert sand and Nile river silt with houses and streets built right above it. Only until the mid 19th century did excavation work begin to free the Temple of Horus from the sands and restore it to its former glory.
Row of touristy shops in front of the Temple of Horus
Approaching the 36-meter high entrance pylon of the Temple of Horus
As you approached the temple, the sandstone walls covered in giant hieroglyphics is a sight to behold. Guarding the 36-meter high entrance pylon are a pair of granite falcons. Reliefs on the pylon intended to awe the king’s subject depict Ptolemy XII holding his enemies by their hair before Horus, ready to kill them. I felt absolutely minute and indeed awed craning my neck to take it all in.
Immense entrance pylons were built to impress the people and make them believe that their ruler was indeed a god.
A pair of granite falcons guard the entrance pylon
Battle scene with Ptolemy VIII smiting his enemy before the god Horus.
The pharaoh and his queen on the left making offerings to Horus and his wife Hathor on the right.
Winged sun disk symbolising divinity and power over the entrance pylon of the Temple of Horus
Beyond the pylon is a large forecourt surrounded on three sides by 32 columns decorated with floral and palm capitals. This was where offerings were made on an altar to the gods. On the walls are reliefs of Horus and Hathor and their annual reunion. On the left of the entrance into the outer hypostyle hall is one of a pair of the black granite statue of Horus wearing the double crown of Egypt. The outer hypostyle hall has 12 columns with two small rooms, one is the Hall of Consecration and the other the library where ritual texts were stored. In the Hall of Consecration is a beautiful relief depicting Horus and Thoth pouring sacred water over the king. Inside the 12-column inner hypostyle hall leading to the inner sanctum are two small chambers with the left hand chamber functioning as the laboratory where incense and perfumes were prepared and stored and the ingredients and formulas written on the walls. The first antechamber was the offering chamber where daily offerings of flowers, fruits, wine, milk, etc were made to the gods by the priests. The first antechamber leads to the second antechamber and then to the inner sanctuary which once housed the golden statue of Horus. In one of the chambers here is a replica of the wooden barque used to carry the statue of Horus during festivals and processions.
Forecourt of the Temple of Horus and the Birth House
The great forecourt used for offering to the gods and an area the public was allowed to enter.
The pharaoh making offerings to Horus
Another pair of falcons guard the entrance to the vestibule with the one of the left wearing the double crown of Egypt
The ankh is a symbol of life for the ancient Egyptians
Inner hypostyle hall
On the walls of the temple’s “laboratory” are recipes for the different incense and perfumes used for rituals.
The pharaoh and his queen making offerings to Horus and his consort Hathor
The pharaoh on the left making offerings to a procession of gods
The inner sanctuary where a replica of the original barge now stands
Depiction of the golden statue of Horus on his barge during the festival
Behind the main temple is an inner passageway entered from the Hypostyle Hall with reliefs depicting the battle between Horus and Set where Set is depicted as a hippopotamus. According to Egyptian mythology, Set killed his brother Osiris and usurped his throne. Osiris’s wife, Isis, resurrected her dead husband long enough for him to posthumously conceive their son, Horus. Horus sought revenge upon Set as he contends for the throne. Triumphant, Horus restores order to Egypt. The Osiris myth is one of the most elaborate and important myths in ancient Egypt with its concepts of kingship and succession, good and evil, order in society, and ideas of the afterlife. Also here in the inner passageway is the remains of the Nilometer which was used by the ancient Egyptians to measure the level of Nile river and help predict the coming harvest.
Here Horus and the pharaoh are depicted spearing the hippopotamus representing Set, the god of chaos.
Passage of Victory
The pharaoh tries to spear the hippopotamus while Horus does the same. Horus is seen here holding a chain in his left hand and a spear in his right with his mother Isis behind him.
The battle between Horus and Set as a hippopotamus continues
In this last scene, Horus is standing in the boat with his spear aimed at the hippopotamus, whose hind leg is tied in a cord held by Horus and its head in a cord held by Isis who is kneeling in the bow of the boat. The king, standing on the shore with his two attendants, aims his spear at the hippopotamus’s head.
After our short visit to Edfu, we boarded our cruise and continued south towards Kom Ombo. Stay tuned!
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