Exploring the temple at Edfu

Saturday 5 January 2008: No wake-up call this morning. During the night, we passed the locks at Esna and sadly missed that, but we’re going back down river later, so no worries. There was talk of hustlers in boats throwing their wares on board at Esna. Cat, my youngest, is excitedly anticipating that on the return trip. After a wonderfully lazy morning, we’ve gone ashore at Edfu.

Edfu Temple, Egypt

Up river from Luxor, about 100 km, is Edfu Temple, the best preserved in Egypt, perhaps in all of antiquity. Edfu Temple is from the Ptolemaic period, a mere 2200 years old or so – hardly any age at all in this land. In fact, this large temple is built on the site of an older temple, from the New Kingdom.

Horus Temple at Edfu

The pylon is impressive: 56 metres high, taller than the one at Karnak but not as wide. It’s difficult to imagine this temple covered almost to the ceiling with sand, as it was when discovered in the mid-1800s. It must have been stuffy, claustrophobic. The ceilings of the hypostyle hall (a hall with a roof supported by columns) are decorated with astronomical motifs. But people through the ages have sought refuge from the weather in here and the ceiling has been damaged by smoke from their cooking fires.

Horus at Edfu Temple

Horus statue at Edfu Temple

Edfu Temple is dedicated to Horus, the falcon-headed god. Horus, in case you’ve forgotten, is one of the most important Egyptian deities. He’s god of the sun, god of war and protector of Egypt. Horus is also son of Isis and Osiris. When Osiris is killed by Set, his widow asks their son to protect Egypt from this vicious creature.

The famous battle between Horus and his arch enemy is depicted along the walls here, as a conflict between a hippo and a crocodile. And how do we know that’s what it means? Because of the Edfu Project at the Archaeological Institute at the University of Hamburg, who has taken on the task of translating the hieroglyphs.

I really enjoy Edfu Temple. It’s less overwhelming than Karnak and much more intimate. Even though – or perhaps because – it’s afternoon, our little group has the grounds mostly to ourselves. We hava plenty of time to amble about on our own, touching the ancient walls and carved drawings, imagining those that inscribed them. And deciphering a few hieroglyphs of our own.

Edfu Temple 2

Have you visited the sights of Ancient Egypt? If so, which was your favourite?



32 Responses to “Exploring the temple at Edfu”

  1. ItalianNotes 11 December 2012 0902 #

    I’ve only been to the pyramids in Giza, Djoser and a couple more in the vicinity of Cairo. Never made it to Luxor, which is a great pity judging from your story and photos.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 1053 #

      Luxor is a fabulous city, lively and deliciously chaotic. I’d love to do a boat journey between Cairo and Luxor. They just reopened that stretch of the Nile for the boats earlier this year.

  2. Natasha von Geldern 11 December 2012 2357 #

    We only went as far south as Luxor on our Egypt trip. Thebes and Karnak were wonderful but I do fancy going back and doing that boat trip. (closet Agatha Christie fan here)

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 1022 #

      Ooh, you’d love that river journey then, Natasha. Meandering slowly up the Nile is wonderful food for the imagination.

  3. Jade - OurOyster.com 12 December 2012 0235 #

    Looks fun! I would love to visit Egypt, and this looks like it would have less of the tourist hordes there as well

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 1019 #

      Absolutely worth a visit this one.

  4. Travel the Middle East Maria 12 December 2012 0431 #

    AH! You just reminded me I should talk about this temple and post my photos 😉 I loved it as well!

    – Maria Alexandra

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 1019 #

      Looking forward to seeing it, Maria 🙂

  5. Muza-chan 13 December 2012 1121 #

    I never visit Egipt

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 1017 #

      Hope you do someday, Muza-chan 🙂

  6. Salika Jay 13 December 2012 1429 #

    Egyptian history is something I’m ever fascinated about so this is an interesting read to me.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 1016 #

      Egypt does seem to draw people in with all its history – and mysteries. Thoroughly fascinating country it is.

  7. [email protected] 13 December 2012 1616 #

    Egypt is one place that I have yet to travel too. The incredible history of the country appeals to me so it is certainly of the list. When I go I will certainly remember to add Edfu to the itinerary

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 1015 #

      It was always high on my list as well. I was there first with my oldest daughter when she was 4, now nearly 20 years ago (yikes!) – then again on this river journey. Still lots more to see and experience.

  8. Jackie Smith 13 December 2012 1619 #

    Oh you’ve tickled the travel bug with this post! We must get to Egypt one day.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 1013 #

      Thanks 🙂

  9. Leigh 13 December 2012 2313 #

    I think visiting a site like this when you have to to yourself makes a huge difference. I wonder how a cruise like that would be in Egypt this week.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 1012 #

      Sadly yes, although I think the current troubles are more focused in Cairo and on Sinai. Eagerly anticipating calmer times in the whole country – and region…

  10. Lisa from Gone With The Family 14 December 2012 0140 #

    My husband has traveled in Egypt but the girls and I have not yet been and it’s near the top of our list of places that we most want to visit. Since my younger daughter was quite little she has been asking to to go Egypt to see the pyramids and I think she would be fascinated with a temple like Edfu as well. The experience of sailing the Nile between Luxor and Aswan must have been incredible!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 1003 #

      Incredible indeed; a river cruise like no other. Not a lot of children on Nile boats, though. At least, my youngest daughter (then 6) was the only child on board – which meant she was completely spoiled by everyone, especially the crew. Naturally, she loved it.

  11. Linda McCormick 14 December 2012 0204 #

    Loved this temple! We arrived via felucca. There were only a few other people there, so pretty similar situation. It makes it a little more special, doesn’t it?

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 1001 #

      It make a huge difference, I think, especially to the atmosphere and to my focus.

  12. InsideJourneys 14 December 2012 0220 #

    This is an informative post, Sophie — thanks! Sadly, Egypt’s still on my list. Hope to scratch it off soon.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 1000 #

      I think you’d really enjoy Egypt, Marcia 🙂

  13. Dick Jordan 14 December 2012 0305 #

    Nifty shots. Had never heard of this place before.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 15 December 2012 0959 #

      It does rather fall in the shadow of the more famous temples.

  14. Michele @ Malaysian Meanders 15 December 2012 1506 #

    I would love to visit Egypt some day. Your river cruise sounds like a fantastic way to do it. And yes, it is hard to imagine this temple covered in sand.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 16 December 2012 0123 #

      A river cruise in Egypt is fantastic. My kids thinks it was one of their best holidays ever.

  15. Nancie 15 December 2012 2333 #

    I spent a month in Egypt in 2004 and loved it. I floated down the Nile on a Felucca, rode a camel into the desert, and spent hours and hours in the museum. I had a lot of favorite moments…Karnack, Luxor and Abu Simbel come to mind. I didn’t get to see Edfu; next time!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 16 December 2012 0127 #

      A whole month would be wonderful – slowly sailing up the Nile, riding through the desert, something so haunting and forever attractive about that. On our boat journey, we met an elderly Danish lady who had visited more than 40 times, just couldn’t get enough of Egypt. She rented cars and drove around all on her own.

  16. Andrew Graeme Gould 17 December 2012 1659 #

    What a magnificent Iooking temple, Sophie. A very cute shot to finish, too! And to answer your question, no, I haven’t… not yet.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 17 December 2012 1729 #

      You’d no doubt take magical photos there 🙂

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