Kom Ombo Temple
Locations & History

Kom Ombo and Aswan Dam [Travel Guide]

Kom Ombo and Aswan Dam

Ever wondered why Kom Ombo and Aswan Dam are so important? Check out this article to learn about Kom Ombo and Aswan Dam. It’ll detail their history, significance in Egypt’s culture and what you can expect to see and do there!

Kom Ombo Temple

When was Kom Ombo Temple built?

It is said that the Temple of Kom Ombo was built during the Graeco-Roman period (332BC – AD 395). However, some elements of its structure, the most derelict parts, date back to the 18th dynasty. It is these derelict parts that give the temple an outward skeletal appearance, impressing on the mind images of change, growth and continuous evolvement. The temple’s history gives a certain feel of prestige and import even to today’s visitors.

What does Kom Ombo mean?

The temple’s imposing nature is appropriately named ‘Kom’, meaning ‘the small hill’ in Arabic. Whilst ‘Ombo’, means ‘the gold’ in the Hieroglyphic ancient Egyptian language. By looking into the meaning behind the temples name it becomes clear that the Egyptians considered the location to be ‘the hill of the gold’, with the ‘gold’ being the temple itself.

Additionally, its prime location directly looks over the River Nile. This suggests the name connects the Pharaohs with the gods and economical and agricultural importance. This is why during the Ptolemaic period, the River Nile and the Red Sea encouraged commercial activities within the Nile towns. As a result, the temple became a central transit point used by many trading caravans.

Kom Ombo and Aswan Dam

Kom Ombo Temple has a double structure

Furthermore, the temple inspires awe from its unique double structure. By this, I mean that the temple is dedicated to two ancient gods. These gods are Sobek the crocodile god and Horus the falcon-headed god.  We can see this from the layout of the temple, which combines two temples in one with each side of the structure having its own gateways and chapels. I found the idea of paralleling the worship of these two gods interesting. I know that Sobek is associated with the wicked god Seth, the enemy of Horus. So, to have them as equals raises questions about the image of the Pharaoh. 

Kom Ombo and Aswan Dam

What can you expect from Kom Ombo? 

The construction of the temple was mainly carried out in limestone. It was built in the shape of a rectangle similar to other Greco-Roman temples of the period. As you enter, you are introduced to the front courtyard, a hypostyle hall, three inner halls, and two sanctuaries. These sanctuaries are dedicated to Sobek and the other to the god Horus.

You’ve got to see Kom Ombo’s decorated walls

When walking through these walls, it struck me that the temple played the part of a maze. There’s a new delight around every corner. This is most evident in the seemingly never-ending halls. From the inner halls there are seven chambers; three of them in the eastern section. Whilst the others lie in the western part of the temple’s design. There are also many antechambers and smaller rooms that were used for ritual purposes.

Kom Ombo’s incredible paintings

There are also wonderful carvings. It is magnificent to witness the Egyptian artwork and the care and detail they put into every line and curve. They’re unlike any I had ever seen before, depicting the Ptolemaic kings beating the enemies and presenting offerings to the gods. Moreover, the act of depicting such scenes looks like a form of worship and an act of love and pride in the artists’ beliefs. Wandering through these colonnades and gazing up at scenes of kingly propaganda, it gave a glimpse of Egypt’s complex history.

Aswan Dam

Where is the Aswan Dam located?

The Aswan High Dam lies over 2 miles long across the Nile River. This dam ended the continuous cycle of flood and drought in the River Nile region. Due to its considerable size the dam exploits a large amount of energy. While some praise its benefits, others believe that this dam has had a negative environmental impact.

Kom Ombo and Aswan Dam

Why was the Aswan Dam built?

The dam took 11 years to construct and was finally completed in 1902. The first dam provided valuable irrigation during droughts but could not prevent the annual flood from the River Nile. In the 1950s, the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser proposed building a new dam, one that was large enough to end flooding. Additionally, Nasser planned for the dam to bring electric power to every part of Egypt.

Not everything was smooth sailing 

Sadly, in 1956 Nasser’s financial backing from the United States and Britain was cancelled. This led to the well-known Suez Canal crisis. Here, Nassar nationalised the canal, hoping to use the tolls to pay for his High Dame project. In response Israel, Britain, and France attacked Egypt in a joint military operation.

Despite the Suez Canal being occupied the Soviets, the US, and the UN forced Israel, Britain and France to withdraw, leaving the Canal in the hands of the Egyptians. Additionally, Soviet loans and the proceeds from the Canal tolls allowed Nasser to begin work on the Aswan Dam in 1960. Sadly, he died in 1970, just 1 year before it was completed. In his honour, the giant reservoir created by the dam was named Lake Nasser.

Hostility around Aswan Dam continues 

The contention caused before and during the construction of the dam continued long after it was completed. The formation of Lake Nasser required the resettlement of 90,000 Egyptian peasants and Sudanese Nubian nomads. Even more devastating, they also forced Abu Simbel Temple to relocate. 

There are some benefits to the Aswan Dam

Relocating Abu Simbel angered many. However, there are benefits, such as the Aswan Dam ended the Nile’s devastating floods. It also reclaimed over 100,000 acres of desert land for cultivation and made additional crops possible on some 800,000 other acres. Furthermore, the Soviet-built turbines produce as much as 10 billion kilowatt-hours annually, which provides an enormous boost to the Egyptian economy.

Is Aswan Dam worth a visit?

Perhaps the dam is not as awe-inspiring as other Egyptian sites but its history is just as rich and potentially more relevant. I thought Aswan Dam was a truly thought-provoking place. One that everyone should visit during their life and decide what side of the coin you stand on in the debate surrounding the High Dam. Are you on the side of the dam’s technological advancement or are you fighting against its negative environmental impacts?

To find out more about Egypt…

If you enjoyed reading about Kom Ombo and Aswan Dam, check out my other Egypt posts. These are about Luxor and Karnak TemplesAbu SimbelValley of the Kings, or the Colossi of Memnon! And be sure to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss out on another inspiring travel article like this Kom Ombo and Aswan Dam post!

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