Why was the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut built?
The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is a resting place for the Queen. It is also a memorial temple that worships and honours Queen Hatshepsut. The geographical location, on the west bank of the River Nile, is significant. It’s not only facing the city of Luxor but it also marks the entrance to the Valley of the Kings. This puts the temple at the heart of the ancient capital Thebes. Consequently, the Queen is eternally placed in the minds of the Egyptian people. Strategically, Hatshepsut found a way to always reign over Egypt. Locals, traders, visitors and descendent kings or queens would always have her enduring presence of wisdom, power and insight. With all this on offer, a tour of the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut should definitely be on your bucket list!
Why was the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut built here?
Additionally, the location at Deir El Bahri is significant to understanding ancient Egyptian culture. It was chosen because the ancient Egyptians considered the valley sacred because of its association with the funerary goddess Hathor. This temple took 15 years to complete and, in accordance with Hatshepsut’s style, many statues of herself were erected at the site. This was a way of impressing on her people and future generations her power, social standing and authority as a great Pharaoh and ruler. These statues are larger than life and can be found on the third level of the temple. Sadly, this level is off-limit to the public but because of their size, you can still see them when walking up to the temple.
What to expect at the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut
The temple comprises three levels and leading up to the second and third levels is a 100-foot causeway. This causeway is believed to have been lined with sphinxes during ancient Egyptian times. During this time, they decked the first level with trees and shrubbery from Hatshepsut’s trading expeditions to the land of Punt.
Whilst the second level contains the first-ever documented record of the said expedition. This record retells Hatshepsut’s high official Pa-nahsy’s journey to Punt between the years 1482 and 1479 BC. You can also find on the second floor a shrine to the goddess Hathor. Here, Hathor is depicted with a woman’s face, cow’s ears and holding a musical instrument. Additionally, there is a special chapel dedicated to the Theban Necropolis Anubis who was the god of mummification and afterlife.
The art depicts Hatshepsut’s divinity
The second level is also sometimes called the Birth Colonnade as it depicts the birth of Queen Hatshepsut. It validates her rule over Egypt as she claimed to be the divine daughter of Amon Ra. Amon Ra is painted in these reliefs as impregnating Queen Ahmose and discloses that Hatshepsut will rule over Egypt. Indeed, Hatshepsut was regarded as the most formidable woman in ancient Egypt and later female Pharaohs aspired to her. Impressively, her reign lasted for 22 years and is also regarded as Egypt’s most prosperous periods.
Overcoming gender stereotypes
Despite her successful reign, Hatshepsut had many obstacles to overcome. After her husband Thutmose II died, she served as co-regent to her nephew and stepson, the infant Thutmose III, who eventually became the 6th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. Hatshepsut was at a disadvantage from the outset, as a woman she had to fight an army of men who believed her to be weak, feebleminded and inferior. For this reason, the above paintings recounting Hatshepsut’s birth was essential for her rule over ancient Egypt. And so by declaring herself as the daughter of Amon Ra she elevates herself from the status of a mere mortal to one of the gods.
Queen Hatshepsut’s reign came to an end
Thutmose III, who many believed to be Egypt’s rightful king, grew into adulthood during her reign. This meant that Hatshepsut was made to relinquish her claim to the throne. Interestingly enough, after her death, Thutmose III, who resented her prolonged reign, ordered for Hatshepsut’s name and image to be chiselled from the walls. Instead, he replaced his own on those walls and built his own temple directly opposite hers across the River Nile.
The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is a unique gem
When on the second level take a moment to turn around and look out into the vista. On this level, the outstandingly beautiful scenery is enough to transfix you in your place and make you contemplate the wonders of the world. Also, this temple is unlike any other you will encounter on your travels. It is dedicated to and celebrates a woman! Additionally, it tells a part of history that many in this period might want to be forgotten! Lastly, the art, statues, grandeur of the temple speaks loudly of the woman and Queen Hatshepsut was! It really is breath-taking and unbelievable!
If you enjoyed reading about the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, check out my other Egypt posts. These are about Luxor and Karnak Temples, Abu Simbel, Valley 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!