Egypt Travel Bucket List
Locations & History

The Temple of Horus at Edfu [Travel Guide]

The Temple of Horus, otherwise known as Edfu temple, was one of my favourite stops along the Nile River. Architecturally impressive, the Temple of Horus is a must-do stop. You’ll experience the sheer scale and ambition of the Egyptian temple builders. There’s so much to see but I would recommend booking a tour guide. This will allow you to make the most out of your visit and the guides are lovely and informative. They bring the hieroglyphs, history and religion behind the temple to life. Whilst, introducing visitors to the people who inhabited it and the culture they lived in.

The Preservation of an Ancient Temple

As the best-preserved ancient temple in all of Egypt, I loved seeing the Temple of Horus. Preserved by sand cover, the original temple structure has been maintained in all its glory for centuries. I felt like I was stepping back in time. It was incredible to see a complex frozen in its original appearance from 237 to 57 BC. We are fortunate that there was such natural protection. With its roof intact, it provides us with an idea of the temples full form. In addition, the essence and energy of the Egyptians and what was important to them has been kept alive. It’s wonderfully atmospheric and an exhilarating temple to visit. I can’t stress enough that this temple is in the same league as Abu Simbel.

Who built the Temple of Horus?

The Temple of Horus dates back to the Ptolemaic times. The building of the temple began during the reign of Ptolemy III (237 BC). The temple was first built on the site of an earlier and much smaller New Kingdom structure. It was completed by Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos, Cleopatra VII’s father. The ancient hieroglyphics on the temple’s entrance reveals important information. It tells us about the language, myth and religion during the Greco-Roman period in ancient Egypt. 

Indeed, the conception and design follow the general plan and traditional decoration of Pharaonic architecture. And although it is much newer than other cult temples, its excellent state of preservation is extraordinary, filling in many historical gaps.

Who is the Temple of Horus dedicated to?

It was a settlement and cemetery site from around 3000 BC onwards. The Egyptians designed this temple as a place of worship to the falcon-headed sky god Horus. The Egyptians believed Horus had the eyes of the sun and of the moon and that he was assimilated into the myth of Isis and Osiris as their avenging son. The wall decorations detail the scenes of the story of the divine birth of Horus the child. At this birth was the goddess Hathor, the god Khenoum and other deities who were preoccupied with pregnancy and birth.

However, after Osiris was murdered by his brother Seth, Horus avenged him in a great battle at Edfu. Seth was exiled and Horus took the throne. The Egyptians believe that Horus’ father, Osiris, reigned through him from the underworld. Consequently, all Pharaohs claimed to be the incarnation of Horus, ‘the living king’ who was considered the true and powerful king.

The Temple of Horus
Ancient hieroglyphics on the Temple’s entrance!

The Temple of Horus showcases unity in religion

It is amazing to think the construction and inscriptions of this temple took around 180 years to complete. Today everything happens with speed and efficiency. Whereas, the motivation to build this temple was spiritual devotion, love, worship, and a belief in an overriding power. As a result, this temple shows us that in ancient Egypt, religion defined every waking moment of every individual. When I found this out, Edfu temple suddenly became even more impressive. I could see that religion unified the rich and the poor, the Pharaohs with the common people.  

The inscriptions inside speak of a form of political propaganda that we are familiar with today. The Egyptian inscriptions appear to always be reinforcing the power and might of the reigning Pharaoh and his royal bloodline. The inside walls are decorated with battle scenes, representing King Ptolemy VIII as defeating his enemies before the god Horus, embodying strength, bravery and power.

It is amazing to see this scene repeated throughout the temple. I realised that history is recorded by the influential, wealthy and victors. I couldn’t help then but wonder how much of the past we are missing in our storybooks? Whatever happened to the poor but no less important history of the common people?

The Temple of Horus

The Grand Courtyard at the Temple of Horus

Once you walk through the entrance, you will be introduced to one of the best-preserved courtyards in all of Egypt. The grandeur of the courtyard amazed me, especially the columns with floral capitals on three sides. According to historians, this court was open to the public and was known as the court of the offerings. Acting as the place where people could come and give their offering to the statue of Horus. The atmosphere in this area was so profound that the importance of the offerings resonated with me even today.

The Temple of Horus
Edfu Temple’s Grand Courtyard!

Why the Temple of Horus Ended Egyptian Freedom

Despite the popularity of this temple and the success of the Pharoah, the temple came to an end. In 391 BC Theodosius I of Rome declared that non-Christian worship was illegal. This meant that Egyptians could no longer openly worship their gods or use the temple for religious purposes.  The Christians came around, destroying all their artefacts and sculptures, trying to eradicate all traces of paganism. Even today, evidence of destruction is clear by the blackened ceiling within the hypostyle hall. I couldn’t help but see some parallels to the religious intolerance in our own century.

A final thought

I would say that the Edfu temple in its size and extravagant design shows the wealth of Egypt’s history. Its preserved state makes it a sight to behold and it is definitely worth making a visit!

If you enjoyed reading, check out my other post 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!

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