Kom Ombo and Edfu

map of my journey

edfu and komombo


Two temples on the Nile: Kom Ombo and Edfu. Kom Ombo is the ancient site of Ombos, which is from the ancient Egyptian word ‘nubt’- meaning ‘City of Gold’. In ancient Egypt, the city said to be an important to the caravan routes from Nubia and various gold mines.  Edfu, on the other hand, although was not a very  important place of ancient Egypt, according to the Egyptian myths it is the place where the falcon-headed god Horus avenged the murder of his father Osiris by killing Seth (I will write about this story while writing about Edfu Temple). Edfu  also was  the Greek city of Apollinopolis Magna which was a religious and commercial center.

Nile river is the longest in the world. While sailing on it, I was hoping to see a fishing  Falcons along the Nile which have been the habitants of the river during the centuries. However I guess my passion for seeing a falcon was because of my excitement to visit the Temple of Horus (falcon-headed sky god)! However the first temple that I visited was Kom Ombo- Temple which was half dedicated to  Sobek (crocodile-headed god of Nile products and Fertility, Patron of the Army and Military) and Horus! After a ride with a coach,  Edfu- Temple of Horus was standing in front of me!

Edfu: Temple of Horus

Temple of Edfu is located on the west bank of the Nile in the city of Edfu- which is 60Km to the north of Aswan. Although the city was said to be very flourishing in the past, today the temple could be considered main monument that stands in Edfu. Indeed, the temple is one of the most  beautiful and preserved Temples in Egypt. It is  the second largest temple after Karnak. The construction of this Temple and its additions, inscriptions, and relief’s were mentioned to took about 180 years! The temple is dedicated to the falcon god Horus!Horus is one of ancient Egypt’s best known and oldest god (funny that  in the beginning of my journey I was thinking that it was Ra ! Some of the sources says that Ra is an ancient Sun God of Egypt and in later Egyptian dynastic times, he was merged with the god Horus! In the New Kingdom the god Amun rose to prominence he was fused with Ra as Amun-Ra. Yes, this is very confusing; however in all of temples I have visited so far, nobody mentioned much about Ra; but I heard a lot about Horus! Only difference I can tell about representations of these two gods are Ra was symbolized with sun-disk on his head and Horus with a crown.).

The temple is built from sandstone blocks during the Ptolemaic period. The Ptolemaic Egypt represents the Hellenistic period of Egypt. The Ptolemies were originally Macedonian and were often represented as Greek rulers. Following the death of Alexander the Great (in 323 BC), his kingdom was divided amongst his generals.  Ptolemy, son of Lagos took control of Egypt and governed the country until 305 BC, when he was crowned King.  The Dynasty ruled in Egypt for almost 300 years, until the death of one of Egypt’s most famous queens Cleopatra VII (yes she is the one that we all know!) in 30 BC, when it was annexed by Rome. Therefore, Edfu Temple consists of traditional elements of Egyptian Temples (of the New Kingdom), together with a few Greek elements, such as the Mamisi (Mamisi means “house of the divine birth”). It consists of an entrance, a court and chapel.

The picture on the left: This is the Pylon (gate way of) the temple which is considered the highest among surviving Temples in Egypt today. It is 37m high and is decorated with battle scenes, representing King Ptolemy VIII smiting his enemies before the God Horus.

The picture on the right: Inside the sanctuary at the centre of the temple, a golden boat of the Gods! Some of the sources says this is an early 20th century replica of a boat (barque) of Horus that would have sat in the Sanctuary. This boat would  have been joined briefly each year by  the boat of the goddess Hathor  brought from Dendara Temple.

The picture on the left: This is the  Inner Hypostyle Hall of the temple. Hypostyle Hall (or Hall of Papyriform Columns) is a Greek term for a room or chamber that has many columns. It is a feature of Egyptian architecture,in which they are distinguished from other pillared halls by the capital of the column often in the shape of the Papyrus Flower.

The picture in the middle: The Ankh! Key of life, the key of the Nile or crux ansata, was the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic character that read “eternal life”! Egyptian gods and goddesses holds the symbol ankh in their hands in every temple.

The picture on the right: This is one of the reliefs of Horus (God of the king, the sky and vengeance) on the Pylon of the temple.

Horus from the Egypt Mythology “Horus was born to the goddess Isis after she retrieved all the dismembered body parts of her murdered husband Osiris, except his penis which was thrown into the Nile and eaten by a catfish, and used her magic powers to resurrect Osiris and fashion a gold phallus to conceive her son. Once Isis knew she was pregnant with Horus, she fled to the Nile Delta marshlands to hide from her brother Set who jealously killed Osiris and who she knew would want to kill their son. There Isis bore a divine son, Horus.Horus was told by his mother, Isis, to protect the people of Egypt from Set, the god of the desert, who had killed his father Osiris. Horus had many battles with Seth, not only to avenge his father, but to choose the rightful ruler of Egypt. In these battles, Horus came to be associated with Lower Egypt (where Horus was worshipped), and became its patron.”

From my sketch book

Kom Ombo: Temple of Sobek and Horus

Temple of Kom Ombo was  built mainly to serve 2  gods at the same time: Sobek and Horus. This make this temple unique. Crocodile-head Sobek was the god of the Nile. In the past, the Nile river was full of crocodiles and therefore they were part of daily lives of the Egyptians. As he possessed the strength and nature of a crocodile, ancient Egyptians were both respected and scared from the god Sobek.

In temple of Kom Ombo, the left (northern) side is dedicated to god Horus while the right side (southern) was dedicated to god Sobek- which is not usual for an Egyptian temple. Some of the books call it both “House of the Crocodile” and “Castle of the Falcon”. The temple is mainly built out of limestone. It is said to be that Ptolemy VI started the construction,  Neos Dionysus finished most of the building and finally the Emperor Augustus added the final touches. This makes this temple a Graeco- Roman structure.

The experts mentions that part of the temple has been lost into the Nile. Although the earthquake in 1992 caused some further damage, the temple was the most amazing one for me during my journey…

The picture 01 (left to right): The Outer Hypostyle Hall. Although it is not visible from this picture, when you get inside you feel that an imaginary line divides the temple longitudinally into two parts, each with its entrance, hypostyle halls and chapels. Therefore there are two of everything in the temple: 2 courts, 2 colonnades, 2 hypostyle halls, and 2 sanctuaries. Like other Egyptian temples, Kom Ombo said to had a great pylon. However, it was washed away by the Nile long ago.

The picture 02 (left to right): Papyrus shaped column and ceiling at Kom Ombo temple.  The roof was also decorated with flying vultures and astronomical imagery (I swear I saw images of some aliens there!).

The picture 03 (left to right): This is me trying to feel how it was living in those ages when this temple was serving to the Gods. When the sahara sun hits of the reliefs, representations of Gods and Pharaohs, you really wonder  what was all these array for?

The picture 04 (left to right): Representations of the the pharaohs of the Ptolemaic period on the column. This is the central row of columns which ideally marks the division of the two sanctuaries.

The picture on the left: This picture is taking from the south part of the temple which was full of crocodile representations. This is one of the representations of Sobek. If you remember the myth of Horus from Egyptian mythology (if not, you may read it several paragraphs above), I should also note that Sobek had also been associated with the wicked god Seth (the enemy of Horus who killed his father Osiris). The mythology says that ” In the Horus myth the allies of Seth made their escape by changing themselves into crocodiles.”.

The picture on the right: This is me measuring the foot-lenght of a broken relief. There are two types of relief in the Egyptian temples as far as I see:  1) Sunk or sunken relief ( where the image is made by cutting the relief sculpture itself into a flat surface- just like in this picture), 2) Bas-relief or low relief (which is a projecting image with a shallow overall depth (eg. used on coins-the head), on which all images are in low relief- I saw some in Luxor temple!)

The picture on the left: This is the Goddess Isis, a representation of the Divine Cosmic Mother- giving birth to Horos (if not please correct me! This was what I told my tour guide; but I did not trust in him- he was worst guide ever!).

The picture on the right: In the north west side of the temple there was  this huge well. with a staircase. It is called  Nile Meter (Nilometer)-  one of the  first scientific instruments of Egypt, which use to measure the deptt of the river. Priests were calculating the taxes for the year by measuring the depth of the Nile. It was also associated with the worship of the crocodile.

There were also long lists of Egyptian Calendars (telling about the various festivals dedicated to various Gods in the Temple), representations of Surgical Instruments (scalpels, suction caps, bone saws, and dental tools- 2000 year old depictions!),  and Crocodile mummies in this temple. I shall also mention that Horus was known as the good doctor in this temple! According to my travel book, the Temple became famous for its healing power, becoming a major pilgrimage site.

From my sketch book

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