Top 27 Famous Egyptian Temples and Attractions in Luxor and Aswan
The two magnificent cities of Aswan and Luxor are two of the most ancient cities on earth. The different temples, tombs, and ancient sites are abundant in, around, and between the cities. Here is a quick list of some of the historical sites in Luxor and Aswan
- Private Hot Air Balloon Tour of Luxor
- Temple of Karnak
- Luxor Temple
- Temple of Deir El-Bahri (Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple)
- Luxor Museum
- The City and Temples of Abydos
- The Temple of Seti I in Abydos
- The Osireion Temple in Abydos
- Medinet Habu
- Tombs of the Nobles
- Colossi of Memnon
- The Valley of The Kings
- Valley of the Queens
- The High Dam (El Sadd El Aali)
- Nubian Museum
- Aswan Museum
- Nile Museum
- Ferial Garden
- Suhail (or Sohail) Nubian Village
- Elephantine Island
- The Temples of Philae
- Abu Simbel Temples
- Kom Ombo Temple
- The Temple at Edfu
- Dendera Temple – Qena
- Valley Temple – Giza
Luxor is a city located in upper (southern) Egypt, and it is the capital of Luxor Governorate. It has been one of Egypt’s governorates since December 7th, 2009. This was when the former president (Hosni Mubarak) announced its official separation from the Quena Governorate.
The location of Luxor is 635 km south of Cairo. At this point, it is the smallest governorates currently in Egypt, spanning roughly about 5 km north to south. The population of Luxor is approximately around 506, 588, this estimate was given in 2012 within an area of roughly 417 square kilometers or 161 square miles.
Luxor city is located on the site where the ancient Egyptian city of Waset was found, also known as Thebes to the Greeks. This beautiful city has been often characterized as the “world’s greatest open-air museum.” As there are the ruins of the ancient Egyptian temples Karnak and Luxor that stand within the modern city of Luxor. Across the Nile River is ancient monuments, temples, and tombs of the west bank Necropolis included here is the famous Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.
Thebes was the city of the god Amun-Ra, and it remained the religious capital of Egypt until the Greek period. The city’s main god was Amun; he was worshiped along with his wife, the Goddess Mut, and their son Khonsu, who was the God of the moon. Thebes rose to be the principal city of Egypt. Along with its’ rise, the local god Amon also rose in importance, and he became linked to the sun god Ra. With this coupling was the creation of the new ‘king of gods’ Amon-Ra. He had his great temple located at Karnak, just north of Thebes, which was the most important temple of Egypt right until the end of antiquity.
The economy of Luxor is greatly aided by thousands of tourists from around the world. Tourists annually come to this area to visit the famous Egyptian temples and famous sites in this incredible and vibrant historical area. Find a way to tour this fantastic area that will suit your personal preferences. There is certainly no shortage of assorted types of tours in the Luxor area to choose from. There is so many monuments in the Luxor area, that you could literally spend a week simply absorbing the elegance and grandeur you will be surrounded by.
You might decide to have a tour guide that will accompany you on a day trip to Luxor to explore the famous Valley of the Kings and Karnak Temple Complex. This is where famous rulers of Egypt are buried, such as the legendary King Tutankhamun and Ramses II. Over centuries of pharaoh rule, the famous Karnak Temple Complex was constructed, is one of the largest religious sites on earth to date.
Private Hot Air Balloon Tour of Luxor
Starting from $150 you and your party can enjoy a private 45-minute tour by air balloon viewing the fantastic historical sights of Luxor.
Hotels in Luxor
Aracan Eatabe Luxor Hotel
This hotel is located right in the center of town, it overlooks the Nile River, it is truly in the heart of a fantastic part of the ancient Egyptian world.
Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa
Rating: 5.0 Excellent
The Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa will provide you with the perfect base from which to explore this amazing ancient culture of the Nile Valley. It is located on the east bank, where you will get to enjoy glorious views of the River Nile with the most extensive waterfront on the Nile. The ancient Temple of Karnak and the Valley of Kings are literally located right on the doorstep of the hotel. It will provide you with the ultimate luxury with the newly renovated resort and spa.
Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor
The Sofitel Winter Palace was built in 1866 on the Nile banks in a lovely tropical garden, it is undoubtedly an enjoyable experience of both luxury and history. It has hosted royalties and celebrities over the years. It is unique, with an atmosphere of modern décor mixed with mythical. Situated in the center of the Luxor city, only minutes from the Luxor Temple and the airport.
List of Top 13 Tourist Attractions in and Around Luxor
Temple of Karnak
The Temple of Karnak was constructed in 3200 BC by the pharaoh Senusret I. It is ranked as the largest temple complex in Egypt. It is the second-largest in the world next to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat in ancient temple complexes.
For over 3000 years, during the time of ancient Egypt, this temple was under construction, this time covered the reign of thirty different pharaohs. With such lengthy construction, it certainly has made the architecture of the Karnak complex very diverse.
The city of Thebes is where the Temple of Karnak was located, this area was known as a religious hub. Located in the southern part of Egypt is known today as the city of Luxor. When the temple was created, it was to be the dwelling for the “god of gods,” Amun. Along with his son (Khonsu), and his wife named Mut.
The temple was designed with four separate temple complexes, each located in different precincts. There were chapels built by the temple priests that each one had separate deities they were dedicated to, and each of them possessed a sacred pool area.
Karnak is certainly a place that is well worth visiting twice: see it once by daylight and view the architectural details, then visit it again at night to enjoy the sound and light show.
Of all the monuments in the Luxor area, the Temple Complex of Karnak is certainly a very astonishing and beautiful feat. Located within its precincts are the Temple of Khons, the Great Temple of Amun, and the Festival Temple of Tuthmosis III, as well as many other buildings.
It has been built with the building activity of many successive rulers of Egypt, who added to and adorned this great national sanctuary, which came to be the most important of Egypt’s temples during the New Kingdom.
The monuments here are on a gigantic scale, making the tourists or visitors become reduced to ant-like proportions, as they stop to take-in these massive columns and colossal statuary. You should give yourself at least three hours to explore the entire complex.
You can walk to Karnak from downtown along the Nile-side Corniche road, but most people take a taxi due to the heat. If you are short on time, you will have plenty of tours to choose from that can whip you around all of the highlights of Karnak. A good option is to choose a private tour of Luxor East Bank, Karnak, and the Luxor Temples. You will visit these ancient sites with an Egyptologist in this half-day tour.
Luxor Temple presides over the modern downtown district of Luxor. It was first constructed by Amenophis III (on the site of an earlier sandstone temple). It was known as “the southern harem of Amun” and it was dedicated to Amun, his consort Mut, and their son the moon god Khonsu.
The temple was added to and changed by many pharaohs, including Tutankhamun (who had the walls of the colonnade embellished with reliefs and destroyed the Temple of the Aten). During the Christian era, the temple went through a transformation into a church, while in the Islamic period, the Mosque of Abu el-Haggag, was dedicated to a revered holy man, and was built inside the complex grounds.
Luxor Temple is situated on the east bank of the Nile river, the Luxor temple is south of Karnak. The construction of the Luxor Temple happened around 1400 BC. The temple was created as a dwelling for the Theban Triad of gods, Amun, his wife, and his son.
Every year the Opet religious festival took place here. During these celebrations, the Amun statue was moved. It was moved during a ceremony from the Temple of Karnak to the Temple of Luxor.
There is also immense statues of Ramesses II at the temple of Luxor that have made this temple very well known by many. Another very well known or famous location at this temple is the Avenue of the Sphinx. There is also an 80-foot high obelisk made of red granite that is also well known here. There were actually two obelisks, but one of them was relocated to Paris.
Temple of Deir El-Bahri (Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple)
This temple is located at a magnificent location situated at the foot of sheer cliffs. This complex is richly adorned with reliefs, statues, and inscriptions. Queen Hatshepsut had herself represented with the attributes of a male pharaoh (beard and short apron) to demonstrate to the people that she possessed all the authority of a king.
The mortuary temple that was designed to house the body of Hatshepsut, one of Egypt’s female pharaohs. It is situated northeast of the modern city of Luxor, close to the Valley of the Kings.
The temple was a colonnaded structure designed by Senemut, the royal architect of Hatshepsut that would serve for her posthumous worship and to honor the glory of Amun. The temple is built into a cliff face that consists of three layered terraces reaching 97ft in height. The terraces were connected by long ramps which at one time used to be surrounded by gardens.
Hatshepsut’s temple was built in 1470 BC, which represented a departure from the typical temple design of that particular time period. The powerful sun god Amon-Ra was commemorated at Hatshepsut’s temple. Two combined other gods created this god.
Those two other gods were Amun “god of all gods” and Ra, the sun god, to create the more powerful god. The majority of the statues of her temples were destroyed by those that wanted to wipe out her memory.
Luxor Museum is one of Egypt’s best museums, holding am amazing collection from the local area, which tells the story of ancient Thebes from the Old Kingdom right up to the Islamic Period. The most impressive possessions of this museum are the two Royal Mummies of Ahmose I and what is thought to be Ramses I in two rooms on the ground floor.
While here, you should check out the re-erected Wall of Akhenaten. There is 283 sandstone blocks that are covered with painted reliefs and originally belonged to Akhenaten’s Temple of the Sun at Karnak.
The Temples of Abydos
The mortuary temple of Seti I was located at Abydos. Egyptologists find this temple very important as it contains a relief that includes the Abydos King’s List. There are some of the ancient temples of Abydos that are under the modern town on this site. It was known to be one of the centers of Osiris’ worship, and it has also been said that it is where Osiris’ tomb is located. Two of the most important monuments in Abydos will follow.
The Temple of Seti I in Abydos
This temple is thought to be constructed around 1280 BC, it was designed for Seti I. It was created in the shape of an “L.” The temple of Seti I is located in the city of Abydos. At this temple, some shrines are dedicated to six different gods.
- Ptah, the god of craftsmen and architects
- Ra-Horakhty, the god of the rising sun
- Ra-Horakhty, the god of the rising sun
- Amun, the main god or also known as the “king of the gods.”
- Horus, he was the sky god and was the son of Osiris and Isis
- Isis was known as the goddess of fertility
- The god of both the underworld and the afterlife was Osiris.
The Osireion Temple in Abydos
Not too far from to the Southwest is the Osireion in Abydos. It is believed that it was intended as tomb of Osiris. This temple is made of sandstone and white limestone, and red granite used for pillars and the roof of the main hall and doorways.
With the main attractions for the tourists being the Valley of the Kings and Temple of Deir al-Bahri, Medinet Habu can get overlooked on a West Bank trip, however this is one of Egypt’s most beautifully decorated temples, and you should make it a must see when on your West Bank trip.
The complex has a small temple that was built during the 18th dynasty and was enlarged in the Late Period, and the great Temple of Ramses III, associated with a royal palace, it was surrounded with a battlement enclosure wall four meters high. The main temple was built exactly like the model of the Ramesseum and, it was dedicated to Amun just like the Ramesseum was. Some of the best reliefs on the West Bank are located here.
Ramesses III constructed the temple of Medinet Habu. In the temple, some reliefs depict the arrival and defeat of the Sea Peoples. It is an impressive 690 X 1000ft, and there are over 75,000 square feet of wall reliefs in this temple. Surrounding this temple is a mud wall, and this has aided in the preservation of the temple.
It is located on the West Bank of Luxor, the name ‘Medinet Habu’ is the Arabic name for a large temple complex, it is second only to Karnak in size and it has been better preserved.
On this site, Pharaoh’s Hatshepsut and Tutmosis III built a temple that was dedicated to Amun at this location. Both structures were enclosed by Ramesses III within a massive mud-brick wall that included workshops, storehouses, and residences.
Tombs of the Nobles
If you are still interested in viewing more tombs after visiting the Valley of the Kings then you should make your way to the Tombs of the Nobles, they are not as famous, but you will actually get to view more examples of tombs and paintings that are much better preserved than those in the Valley of the Kings. There is about 400 tombs of various dignitaries, which are dated from the 6th dynasty up to the Ptolemaic era. Many of the paintings in these tombs showcase scenes from Egyptian daily life.
Some of Egypt’s most vivid and lively tomb paintings are housed within these tombs, especially in the Tomb of Sennofer, Tomb of Benia, Tomb of Menna, Tomb of Rekhmire, Tomb of Nakht, and Tomb of Khonsu. If you are really short for time then I would suggest that you opt to see the Tomb of Sennofer and Tomb of Rekhmire. Both of these tombs have wonderfully detailed paintings that are depicting scenes from the men’s daily lives, work, and family life. During the reign of Amenhotep II, Sennofer was an overseer, while Rekhmire was the pharaoh’s vizier.
Colossi of Memnon
The famous gigantic statues known as the Colossi of Memnon, stand beside the road that runs from the Valley of the Queens and Medinet Habu towards the Nile. They are carved from yellowish-brown sandstone that was quarried from the hills above Edfu. These impressive statues represent Amenophis III seated on a cube-shaped throne, they once stood guard at the entrance of the king’s temple, that only scanty traces are left. During Roman Imperial times they were taken for statues of Memnon, son of Eos and Tithonus, who was killed by Achilles during the Trojan War.
Walk behind the statues and you will be able to view the vast site (that is currently being excavated by archaeologists), in the area where Amenophis III’s temple once stood.
This amazing mortuary temple was built by Ramses II and dedicated to Amun, it is located on the edge of cultivated land, about one-and-a-half kilometers south of Deir el-Bahri. Only about half of the original structure survives, even-so it is still a very impressive monument. There is a colossal figure of the king inside the First Court which is thought to have an original height of 17.5 meters and to have weighed more than 1,000 tons.
The pharaoh Ramesses II took over twenty years to complete this temple. This temple has a Hypostyle hall, and at least two pylons. There were several monumental statues placed by the builders of the pharaoh in this temple. The pharaoh’s military actions are recorded by inscriptions.
Next to this temple is a temple that was dedicated to his wife and mother. It, unfortunately, it was not well preserved due to damage caused by flooding of the Nile.
The Valley of The Kings
On the west bank of the Nile, discover the famous ‘Valley of the Kings.’ It was a necropolis that housed many of the pharaoh’s bodies and belongings. Stretching from the reign of Thutmose I all the way to Ramesses X or XI. There have been 63 tombs constructed here from 1539 BC to around 1075 BC.
The necropolis is literally a city of the dead. One of the earliest examples of one of these is the Valley of the Kings. This was a veritable burial ground that has housed great pharaohs and noblemen of Egypt spanning a period of time over 500 years.
The Valley of the Kings remains to be one of the richest sources of Ancient Egyptian history to date. This tremendous historic site is just opposite modern-day Luxor, which used to be referred to as Thebes.
This is the final resting place for the kings of the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties. The wonderfully vivid wall paintings are a main attraction here. There is 63 tombs here in the valley of the kings, that are a collection of famous names of Egyptian history, which includes the famous boy-king Tutankhamun. There is a rotation system in place between the tombs in order to preserve the paintings as much as possible from damage due to the humidity.
Howard Carter found the tomb of the young King Tutankhamun here in the Valley of the Kings in 1922. King Tut’s tomb was located directly across from the tomb of Ramesses IX. Considering all the treasure that was discovered in King Tut’s tomb, it was a minimal space, and all but one room was undecorated. Located directly across from Tutankhamun’s tomb is KV5, where work is currently ongoing to uncover what is thought to be by many, the last resting place of Ramesses II 150 sons.
The most massive and most elaborate royal tomb is that of Seti I. This tomb often does not have access for visitors due to lack of ventilation and rock falls.
The earliest-era tomb that can be visited is the tomb of Thutmose III. The walls of this tomb are adorned with 741 different deities, and its ceiling is covered with stars.
Valley of the Queens
There are a known total of 80 tombs, most of which belong to the 19th and 20th dynasties. Many of the tombs here are without decoration and unfinished, appearing more like mere caves in the rocks. There is only four tombs that are open for public viewing, one of them is the tomb of Queen Nefertari, that was only reopened in 2016, this will make the trip here well worth it.
Queen Nefertari’s tomb is considered to be the finest of the West Bank’s glut of tombs. Another tomb in this group is the Tomb of Prince Amen-her-khopshef which has the best wall paintings of its chambers have well preserved colors.
He was a son of Ramses III, he died as a teenager. The Tomb of Khaemwaset (another son of Ramses III) and the Tomb of Queen Titi both hold some well preserved and interesting scenes. The scenes in the Titi tomb are more faded than Khaemwaset.
The Valley of the Queens is situated on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes). There are approximately 75-80 tombs in the Valley of the Queens. This collection of tombs belong to Queens of the 18th, 19th, and 20th Dynasties.
Some of the tombs that can be found here:
- The Tomb of Queen Titi (Tomb 52) is thought to be a queen of the 20th Dynasty. In her depiction, she is seen to be adorning sidelocks that were common for Egyptian young at this period in the presence of gods Atum, Thoth, Isis, and Nephthys. The queen is shown in the next chamber, making offerings to Hathor the cow, and the last chamber the gods Osiris, Neith, Thoth, and Nephthys.
- The Tomb of Amenhikhopeshef (tomb 55), he was the son of Ramesses III, scenes depict him with his father and the gods Ptah, Thoth, and others. It is thought that he as nine years old when he died. Some scenes show him being presented to different gods, including Anubis (the Jackal-headed god of the dead, by his father, Ramesses III. There was also a premature baby discovered in the tomb, it is thought it belonged to his mother, who aborted upon learning of Amenhikhopeshef’s death.
- The Tomb of Nefertari (tomb 66), she was one of the wives of Ramesses II. It was known that Nefertari was his favorite, and her tomb is said to be one of the most beautiful in Egypt. Throughout the tomb, it is painted with different scenes. In most of these scenes, Nefertari, known as ‘the most beautiful of them,’ is shown in the company of gods. She is often depicted wearing a golden crown with two feathers extended from the back of a vulture, and wearing a white gossamer gown. In the side room, there is a scene where it depicts the queen worshipping the mummified body of Osiris. Close to the stairs of the burial chamber is another great scene that shows Nefertari offering some milk to the goddess Hathor.
Awan is located at about 871 km to the south of Cairo. It is also located about 241 km south of Luxor. Many of the ancient temples are also located in Aswan or in between Luxor and Aswan.
Although Luxor has the temples that are better preserved and is the world’s largest open museum, Aswan is still a must with amazing site in and around the city.
The ancient name was Swenett, later known as Syene after an Egyptian goddess with the same name. The city is on the Nile River, and one of the best experiences is take a Felucca trip down the Nile River.
The High Dam (El Sadd El Aali)
One of the most important structures in Egypt is in Aswan: The High dam that was completed back in 1970. This dam caused the formation of the largest lake in Egypt: Nasser Lake named after the former Egyptian president. This lake forced the Egyptians to move some of the ancient temple so they won’t be submerged and it also required relocating some villages.
It is located about 14 kilometers south of Aswan. It was built with amount o gravel and rocks equivalent to 18 times the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza (Khufu). You can find many tours that will take you to the site as part of a program that usually covers several monuments in the Aswan area.
This museum was opened back in 1997 and showcases Nubian historical artifacts. Nubian civilization extends back thousands of years and was dominant in south Egypt and North of Sudan.
Located south of Aswan city, it has many artefacts from discoveries in Aswan areas and from Nubian civilization. Many of the artefacts discovered in Philae temples area are exhibited here. It has Nilometer (A meter for the Nile River) that was used by the ancient Egyptians to measure the Nile floods.
This museum shows the history of the Nile and Nile projects including dams, irrigation systems, and history of countries that share the Nile basin.
A nice park with pleasant views on the Nile. Great place for sunset pictures.
Suhail (or Sohail) Nubian Village
This is a touristic village where visitors are grated by locals and can tour the local architecture and culture of Nubia. Houses are made of sand, stone, and clay painted in colorful paints. It is a favorite stop for most tours trip in this area.
This island is abundant with ancient monument and it is were Aswan Museum is located. It has several temples including: Khnum Temple and Satis Temple.
The Temples of Philae
These impressive temples were constructed on an island located in the middle of the Nile River. Over an extended period of time, the temples were constructed by numerous pharaohs of the 30th dynasty, and they were also built by Romans and Greeks at the same site. The main temple was designed for the goddess Isis by the Egyptians.
Isis was the known goddess of fertility and motherhood. The Trajan’s Kiosk was built in 100 AD by the Roman Emperor Trajan, this probably served as a river entrance into the larger temple of Isis.
During the 1960s the temple and other monuments were transported to the island of Agilika by UNESCO to save them from becoming submerged in the rising waters of the Nile caused by the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Today the original island of Philae is buried beneath Lake Nasser.
Abu Simbel Temples
Thought as marvels of engineering are the two Abu Simbel temples located on Egypt’s southern border. They were constructed between 1264 and 1244 BC by Ramesses II. These two temples were built as a shrine not only to himself but also to Queen Nefertari, his principal wife.
The temple that was constructed for Ramesses is the larger of the two. Possessing four enormous statues that stand guard at the entrance that is depicted of his likeness. These impressive statues are 65 feet in height, and the temple is almost 100 feet in height. In the temple that was dedicated to Nefertari, the goddess Hathor was worshiped.
Kom Ombo Temple
The Kom Ombo temple has a very unique double structure. This temple was designed so that it had two sets of everything set along with a center axis point—including two sanctuaries, and two halls. It was constructed around 180 BC during the Ptolemaic reign.
The southern section of the temple was designed to worship different gods than those worshiped in the northern part. A complex god was the god Sobek, who was depicted as a crocodile. This god was known to possess a fluid nature similar to the rivers of the Nile. Near this site, there have been discoveries of literally hundreds of mummies of crocodiles.
The Temple at Edfu
The temple of Edfu was constructed from 237 BC to 57 BC, on the west bank of the Nile River. Built during the reign of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. It was actually constructed over a temple that had been built during the New Kingdom period.
The Temple of Edfu, was dedicated to the falcon god Horus, it is the second largest Egyptian temple after Karnak and one of the best preserved. Ptolemy III began the construction of the temple in 237 BC, then it was completed two centuries later in 57 BC by Ptolemy XII, the father of the famous Cleopatra. There is traditional elements of Egyptian Temples of the New Kingdom, along with some Greek elements such as the house of birth (the Mammisi) in this temple.
In front of the temple stands the statue of Horus (The god, Horus), was a sky god that possessed the head of a falcon, was worshiped at this site. There have been pyramids discovered near this site. Egyptologists are working on trying to uncover who their original builders were.
History of Ancient Egyptian Temples
The ancient Egyptians did not use their temples to worship in, but instead, they chose to bring offerings to the temples to appease the gods. They also performed many rituals and had festivals as ways of paying homage to their various gods. Many Egyptian homes contained small altars where the people would place offerings to please the gods.
In Ancient Egyptian society, the temples and the priests associated with them carried a lot of power. Besides the daily ritual practices, they were necessary for many other reasons as well. The temples employed many people, included amongst them were priests and craftsmen.
Ancient temples owned farmland to feed the many people that they employed. When pharaoh’s returned from succeeded foreign battles with the spoils, the temples would receive some of these. Pharaohs would also give the temples more land or other goods to show their appreciation or thanks to the gods for favors received.
Types of Ancient Egyptian Temples
During ancient Egyptian times, there were two types of temples. One type of temple was called a culture temple, and the other type was called a mortuary temple.
The purpose of the culture temple was to serve as a house for a main god or goddess. The culture temples could have other gods as well, but they always housed a main god or goddess. It was the responsibility of the priest to attend to the gods’ statues. The priest, during his duties, would perform ceremonies to the deity’s favor and would offer gifts and prayers. During some festivals, other Egyptians were allowed to join in and participate in the rituals.
The mortuary temple was an essential part of the Egyptian’s religious beliefs, as they believed in an afterlife. There was no time in preparing for a Pharaoh’s journey into the afterlife. The planning of their departure to the afterlife began soon after the pharaoh came into power.
Supplies the Pharaoh would need on his or her journey into the afterlife were collected. This was done by a select group of people who were known as a funerary cult. The types of temples were only constructed for pharaohs. At the beginning of ancient Egyptian times, the mortuary temples were part of a complex that was solely devoted to the tomb. Many of the pyramids had mortuary tombs built beside them. These mortuary temples were there for the pharaohs that were buried in the tombs inside the pyramids.
Temple Structure & Appearance
The ancient Egyptian temple structure had three meanings for the ancient Egyptian people. First, it was thought to be the mansion where a god lived. Secondly, it was considered to represent the primeval island that the god stood upon to create the universe. Thirdly, the ancient Egyptians viewed the temple as a miniature representation of the universe and the heavens.
The Egypt temples were constructed mainly of stone due to the lack of wood in Egypt. The only other readily available building material the Egyptian people had was mud brick, but this was known to crumble within just a few years. The temples were built to house the gods, so they were required to last for eternity, so stone became the only viable building material of choice.
Most of the walls of a temple were covered with wall reliefs, which included inscriptions and images. Scenes and inscriptions of the historical nature were often depicted in the Hypostyle Hall. These images or reliefs often depicted important temple events and events from a pharaoh’s reign. Other carved reliefs displayed different rituals that were conducted in specific rooms. In many of these reliefs, it was the pharaoh that was shown to be performing the ritual. Also displayed through the reliefs were the images of the gods. Along with some of the myths about the gods.
Ancient Temple Features
There was a segregated system of sanctuaries inside of ancient Egyptian temples, these were divided by the spiritual level of those permitted to enter them. For the Egyptian people that had not yet reached spiritual worthiness, they were not permitted to enter the inner chambers. They were also some ancient Egyptian temples that had an exterior complex that consisted of courtyards and gardens.
- Enclosure Wall- this was a wall that was constructed around the temple precinct to divide it from the city, which limited access to the precinct.
- Barque Shrines- these were points that were located along the processional way where the barque stopped.
- Workshops- these were the areas where people constructed temple furniture and ritual objects.
- Sacred Pool- this was an exclusive pool that the priests would bath in to ensure their ritual purity.
- Processional Way- these were used during festivals and times of celebration when the priests would carry the god’s statue in a barque. These areas were often lined with sphinx statues that the Egyptian people considered to be guardians.
- Votive Offerings- these were offerings of statues or amulets given by the people to the gods. These could also include a prayer for help or thanksgiving. It was not uncommon for the priests to remove these items from the courtyard, and they would bury them. There was one of these caches discovered at the Karnak that contained over 17, 000 pieces in it.
- Hypo-style Hall- this was a covered hall that was filled with carved columns. Many of these columns had tops that looked like plants.
- Courtyard- this was the area where people would place statues and votive offerings for the god.
- Statues- these were images of the pharaohs or gods.
- Storerooms- these are where the goods used for rituals were stored.
- Barque Chamber- this was the place where the miniature boat that carried the god’s statue was stored.
- Inner Sanctuary- This is the area where the priests would place the god’s statue. There was a box here where the priests would store the statue at night. An altar was located close to the box, the priests would perform rituals every day by setting the statue upon the altar every day and presenting it with offerings.
- Obelisk- These were carved monuments that pharaohs would have erected near pylon entrances.
Employees of the Ancient Egyptian Temples
There were two types of priests; there were full-time and lay priests. The Full-time priests served the gods all of the time. Lay priests would commonly serve for three months a year, which they would usually serve one month, then take off three months before serving again. When the Lay priests were on their off-time working at the temple, they would have other jobs such as scribes and doctors. All activities at the temple were overseen by the High Priest. Ritual purity and rituals were performed by Waab priests.
Positions of priests were maintained in several ways. The first way would be for a man to inherit his position from his father. Another way to obtain a position was an appointment by the pharaoh. A man could purchase a position in the priesthood. Priests could vote to have a priest appointed to a higher position.
There were several things that a priest was expected to do after obtaining his position as a priest. He would first have to be circumcised if he was not already. It was expected that the serving priest was celibate and lived in the temple precinct. It was forbidden for priests to wear any items made of animal products. The priest’s clothing was made from linen, and their shoes were made from plant fibers.
Great political power grew overtime within the priesthood of Amun. Part of this new power began after the New Kingdom period. During this time, the High Priest of Amun had obtained the ability to give or withhold the god’s favor on the crown prince. Political power was also gained by the women who were called God’s Wife of Amun. They adopted their heirs from the royal family, as they had to remain celibate at all times. Some of the religious rituals were conducted by these women.
Other Employees of the Ancient Egyptian Temples
- Slaves– these mainly consisted of foreign prisoners of war who worked in the temples.
- Farmers– these people were responsible for growing and tending the food used in temple rituals.
- Cleaners– they were responsible for keeping the temple and its grounds clean and tidy.
- Craftsmen– they created statues, votive offerings, jewelry, clothing and other ritual objects for the temples.
Ancient Temple Rituals
Through-out most of ancient Egyptian history, polytheistic religion was practiced, where people were free to worship any god or goddess that they chose. Most often, people chose multiple deities to worship. Egypt had gods and goddesses who were known throughout the land. Others were limited to worship in select cities or towns. With each Egyptian town, there was a patron god and a temple dedicated to that particular deity. The temple was overseen by an order of high priests. They looked after the rites and daily activities of the temples.
The daily rituals that were conducted at the ancient Egyptian Temples had several purposes behind them. First, they were used to provide the gods with basic items such as food and clothing. Rituals would be performed to ensure help with things such as battle and land fertility. The Egyptians believed if they provided goods for the gods, this would help to ensure that they in turn would receive protection and help from the gods. All people were allowed to celebrate during festivals that were a type of ritual that people used. People would be allowed to ask the god questions to show the god’s answer; the priests would move the barque.
Daily Ancient Temple Rituals
There were daily rituals that the pharaoh and the priests would perform. Some of the significant temples are where the pharaoh would make offerings. It was part of a priest’s daily ritual to bathe in a sacred pool several times a day while performing daily rituals at the temple. The inner sanctuary was entered in the morning by the priest, who would remove the statue from its box.
The priest would then bathe the statue and dress it in new clothing. The priest would also apply fresh makeup to the statue and set it on the altar. Throughout the day, the priest offers three meals to the statue while it is set out on the altar. Once the statue had finished eating, the priest would take the remaining food and feed it to the priests.
Ancient Egyptian Festivals
A multitude of festivals took place throughout Egypt yearly. During these festivals, the Egyptian people could gaze upon the statues of their gods as the priests carried them in a barque. In the city of Thebes, the festival “the Beautiful Feast of the Valley, was celebrated. During this particular festival, the statue of Amun would travel from the Temple of Karnak to the western bank of the Nile. Amun then visited the mortuary temple of previous pharaohs on the west bank. Festival served as a way to help ensure the flooding of the Nile and promoted the fertility of the land.
Ancient Temple Building Rituals
During specific points throughout the construction of a temple, priests would perform rituals. The first step or ceremony was that the priests would mark off the sacred area for the temple enclosure. The second part of the ritual would involve the priests taking the measurements or the dimensions of the temple building. There were foundation deposits placed by the priests under the stones of the temple’s foundations. After the temple was built, the priest would then consecrate and name the building.
Other Famous Ancient Egyptian Temples
The Dendera complex spans over an area of 40,000 square meters. On this site, numerous buildings are well preserved and have been constructed during different times throughout Egyptian history. The main temple at Dendera is dedicated to the love goddess Hathor.
Many notable artifacts have been discovered here by Egyptologists, including a particular relief. sculpture that has been said to be depicting the Dendera light. The Dendera light is believed by some people to be a type of electrical light and the Dendera zodiac.
This temple of the pharaoh Sahure is now ruined. It was located on the Shore of Abusir Lake, on the edge of the desert. The temple had two entrances. The temples’ main entrance was in the east, it had a landing ramp that led to an impressive column adorned with portico.
The floor of the temple was paved with polished basalt, and its walls consisted of red granite dado. Above, which was limestone that was decorated with bas-relief. The limestone ceilings of the temple were painted blue and decorated with relief-carved golden stars—this represented the entrance into the Duat.
The alternate entrance on the south side was accessed by a canal that led to a ramp up to another columned portico, this contained four red granite columns. The portico was not as deep as the main entrance was paved with limestone. It is not clear why this entrance was built.
Ancient Egypt Refuses to Stay Buried!
Ancient Egypt seems to keep coming back to life, such as with the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the 1920s; then there was that global tour of the golden masks in the 1970s, along with recent discoveries that were found with the help of using 21st-century archaeological techniques.
Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities has announced discoveries during the past few years including the following:
- Eight mummies, many of which were encased in vividly painted coffins, were from the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BC)-at the Dahshur necropolis near Giza
- An impressive stone sphinx at Kom Ombo, located at a riverside temple close to Aswan that was dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek
- Located at the Hatnub alabaster quarry in the Eastern Desert is a fairly sophisticated 4,500-year old ramp network, this could help to solve ongoing questions regarding how the Egyptians built the pyramids.
- Located at the Saqqara archaeological site is a 4,400-year old tomb
- In the tomb at Saqqara, was discovered a 3,200-year-old chunk of sheep and goat cheese, proving the cheese was indeed part of the ancient Egyptian diet