For many years, the Temple of Isis in Aswan governorate remained a dwelling for birds and bats, lost amidst the mists of time and largely forgotten to outsiders.
Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, however, has recently undertaken restoration work on the last temple to be built in the classical Ancient Egyptian style. After two years of work on the great archaeological monument, the temple was opened last week to visitors, for the first time after its discovery 150 years ago.
Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled Al-Anani was joined by Aswan Governor Ashraf Attia in inaugurating the Temple of Isis following the completion of the restoration project. The efforts also saw developments to raise the efficiency of the ancient site’s tourism services.
Moustafa Waziri, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that the temple saw multi-faceted restoration work. It included conserving the floors and columns, cleaning the walls from the remains of bird and bat excrement, and placing wire windows to prevent birds from entering.
Restoring and cleaning also took place on the inscriptions at the entrance to the sanctum, as well as removing the soot on the temple’s ceiling. The existing drawings and colours at the temple’s entrance and side door were also maintained, along with the offering tables in the hypostyle hall. DNE Buzz outlines all the information you need to know about this temple, and why it is well worth the visit.
Perfectly preserved temple
The temple is a highly significant archaeological discovery, due to the fact that it was found preserved in excellent condition at its discovery in 1871.
Construction of the 19–metre-high temple started in around 690 BCE during the reign of Pharaoh Ptolemy III. It was built a place for worshipping the goddess Isis.
The temple was built of sandstone, and has two doors, of which the main one is crowned with an ornament topped by a winged sun disk. It is through this door that visitors enter into a hall with three open rooms. On the eastern wall of the middle room, also called the Sanctum, some scenes of offering sacrifices had been engraved.
The temple walls also feature scenes from Egyptian mythology, as Isis brings Osiris back to life, gives birth to Horus, and mummifies Osiris after his death.
The Temple of Isis was originally located on the island of Philae, before being moved to Agilkia Island after the construction of the Aswan High Dam. It is dedicated to Isis, her husband Osiris, and her son Horus.
From early times, the island of Philae was sacred to the goddess Isis. The Temple of Isis complex was completed by Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246 BCE) and his successor, Ptolemy III Euergetes (246–221 BCE).
Its decorations date from the period of the later Ptolemies and of the Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius (27 BCE-37 CE), but were never completed. The Roman emperor Hadrian (117-138 CE) added a gate west of the complex. Other small temples or shrines dedicated to Egyptian deities in the complex include a temple to Imhotep, one to Hathor, and chapels to Osiris, Horus, and Nephthys.
Tour in the temple
There are two entrances to the temple, including one on the western side where the main entrance is located in the middle of the façade, and the other at the far left of the main entrance.
Towards the main hall’s back wall, one can admire the wonderful scenes depicting the king making offerings to the gods Satet, Anqet, and Khnum, known as the Aswan trinity.
During the most recent restoration work at the temple complex, numerous Coptic inscriptions were revealed, as well as rare architectural drawings on the walls illustrating the temple’s original layout. Also among the discoveries were the remains of Roman and Islamic brick dwellings.
In the middle of the temple’s façade is the majestic main gate, decorated with colourful scenes and texts, and above which one can find the winged sun disk featured in the middle. The entrance leads to a transverse hall containing three rooms in the middle of the hall of the Holy of Holies.
This section contains three imposing granite altars in the hall, two of which are located on the northern corridor of the main hall. The other altar is situated on the southern corridor, in addition to another one inside the Chamber of the Holy of Holies.
All of these altars contain inscriptions of the titles of the Pharaoh Ptolemy IV, along with some pictorial scenes on the southern pillar of the hall representing a group of saints. The latter discovery confirms that the temple was used as a church in later periods.
How to get there
The Temple of Isis is located on the eastern bank of the Nile in Aswan, next to the city’s eastern fence. Visitors can get there either by taxi or bus, before proceeding by boat to the eastern bank to enjoy the temple.
For adult Egyptians and Arabs, entry tickets cost EGP 10 per person, while for Egyptian and Arab students, tickets are EGP 5. Entry is free for children under six years old.
All other nationalities can purchase tickets at EGP 60 for adults and EGP 30 for students, with free entry for children under six years old.
Additional charges apply for photography at the museum, which is open every day from 7:00 to 17:00.
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