If you are fully involved in the preparations for your trip to Egypt, you have asked yourself this question: which are the best Egypt temples? What are the important temples in Egypt? The ones I can’t miss? If you take a cruise on the Nile, we can tell you that you are in luck because, typically, all cruises include a visit to the ancient egypt temples.
Before discussing the pharaonic temples, We will tell you that the Egyptians chose the Place of their constructions very well and usually followed a curious pattern. On one side of the Nile River, where the dawn rises, temples dedicated to the gods, houses, and shops were established. It was the side of the living. On the other side of the Nile, the side on which the sun sets, the mortuary temples and pyramids. It was the side of the dead.
Top Ancient Egyptian Temples
Ancient Egypt was known for its impressive temples, built as worship centers for the gods and goddesses integral to their culture and religion. Here are some of the top ancient Egyptian temples:
1- Abu Simbel Temple
Abu Simbel Temple Complex is one of the best temples in Egypt and one of the most amazing places you have ever seen. It has two temples: is also known as the Ramses II Temple and the Lesser Temple, also known as the Nefertari Temple. Abu Simbel was finished in 1265 BC when Ramesses II was king.
The gods Amon, Ra, and Ptah, as well as Ramses himself, are honored at the Abu Simbel. It was built to celebrate his victory over him in the battle of Kadesh, one of the most important battles the pharaoh fought in.
The four rock-cut statues on the front of the abu simbel are one of its most essential parts. Ramses II is shown sitting on a throne in these four. At the feet of the statues are smaller statues of his family members, like his first wife, Nefertari, and his sons and daughters.
Nefertari, the first wife of the pharaoh, was honored by the Lesser Temple. Six statues are in front of this temple; two are Nefertari, and the other four are of Ramses II. The strangest thing is that all six statues are the same size, and this is surprising because Ancient Egyptians used to be said to be more critical than others.
But the temple wasn’t built where it is now. It was made about 200 meters away, where there is now water. And the reason is that when the Aswan dam was being established, many monuments near the Nile were in danger of flooding. So, a campaign worldwide asked for money to help save these monuments.
In 1964, work began to save the two temples at Abu Simbel. Archaeologists, engineers, and people who run heavy equipment worked together to break the temple into large blocks (weighing about 20 to 30 tonnes), move them, and put them back together in a new place. A successful challenge that lets us keep going to one of the best temples in Egypt even now.
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2- The Luxor Temple
The Luxor temple is in the middle of the city, almost in the open air (like the Roman Forum in Rome), so you could see it from outside and cross it off the list. But not.
Located in the same city as Luxor, on the banks of the Nile, it is dedicated to Amun. It is characterized by maintaining its original structure with patios surrounded by large columns, statues of pharaohs, and two obelisks flanking the access, one of which is in the center of the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
3- Temple of Karnak
Karnak Temple is not only one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt, but it was also one of the country’s most important places of worship for hundreds of years. And the reason is that Karnak is not a temple; instead, it is a group of buildings that are all for different gods. It was mainly for the god Amun, but there were also areas for Open, Ptah, Montu, Mut, etc., as well as temples, chapels, rooms, and a sacred lake.
Karnak was finished with the help of many pharaohs, just like Luxor. Up to 30 pharaohs came to build new parts of this vast religious complex. With 30 hectares, it was the temple of temples and the biggest temple in Egypt.
The hypostyle room is one of the most exciting rooms in the building. It is held up by about 134 columns, each about 24 meters tall. So that you become one of the diameters of the columns, you could stand up to 50 people in the central column’s capital.
4- The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut
The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is on “the side of the dead” because they are either part of the pharaoh’s tomb or close to it. It is one of the most amazing places in Egypt. Its design is different from anything else, so it gets much attention.
Hatshepsut was the only pharaoh queen. After her husband died, she ruled for 21 years, and her stepson couldn’t rule while she did. When she died and he took over the throne, he started to destroy everything she had made and all the buildings that had been established in her honor.
Even though it was unusual for a woman to be in charge, Hatshepsut was a very well-liked queen because she had good business relationships with the countries around her. In statues of her, she was always dressed in a very masculine way, with the typical pharaoh’s beard.
The temple is an Egyptian building with three floors. Its style is most like that of classical architecture. What did I like most? The paintings have been kept pretty well and show what the Place might have looked like in ancient times.
5- Temple of Edfu
The Edfu Temples are a complex of ancient Egyptian temples in the city of Edfu in Upper Egypt. They are dedicated to the god Horus and were built during the Ptolemaic period, between the 3rd century BC and 1st century AD.
The main temple in the complex is the Temple of Horus, considered one of the best-preserved ancient Egyptian temples in Egypt. It was built on the site of an earlier temple and took about 180 years to complete. The temple is adorned with intricate reliefs and carvings that depict scenes from Egyptian mythology, including the battle between Horus and Seth.
The Temple of Horus is also famous for its massive entrance pylons, the most significant surviving example of any Egyptian temple. The pylons are decorated with reliefs that depict the pharaoh offering gifts to the gods and scenes from the myth of Horus.
6- Temple of Kom Ombo
The Edfu and Kom Ombo temples were built around the same time. Even though it’s not in great shape, that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the best temples in Egypt. The gate was destroyed when the nearby Nile River flooded, and the stones were used to build other structures.
One part of the temple is for Horus, and the other is for Sobek (who is represented as a crocodile). In some temples, this was done to balance good and evil, Horus stood for good, and Sobek stood for evil.
The Egyptian calendar is one of the essential things in the temple. Inscriptions and reliefs like these show that the Egyptians divided their year into three seasons: the planting season, the harvest season, and the Nile flood season. Also, their years were 360 days long, and each month had 30 days.
7- The Philae Temple
The Philae temple is on an island; you must take a boat. Its main gate is very similar to the main entrance of the Edfu temple, but it is smaller. The goddess Isis is honored by the building.
Like many temples, this one had to be moved to a different place. But before that, the temple was under the river’s water for 70 years.
8- Temple of Dendera
Temple of Dendera, dedicated to Hathor, goddess of love and fertility. It was located 45 kilometers north of Luxor and was established during the Ptolemaic period. It stood out for its good preservation as it remained buried by sand and mud until the mid-19th century, allowing it to preserve the original colors in statues and reliefs. Something quite unprecedented.
Among the most exciting reliefs is one of the Zodiac represented by all its signs (the original is in the Louvre), that of the lamps of Dendera, in which you can see two mysterious figures holding what looks like a light bulb, and that of the famous pharaoh Cleopatra VII and her son Cesarion. In addition to enjoying the beautiful reliefs decorating the walls, columns, and ceilings, you can go up to the roof to enjoy the views and go down to a crypt where the valuable papyri were kept.
9- Temple of Seti I
Abydos Temple: one of the most important temples in Egypt and least visited by tourists is that of Seti I, built in Abydos, the burial place for the first kings of the country and located 3 hours from Luxor.
It was built in the shape of an “L” and was ordered to be made by Pharaoh Seti I and completed by his son Ramses II in honor of Osiris.
Among many other details, inside, you can see up to seven lovely chapels dedicated to different deities. However, the most exciting thing is its careful reliefs, located among the best in Egypt, which reveal important information about the life of Sethy I and Ramses II.
The most famous is the Abydos King List., which contains the names of the 76 pharaohs of the prominent dynasties starting with Menes and ending with Sethy himself.
It, also known as the Great Temple of Abydos, is one of the main historical sites in Egypt, and Pharaoh Seti I established the temple. The temple is also famous for the Abydos graffiti and ancient Phoenician and Aramaic graffiti found on the temple’s walls.
10- Temple of Ramses III
The mortuary temple of Ramses III is located in the village of Medinet Habu, opposite Luxor. It is dedicated to the god Amon and has an architecture similar to the mortuary temple of Ramses II (Ramesseum) in the surrounding area. It is also worth a visit.
His great jewel is found in the first hypostyle room with several walls full of elaborate reliefs that show the pharaoh’s victory against the Peoples of the Sea, one of his great enemies.
11- Temple of Kalabsha
The Kalabsha Temple is an ancient Egyptian temple that initially stood at Bab al-Kalabsha, approximately 50 km south of Aswan. The temple was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979, along with other notable examples of Nubian architecture, including Abu Simbel and Amada.
12- The Temple Of Ramesseum
Ramesses II built the Temple of Ramesseum as a tomb for himself between 1304 and 1207 BC. It was a temple to the god Ra. The temple is mostly in ruins now. The entrance to the temple used to have two towers, but they fell over time.
Only a hall with columns is left in the temple’s first court. In front of the ruins of the first tower was a colossal statue of Ramesses; it was 18 meters tall and weighed more than 1,000 tonnes. Even now, you can still see what’s left of it.
Many other kings in the Old Kindom, new kingdom, and middle kingdom, such as Merneptah and Ramesses III, established monuments in the Ramesseum.
The Greeks called this Place the Temple of Memnonium. They linked the massive statue in front of the temple to their mythological hero Memnon, the son of Aurora and the goddess of the dawn, Eos. People also called it “the tomb of Ozymandias,” which may have come from the ancient Egyptian word for “ma’at,” which was used by Ra.
13- Deir el-Shelwit Temple
The ancient Egyptian goddess Isis was honored at the Deir el-Shelwit temple, built during the Greco-Roman period. It is on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor, about 4 km south of Medinet Habu and 1 km from Malkata.
The Isis temple of Deir el-Shelwit is vital because religious buildings from the Greco-Roman period are rare in this area. This is the only one with nothing to do with the Theban Triad and everything to do with Isis.
We don’t know of any building that stood here before. One theory says that work on the temple began during the reign of Nectanebo II and was finished during the Greek-Roman period.
Karl Richard Lepsius looked at the temple for the first time in the middle of the 19th century but did not write a detailed account of it. Christiane Zivie led a French team that looked at the writing on the propylon and published their findings in 1992. Archaeologists from Waseda University in Japan worked on the site from 1971 to 1979.
They cleaned up the enclosure wall and the enclosed precinct and dug out the temple’s well, which was full of broken pottery pieces. Thirty-two layers of fillings were found in the well, which went as deep as 4 meters below ground level, where the water made it impossible to dig any further. By the time of the Copts, the well and the temple had already been abandoned and used as a trash dump, as shown by the things in the well.
Features of Egypt’s Ancient Temples
- Obelisk: Obelisks are carved monuments put up by pharaohs near the entrances to pylons.
- Pylon: A huge doorway that led to a temple and had pictures of the pharaoh carved on it.
- Inner Sanctuary: Inner Sanctuary was where priests put the statue of their god. It had a box inside where the priests kept the statue at night. Near the box was an altar. Every day, priests put the statue on the altar and gave it gifts.
- Barque Chamber: this is where the small boat that carried the statue of the god was kept.
- Storerooms are where things that are used in rituals are kept.
- Courtyard: This is where people put statues and other gifts for the god.
- Statues: are pictures of gods or kings.
- Hypostyle Hall: a room with a roof and carved columns. Most of the column tops were made to look like plants.
- The Sacred Pool was a body of water where priests bathed to ensure they were clean for their rituals.
- Processional Way: was used when priests carried the god’s statue in a bark during a festival. They were often guarded by statues of sphinxes, which the Egyptians saw as protectors.
- Workshops: were places where people made ritual items and furniture for temples.
- Enclosure Wall: A wall built around the temple precinct to separate it from the city and limit access to the temple precinct.
- People put amulets, steles, or statues out as offerings to the gods. These could be a prayer for help or a prayer of thanks. Priests sometimes took these things out of the courtyard and buried them. At the temple of Karnak, one of these caches held more than 17,000 items.
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FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
How to visit the Famous Egyptian Temples?
The best way to visit all these ancient egypt temples is by taking the essential cruise on the Nile that goes from Luxor to Aswan, or vice versa, in about 4 or 5 days, and which includes an expert guide (Egyptologist) who will help you to understand the history of each one better and not miss any important detail.
The classification of temples in ancient egypt usually refers to two main types:
Cultus (religious): Temples dedicated to a main god, though most also honor other gods. The gods lived in or took shelter in these temples. Here, priests held rituals and ceremonies, gave gifts to the gods, and took care of their needs. Some festivals were also held in cultus temples so that all Egyptians could participate in religious ceremonies.
Mortuary: The pharaoh’s funeral cult gave food and clothes to the dead pharaoh so that they would continue to help the people of Egypt after death. Only the pharaoh had a tomb temple built for him. At first, these temples were part of the tomb complex, and pyramids had a temple next to them where the pharaoh was buried. Later pharaohs wanted to hide their tombs, so they built temples away from them.
What purpose did temples serve in ancient Egypt?
The Egyptians didn’t just build these beautiful temples for show. No, they thought that the gods and goddesses lived in these temples. In ancient Egypt, each temple was dedicated to a different god or goddess, whom the temple priests and the pharaoh worshipped.
Building a temple was also a way to remember the lives of the past pharaohs. These pharaohs were also in charge of caring for and building homes for the gods, and no expense was spared when making and taking care of these places of worship.
What is the difference between a Temple, Tomb, and Pyramid?
In Ancient Egypt, people were buried in tombs. Tombs changed from mastabas to pyramids (yes, pyramids are tombs) to underground chambers like those in the Valley of the Kings and Queens.
A temple was where people went to worship a god (or gods) or the pharaoh. Priests performed rituals, and people left gifts in temples to the gods to keep maat, the divine peace, and the order on which the ancient Egyptian religion was based. The tomb temples of the pharaohs were built as memorials to keep their spirits alive in the afterlife.