Temple of Horus at Edfu
The Temple of Horus at Edfu is one of Egypt’s best-preserved temples. It was built in the Ptolemaic era, from 237 and 57 BC. Edfu was a burial ground from about 3000BC, and home to the cult of the falcon god Horus. Construction was started by Ptolemy III (246–221 BC) and finally completed by Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos, Cleopatra VII’s father. The temple was lost under sand for centuries, which helped preserve it. It wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that Auguste Mariette excavated it.
The Temple of Horus is usually a stop-off in a Nile Cruise, so it takes about an hour to explore it fully. You start in the Roman mammisi (birth house) which contains some exquisite carvings on a large 36m-high gateway. These are guarded by two granite statues as Horus as a falcon. The walls are decorated with a fantastic depiction of Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos holding his enemies by their hair. The ever-ready Horus is on hand to crush their skulls. This is all-important for those wishing to depose a pharaoh! Beyond the gateway, you enter the Court of Offerings. This is surrounded by 32 columns. Interesting murals contain the ‘Feast of the Beautiful Meeting’ – showing Horus of Edfu and Hathor of Dendara.
You then reach the Outer Hypostyle Hall, once guarded by two Horus falcon statues (now one remaining). Within the hall are two small chambers. On the right, you find the temple library, and on the left the Hall of Consecrations – where the ritual robes and vases were kept. The Inner Hypostyle Hall features twelve columns and houses the temple laboratory. This is where the perfumes, incense and other magical concoctions were brewed. The ingredients are featured on the walls. You then enter the Offering Chamber. Here you find the alter where daily offerings of fruit, flowers, wine and milk were left. There are steps leading up to the roof, but this is closed to visitors.
The second antechamber takes you to the sanctuary of Horus. Here you find the polished-granite shrine that once housed the gold cult statue of Horus. This section was earlier than the Ptolemaic temple, created during the reign of Nectanebo II (360–343 BC). In front of it stands a replica of the wooden barque (boat), which was used to carry the statue of Horus during festivals. On the eastern wall, there is a Nilometre which measured the water level of the Nile and helped to predicts how plentiful the harvest would be.