About the temple of Dendera
One of the finest preserved ancient Egyptian temples is that of Dendera. Many travelers who spend their vacations in Egypt would often visit the two temples of Dendera and the Temple of Abydos in Sohag during their trip in Egypt.
Geographical Location of the Temple of Dendera
The temple of Dendera is situated on the west bank of the river Nile, only 3 kilometers to the South of the city of Qena, 55 kilometers to the North of Luxor, 620 to the south of Cairo, about 250 kilometers to the North of Aswan, and about 250 kilometers to the West south of Hurghada.
Being located outside the scope of the Nile Cruise ships that sail between Luxor and Aswan, the Temple of Dendera is far less visited than other temples like that of Kom Ombo or Edfu. However, it is less than one-hour drive from the center of the city of Luxor. Many travel companies in Egypt can offer the guests touring Egypt a half-day tour to explore the Temple of Dendera.
The History and the Construction of the Temple of Dendera
Early texts refer to a temple at Dendera which was rebuilt in Old kingdom times. Afterwards, when Dendera became the capital of the sixth province of Upper Egypt, Hathor, the goddess whom the temple is dedicated to, was the main cult in Southern Egypt.
The ancient temple dates back to the reign of Cheops, the builder of the Great Pyramid in Giza, in the 26th century BC. However, several New kingdom monarchs, including Tuthmosis III, Amenophis III and Rameses II and III are known to have embellished the structure. The temple that we see today dates back to the Greco Roman period. It was rebuilt during the Ptolemaic period in Egypt and then restored and renovated during the Roman ruling era in Egypt.
The construction of the Temple of Dendera started during the reign of Ptolemy III in the 3rd century BC and it went on until the ruling period of the Roman Emperor; Augustus until the year 20 BC. The ruins of the ancient Temple that the Romans and the Ptolemies have built their temple on dates back to the ruling period of Thutmosis III and Ramses II.
The Description of the Temple of Dendera
The Temple of Dendera was actually dedicated to the worship of the goddess Hathor, the goddess of love, maternity and beauty in ancient Egypt. Hathor was represented as a cow in many sections in the temple that is often visited by numerous tourists spending their holidays in Egypt.
The Facade of the Temple of Dendera has a width of 35 meters and a height of around 12 meters. It contains 6 Hathor capital columns beautifully ornamented. Inside the temple, there is a corridor that contains 18 columns with the sunrays penetrating different sections of the temple.
In the right side of the front wall of the temple of Dendera, there is a wall carving showing the Emperor wearing the crown of Egypt during the rituals of his coronation in the temple. There are also some other wall paintings of the Emperor laying the foundation of the Temple of Dendera.
The ceiling of the Temple of Dendera has some astronomical scenes. Afterwards, behind the corridor, there is a small columns hall. The bases of the columns are made out of granite while the capital is made out of limestone. This section has the story of the construction of the temple shown on the walls. Other scenes show the king presenting offers to the gods, Hathor and Horus.
There are six small chambers around this hall of columns, with two other front chambers situated one after the other. One of the rooms is the offering room that was closed with a huge door made out of wood and metal. There is also a pair of steps that leads to the roof of the Temple.
One of these rooms is called the Linen Room, because the cloth that used to come from Lower Egypt used to be stored here. There is a narrow corridor that leads then to the most sacred area of the temple where most of the religious rituals used to take place.
The stairs situated on the left side leads immediately to the roof of the temple while the one on the right hand side leads to an upper area that was used by priests during the festival carried out in the Temple of Dendera. The walls surrounding the steps have scenes of Hathor during the festivals. The roof of the Temple is built on different levels according to the rooms and sections situated below.
Going out of the Temple of Dendera at the end, there are some scenes on the out walls of the temple. This includes the king planning for the construction of the temple. Behind the temple, there is a small chapel dedicated to the Goddess Isis and a small sacred lake.
In front of the Temple of Hathor in Dendera, there is a large Roman birthplace. It was constructed during the ruling period of Augustus, the Roman Emperor. The walls have scenes of the god Bes that was asserted with marriage and birth giving.
Near the Roman birthplace, there are the ruins of a Coptic church that dates back to the 5th century. It was historically recorded that more than 50,000 monks used to come celebrate the Easter in that church.
The Temple of Dendera is among the remarkable ancient Egyptian temples. Any traveler touring Egypt who is interested in the history and the constructions of the Pharaonic and the Greco-Roman period should pay this historical site a visit.