About the Temple of Philae
If the Luxor, the Karnak, and the Hatshepsut Temples are the highlight of Luxor, the Temple of Philae is for sure the most important highlight of the marvelous city of Aswan. Hundreds of tourists who travel to Egypt visit the Temple of Philae every day to view the magnificent and the greatness of the ancient Egyptian construction and architectural works.
Dedicated to the worship of the goddess Isis, a goddess that became quite popular in ancient Egypt and other sections of the Roman Empire, the Temple of Philae was the center of the worship of Isis and a common Pilgrimage site.
Geographical location of the Temple of Philae
The Temple of Philae is now located on the Agilika Island in Aswan, near the Aswan Dam and the High Dam. Tourists usually take a bus or a car from their hotels or Nile Cruise ships, reach the shores of the River Nile and take a motor boat to reach the Agilika Island after a short ride for around 10 minutes.
The Name Philae
The origin of the name Philae goes back to the Greek language and it means “the beloved one” or “the beloved ones”. The island and the Temple of Philae had another name as well during the Coptic period in Egypt. This name was “Bilac” that means “the end” or “the border”. This was because the Philae Island was the last section of Egypt during this period of time.
The history and the construction of the Temple of Philae
Many temples were constructed in the Island of Philae. The most ancient among these ancient Egyptian constructions is that temple constructed during the ruling period of Tuthmosis III in the 15th century BC.
The largest temple constructed in the Island of Philae was built during the 13th century BC. Afterwards Amenhotep and the Aresphonis erected two other temples.
However, the Temple of Philae that still amazes the people who come from all over the world to visit Egypt was finished in 116 BC during the Ptolemaic period in Egypt. Many other Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt have also added their own contributions to the magnificent Temple of Philae.
The cult of Isis was spread from Egypt to other destinations like Rome and some sections of the Greek Empire. When the Romans took control of Egypt, the Roman Emperors recognized the importance of the Philae Temples and they built many additions to the temple of Philae.
This includes Julius Cesar who constructed a temple in the Northern section of the Philae. Moreover, many Roman and Byzantine Emperors had their own additions and buildings in the Philae Temple. This includes Justinian and Hadrian.
The rescue and the relocation of the Temple of the Philae
Afterwards, after the construction of the High Dam in the 1960s the situation has completely changed. This was because the Island of Philae was located in the middle between the new High Dam and the old Aswan Dam that meant that most of the sections of the island would be drowning under the water of the River Nile all year long.
Moreover, due to the movement of the water on daily basis to produce electricity, waves that exceeded 3 meters in height would reach the Island of Philae. This meant that these waves would ruin the rocks and stones of the monuments.
When the international community met to discuss the ways to rescue the monuments of the Island of Philae, there was a project presented by the Egyptian government to relocate these historical sites to the Agilika Island that was accepted by all the parties who participated in this project.
The project of the rescue of the monuments of the Island of Philae started in 1972. This was when large ships started positioning 3000 steel rods around the island to temporary protect the island against the water and the waves of the River Nile.
Afterwards, archaeologists and hundreds of workers started taking photos of the different sections of the temple. Afterwards, they began dismantling the rocks and numbering them. The next stage was to transfer the rocks and putting them back in the same order as they were originally constructed. Thank god they succeeded in rescuing this wonderful monument of ancient Egypt.
The description of the Temple of Philae
Today, guests coming from all over the world to tour Egypt to view and admire the greatness of ancient Egypt take boats to reach the Southern section of the Agilika Island.
The first thing the travelers see after viewing the whole construction from the water of the River Nile is the kiosk of Nectanebo II that was built in the 4th century BC and considered to be the oldest section of the Temple of Philae.
A large passageway that is surrounded by large columns lead the guests to the wonderful Temple of Isis, the main section of the Philae Temple that is featured by the mix between the ancient Egyptian and the Greco-Roman styles of architecture.
Afterwards, the guest views the first pylon that was constructed by Ptolemy XII. The pylon has some scenes of the king defeating his enemies while the gods; Isis, Hathor and Horus are watching to the give such a power to the king.
Inside the temple, there is the birth house of the goddess Isis that was mainly built by Ptolemy VI and modified later on by many other Ptolemaic rulers.
The small temple of Hathor that is featured with its wonderful scenes of singer and musicians with the god Bes among them, now occupies the Eastern side of the Island.
Nearby, there is the magnificent kiosk of Trajan that is famous for its amazing 14 huge columns that contain scenes of the Roman Emperor; Trajan being incensed by the gods.
The Temple of Philae is almost included in all Egypt travel packages that include a visit to the wonderful cities of Luxor and Aswan. With its marvelous architecture, decoration and its own unique magic and ambiance, it always amazes the guests of Egypt.