Constructed more than 3500 years ago, the mortuar Temple of Hatshepsut is one of the best-preserved and impressive ancient Pharaonic temples in Egypt. Included in almost all tours to Egypt, the temple is featured with its brilliant architecture and its magnificent location.
The temple is located in the West Bank of Luxor in an area which is rich with various marvelous monuments. Situated near the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and the Temple of Ramses III of Madinet Habu. The temple of Hatshepsut can be reached by a Nile ferry from the East Bank of Luxor. Other than that, almost all travel packages to Egypt and Nile Cruises ships’ programs include a visit to this marvelous temple.
Queen Hatshepsut, who lived in the period from 1508 to 1458 BC in Egypt was the fifth ruler of the 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt. The word Hatshepsut means the most important woman and of course the queen played an important role in the ancient Egyptian history and her ruling period was featured with prosperity, a considerable number of expedition missions she sent to a few neighboring regions like Punt. Many of these commercial trips were documented on the walls of the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor.
Queen Hatshepsut had to face a number of challenges before she took control of the land of the Nile. Some rumors claim that she has ruled Egypt unofficially for a considerable period of time and some legends went to the extent that she had to kill her brother, king Tuthmosis II to reach the throne of Egypt. Nevertheless, there was no evidence whatsoever discovered concerning these tales.
Hatshepsut even had to wear the closes, accessories, and outfits of men. The queen stated to her people that she is the son of the god Amun. However, this was a tradition that was quite common in ancient Egypt.
The area where the Temple of Hatshepsut was constructed at the West Bank of Luxor was dedicated for the worship of the gods; Hathor, Anubis, Amun Ra and Horus. The first king to ever make use of this area was king Mentuhotep II, who ruled Egypt from 2046 to 1995 BC. This was when he constructed himself and his wife tombs in that area. This occurred in the reign of the Middle Kingdom of ancient Egypt.
The construction of the temple took 15 years to be completed; from the period from 1457 to 1442 BC. Senenmut, the head of the state in the reign of Hatshepsut, was the designer and the supervisor of the building of the temple as references on the walls of the temple indicated this. Afterwards, the temple became one of the most important religious institutions in ancient Egypt.
When Christianity started spreading in Egypt in the Ptolemaic period, the Copts of Egypt established themselves a monastery on the remains of the Temple of Hatshepsut at that time. This monastery was used as a Christian religious organization until the 11th century BC. This is why the area is still called the Northern Monastery or El Deir El Bahary in Arabic.
The area was excavated in the 19th century when the French archeologist, Auguste Mirrette, removed the rubbles situated above the temple in the period from 1893 to 1897. The famous Howard Carter has also worked in that area as he used to copy the wall carvings on paper to be documented. The excavation works resulted in this magnificent temple we take pleasure in exploring today.
Seen from far away while walking towards it, the Temple of Hatshepsut appears like a glittering star emerging from above the mountain.
When the guests approach the temple, the famous statue of god Horus greets them. Afterwards, situated to the left hand side, there is the chapel of Hathor and to the right hand side; there is the chapel of the god Anubis.
The Temple of Hatshepsut mainly consists of three terraces or floors above each other’s, constructed out of limestone. They end at the sanctuary of the god; Amun, which was cut out of rocks, and considered to be the most sacred section of the temple.
Among the most remarkable features of the temple of Hatshepsut are these large statues of the queen disguised as a man with beard. They are situated in the second and third terraces in an interesting outline.
One of the most important and remarkable sections of the temple of Hatshepsut is the Punt Portico. Situated at the end of the second terrace, this section documents the famous expedition that took place in the reign of Queen Hatshepsut to the Islands of Punt, located to the South of Egypt.
The mission consisted of more than 30 ships, which were back with numerous various goods including seeds of the Myrrh tree, which was used afterwards to plant the garden of the famous Karnak Temple.
The most elegant section of the Temple of Hatshepsut is the chapel of the goddess Hathor. Featured with 12 huge columns ornamented with the head of Hathor at the top. These pillars end with the sanctuary; which is closed to public visits nowadays. This was where the most secret rituals of the worship of Hathor occurred.
Fascinatingly colored bas reliefs ornament the Chapel of Hathor, where the goddess is represented as a cow; a symbol of fertility and prosperity. This section of the temple is considered by many tourists who spend their vacations in Egypt as one of the finest and best-preserved chapels of ancient Egypt.
Located opposite to the chapel of Hathor, the chapel of god Anubis has some scenes of the birth of the Queen Hatshepsut generated by the god Amun, which the legend says “plays the role of the father of the Queen”.
Similar to the chapel of Hathor, this of Anubis is characterized by its huge 12 pillars, the wonderful astronomical ceiling and a sanctuary which is also closed to public now.