The Temple of Philae, located on a peaceful island and devoted to the goddess of love, is a holy place that has astonished tourists since the first Nile cruises left Cairo, and is one of Egypt’s most important monument sites.
The Philae Temple was originally built on the island of Philae, which in Ancient Egyptian meant “the end.” It was one of the last temples dedicated to the cult of Isis, who was worshipped for reviving her husband Osiris after his brother Seth murdered and dismembered him.
In this post, we’ll provide a comprehensive travel guide to the Temple of Philae to help you make sense of the most prominent tourist attractions in the Aswan area.
So let’s get started!
Isis was the daughter of the earth god Geb and the sky goddess Nut, as well as the sister of Osiris, Seth, and Nephthys. She was the sister and wife of Osiris, the deity of the underworld. It is believed that she and Osiris were in love even when she was still in the womb. Isis was also the mother of Horus, the pharaoh’s protector.
Ancient Egyptian religious beliefs were based heavily on the Great Mother Isis, the goddess of magic and healing. Today, the world recognizes her by her Greek name, Isis. The ancient Egyptians, on the other hand, referred to her as Aset. Her name literally translates to “Queen of the Throne,” and her headdress, which resembles a throne, reflects this.
Because she had so many different powers, Isis was worshipped by the ancient Egyptians. She was the guardian of women as well as the bearer of magic. Isis began as a subordinate figure to her husband Osiris, but she evolved into the Queen of the Universe and the personification of cosmic order after thousands of years of worship. By the Roman period, she was thought to have the power of fate itself.
According to a Greek myth, Osiris was killed or drowned by Seth, who ripped his body into 14 pieces and threw them across Egypt. Isis and her sister Nephthys eventually recovered and buried all of the pieces except the phallus, reviving Osiris, who remained in the underworld as a judge and a ruler. His son Horus defeated Seth, avenging Osiris and becoming the new ruler of Egypt.
The Philae Temple is located in “The Nubian City,” one of Aswan’s most famous monumental sites. It was a rocky island known in Hieroglyphics as “Apo,” which means “Ivory.” It is located on Aglika Island, 12 kilometres south of Aswan, downstream of the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser. It was originally placed near the vast first cataract of the Nile in Upper Egypt, but it was relocated as part of the UNESCO Nubia Campaign project to nearby Agilkia Island. It was a sacred location as an old pilgrimage center for the religion of Isiscentre.
Built during the reign of Ptolemy II (Egypt’s Greco-Roman Period), the island was originally dedicated to the goddess Isis. Ptolemy II Philadelphus (reigned 285-246 BCE) and his successor, Ptolemy III Euergetes, finished the Temple of Philae complex of temples (reigned 246–221 BCE). Its decorations, which date from the reigns of the Ptolemies and the Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius (27 BCE–37 CE), were never finished. Hadrian (reigned 117–138 CE) constructed a gate to the west of the complex. Other smaller temples or shrines devoted to Egyptian gods include Hathor’s temple, Imhotep’s temple, and chapels dedicated to Osiris, Horus, and Nephthys.
One entryway to the Philae Temple is through the first pylon. The Birth House, located on the western side of the forecourt, was devoted to Hathor and Isis in honour of the birth of her son, Horus. It is surrounded by colonnades. The second pylon is an impressive 32-meter-wide, 12-meter-high gateway. The foundations of a small chapel stand in front of it. There are some fading Christian artworks as well.
The first chamber of the temple contains eight columns divided from the court by screens. Many Coptic symbols and Greek inscriptions can be found inside this room, revealing the temple’s transformation into a Christian site under the rule of Bishop Theodore during the Byzantine period. Above the gate, there is an inscription commemorating the 1841 archaeological expedition to Philae.
The top relief on the south wall above the door depicts Horus seated on a bench, with Nephthys and Isis offering the crowns of Lower and Upper Egypt. To the left of the door, there are incomplete obelisks depicting the king giving land grants. On the right, there is an incredible relief depicting the Nile’s origins.
The Sanctuary House may be reached after passing through various antechambers. To the left of the first antechamber, there is a small room with reliefs of the king in the presence of Isis, but on the west side of the room, there is a door that goes out of the temple to the Gateway of Hadrian.
With the construction of the new Aswan dam (1960-1970), which drowned the area, the temple was at risk of being submerged forever. Fortunately, due to the efforts of the Egyptian government and UNESCO, who worked together to pump the area dry, The Temple of Isis was painstakingly dismantled and relocated stone by stone (over 50.000 stones) to a nearby high island named Agilka, where it stands today.
Despite early Christian vandalism and flooding, the Temple of Isis remains one of Egypt’s most magnificent temples. The columns of its hypostyle hall are remarkably well-preserved, and reliefs like the sculptures of musical scenes in the Temple of Hathor have kept much of their original beauty.
When travelling around Egypt, you come across a lot of hieroglyphs, but the ones in Philae stand out. The walls of Philae’s temples are covered in ancient hieroglyphs. They were the Ancient Egyptians’ last works to be written. Inscriptions in the exquisite pictorial alphabet, depicting the history of this civilization, may be found among the huge carvings of the gods of Ancient Egypt.
The simplest way to get to the Philae temple is to take a taxi from Aswan. You’ll most certainly stay here while visiting the region, and the Temple of Philae is an excellent day trip from Aswan! It’s simply a few kilometres away and shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to get there.
The cab will drop you off at the Philae Temple marina, where authorized boats will take you to Agilkia Island. Transportation there and back, including waiting time, will cost roughly 150 EGP for two individuals.
You’ll need at least 1–1.5 hours to explore the entire complex, so make sure to agree on this before you take the boat.
Regular visiting hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. (from October to May) or 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (from June to September). Adult admission is 50 EGP (about $3), while student admission is 25 EGP (about $1.50). If your negotiation abilities are up to scratch, a roundtrip boat journey from the mainland to Agilkia Island should cost roughly 10 EGP, but boatmen will usually try to charge you more. The Sound and Light Show costs about $14 per person.
One of Egypt’s most remarkable ancient sites is the Philae temple complex. Today, the complex continues to awe visitors in the same manner it has for centuries. Check out our tour packages for a wonderful experience if you wish to discover a stunning ancient Egyptian monument and make the most of its amazing temples.
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