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!
Who is isis?
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.
Where is The Philae Temple of Isis Located?
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.
When was The Temple of Philae Built?
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.
The Design and Layout of the Temple of Philae
Philae Temple From the Outside
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.
A Look Inside the Philae Temple
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 of Isis
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.
The Philae Temple In Danger
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.
Interesting Facts you Need to Know About The Philae Temple
- Philae Temple’s construction was completed about 690 A.D., making it the last of the ancient temples built in the classical Egyptian style. It was created to honour the goddess Isis and is an outstanding demonstration of a cult based on the story of Isis and Osiris.
- The temple of Philae was regarded as the most sacred of all the temples by both Egyptians and Nubians because God Osiris was buried on the island where the temple stood. Philae is only a few meters away from Biggeh, which was believed to be one of Osiris’ burial places and was thus greatly respected by Egyptians in ancient times. Because only priests could live or visit the island, it was called “the pure island” and “an unapproachable place.” It was also believed that birds would avoid flying over it and that fish would avoid swimming near its shores.
- For decades, the temple complex was the holiest place for Isis worshipers. It was formerly thought that the temple was formally closed down in the 6th century A.D. by the Byzantine emperor Justinian (527–556 AD) (Late in Justinian’s reign, the temple was converted into a church.), but a new study on the history of the Isis religion has revealed that the cult was still operating until the 9th century.
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.
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How to reach the Temple of Philae
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.
Admission and working hours
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.
The Bottom Line
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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