“ Sightseeing Type: Churches / Temples „
The Temple of Philae.
The temple of Philae is perhaps one of the most picturesque temples on the Nile. Prior to the building of the dam it was situated on another small island but because of the building of the lower Nile dam it covered it under the waters of Lake Nasser completely submerging it. The paint was stripped off the temples by the rising and falling of the water levels. It was therefore dismantled into 40,000 blocks piece by piece weighing and estimated 20,000 tons, catalogued and moved to its present site on the Island of Angilika. It took 8 years to move it and reassemble it and was funded by UNESCO. You can see pictures of it on the internet submerged in the water.
The temple is dedicated to Isis and the God Osiris who was the Egyptian God of the afterlife and the underworld. To visit the temple you have to take a small boat over a large expanse of water. It is an absolutely brilliant sight as you see if from afar and get nearer. There is a hive of activity at the landing stage and the boats piloted by local Nubians jostling for a place to offload their passengers to race back and bring more.
Walking up the ramp and stairway you reach the top and are stunned by the sheer beauty of the temple complex. To the right there is a large arena where they hold Sound and light concerts describing the mythology of the great Egyptian Gods. This take place after nightfall when different parts of the temple are lit as the story unfolds.
Beyond this on the right hand side is the superb Roman Hypaethral temple built by the Roman Emperor Trajan. This temple looks like a typical Roman temple which would have had no roof. Apparently at some point during its history a wooden roof was put on the building. Beyond that is a square with numbered large pieces of stone that appears to have lost their way and seem to be spare with no where to go. It is quite a stunning building.
Looking left you see the massive temple complex to Osiris. Walking over to the temple you first enter a massive square surrounded by columned walkways. There are several side chapels leading off from the square. At the top of the square is the Temple of Osiris. There are two massive pylons either side of the main entrance which are quite magnificent with carvings on the façade. There are two granite statues of lions guarding the entrance. Walking up the ramp to the entrance you enter into a small courtyard surrounded by pillars and hieroglyphics on the walls. After passing through this courtyard you enter the Hypostyle hall where there are large columns inside. Carrying on you pass side chambers on either side of the aisle one side to the right is the vestibule and on the other side the Ostian rooms. All around the temple there are hieroglyphics telling stories of Osiris, Isis, Horus, Seth and Sobek.
You finally enter the Sanctuary.
Exiting this fantastic temple and walking around the perimeter you are awestruck by the amount of hieroglyphics and paintings on the outer walls of the temple. They are very detailed indeed. To the left hand side of the temple there is a set of small temples a gateway to one of the ruined temples is named after the Emperor Hadrian which leads to the ruined temple of Harendotes. This brings you back to the massive colonnaded square at the front of the temple.
This temple is one of the most enjoyable temples to walk around. It is quite large with many things to see both inside and on the outside of the temple. The surrounding waters make it a unique and calm setting despite the thousands of tourists visiting the Island. If possible it it best to visit the island early in the morning before the hoards of tourists arrive. There are hundreds of little sailing boats manned by local Nubian men all vying for your custom it is quite manic getting in and out of the boats and the boats are often rammed by another boat trying to dump their passengers so they can go back and get more.
I visited Philae Temple as part of a Nile Cruise last year. My holiday in Egypt was largely disappointing, but Philae remains as one of the most positive memories.
After leaving Aswan, the temples are only accessible to tourists by boats, as it is on an island by the Aswan dam. From the little port, the boats take roughly 10 minutes to reach little Philae island, which almost appears out of nowhere in the calm midst of the Nile. Remains date back to 380BC and according to our guide legend has it it is the burial place of Osiris, despite being dedicated to the goddess Isis. I won't go too into the history, partly because if you do visit then I'd have given away all the good parts and you won't listen as much, but mainly because I just can't remember it, and it'd be a hollow review if I copied and pasted from Wikipedia!
What I do remember are various smaller temples surrounding a grand temple, which retains much of its original colour and grandeur. When you visit temple day after day in Egypt you begin to feel they are repetitive, but Philae felt different. Maybe because the Roman graffiti shows another aspect to its history, or maybe because of the knowledge that when it was endangered by the building of the Aswan dam, renovators moved it brick for brick to a neighbouring island to protect it. Surrounded by water at all times it has a beautiful peace to it, and the colours on the trees make it a perfect picture spot. There is also a strong Roman feel to the island, so it appeals to admirers of both Egyptian and Roman religion and architecture.
At night there is a light-show, which although I didn't attend, I heard great reviews about. Worth the visit if you have the money and time, I regret not going as we only got the choice at the start of the week and nobody knew what Philae was going to be like. There is a gift shop/cafe and small bazaar on the island which are incredibly expensive, but I found I could sit by the cafe for hours just looking at the temple with the Nile in the background, a spectacular sight. The toilets were grubby, but where are they not in Egypt!
Overall, I can't claim to know too much about the history of the temple and the Egyptology, but I know enough to tell you that if you do take a Nile cruise then Philae will definitely be among your top sightseeing memories! Egypt at its finest.
Ehem - Egypt. Nile island South of Aswan/460 m long/150 m broad/today of the West lake floods.