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Reviewed 16 August 2018

The Temple of Hathor is one of the best-preserved temples in Upper Egypt. Located 60 kms upstream from Luxor, the temple dates from the Ptolemaic and Roman times but it was a site for chapels and shrines from earlier times.

As you approach the temple you are immediately struck by the simplicity of the building. It is a rectangular symmetrical box-shaped structure with six Hathoric columns depicting the goddess herself with a small entrance in the centre. The outer walls lean inwards creating an elongated effect which is counter balanced by linear architraves and flat roof. The walls connecting the columns seem out of place and were constructed by various Roman emperors who presented votive offering to the Goddess. Although the site dates back to the Old Kingdom, the Temple of Hathor was built in the first century BC by Ptolemy VIII and Queen Cleopatra.

Once inside the temple you are confronted by a large outer hypostyle court consisting of 18 columns running east and west. These would have been painted with vibrant colours and are still visible today. But the true spectacle is the ceiling; take a breath and look up. The astronomical ceiling restored between 2006 and 2011 and on-going is a mysterious world inhabited by star gods, zodiac signs and weird creatures featuring snakes on tall legs and birds with human heads.

The ceiling consists of seven separate strips painted in bright blue. Here we see the sun, moon, Sirius, Orion and Venus sailing across the sky in their boats. In another section we see four baboons welcoming and worshipping the rising sun. Nearby a winged sun is swallowed at night by the sky goddess Nut and reborn the following morning. Also seen are twelve zodiac signs of Babylonic-Greek origin not found in Egypt before it was conquered by Alexander the Great in 332 BC.

But perhaps the most interesting images from the Temple of Hathor can be found in the crypt beneath its southern wall. Here two reliefs portray two human figures holding the ends of what appears to be two oversize zucchinis with two snakes inside. Here we witness the creation of the cosmos. According to the Egyptians, the cosmos sprung from a lotus-flower the first object to appear on the primordial sea. From the flower appeared a snake symbolizing the rising sun and the god Harsomptus.

In the relief on the right, the god is represented in human form standing behind the zucchini with his ka or living essence kneeling beneath it. It is supported by a pillar with arms symbolizing stability and continuity. In the relief on the left, the zucchini with its sun-snake is supported by the God of infinity, Heh, kneeling on a square base. There is much speculation as to the meaning of these two reliefs. Some think the Egyptians invented electricity and two zucchinis represent light bulbs or lamps. What do you think?

As you wind you way upward you pass many chapels and shrines. Along the way take note of the fertility goddess carrying a tray filled with beads and flowers. She is part of a procession connected with the rebirth of Hathor. Notice the well-trod steps as you ascend upwards to the roof. As you emerge from darkness you will find the remains of an open-air Roman Kiosk. This was used to revitalize the statue of Hathor by the sun’s rays on the first day of the Egyptian year. Afterwards she was returned to the underground crypt to spend the rest of the year in darkness.

Nearby is a small chapel dedicated to Osiris housing a replica of the famous Dendera zodiac. The original is now on display at the Musee du Louvre in Paris. But don’t get me started on that sad episode in Egyptian history. When I was there I just laid on the stone floor and looked upwards in awe. The zodiac is a map of the sky representing the stars, constellations and planets. It was used to calculate the arrival of special events in the Egyptian calendar. The zodiac is circular in shape. The heaves are represented in the form of a disk held up by four pillars in the form of female deities assisted by eight falcon-headed figures. As you gaze up ward you will notice images of a bull, a scorpion, a pair of scales, and a ram … need I say more.

The Temple of Hathor is a unique building serving a unique purpose. It was a spiritual place a place of healing and procreation. But it also served another purpose. It was connected with The Temple of Horus at Edfu just upstream. You have to remember that Hathor and Horus were married but lived apart. However, each year the couple met on the Nile River to reconsummate their marriage. Here they enjoyed each other’s company for many days perhaps weeks who knows. But one is certain the locals love it. They joined too marking the occasion with festivals, feasting and lots of uncontrolled frolicking… get the picture?

There is lots to see at the Temple of Hathor. Take time to wander around the Temple of Isis located on the southern side of the main temple, the reliefs of Queen Cleopatra VII and her son Ptolemy XV (Ceasarion), the sacred lake and the lion gargoyle on the western wall of the main temple. However, there are little things that pop up here and there. Male private parts are on full view. The Ancient Egyptians artists would never have depicted the male anatomy in this way; they were more modest preferring to leave things to the imagination. The Romans, on the other hand had no such sentiments; they were out there!

Date of experience: February 2018
3  Thank adriano769
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 June 2018 via mobile

An hour north of Luxor, take a drive through the country side, stop for some for sugar cane juice. Once at the temple see sites from the later stages of Acient Egyptian civilization with Roman influences. This temple has a secret undground as well you can walk up to and on top of the temple.

Date of experience: June 2018
1  Thank John F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 June 2018 via mobile

You can feel yourself in antique période. Most part of Temple and hieroglyphics are still standing against passing 4500 years.lt is easy to walk around with children.lf you give some money to guardians there ,you can visit also closed and secret parts.

Date of experience: June 2018
Thank meresule
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 June 2018 via mobile

While not as old as Karnak or Luxor, this is incredibly well preserved with beautiful colors. It will has a roof, so the sun is not so bad. Also, this place was not crowded. At one point, we were the only people in the Temple. This is worth the little drive away from Luxor, it is so great and really well preserved

Date of experience: June 2018
Thank msa23_2000
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 June 2018

Another temple off the beaten path but totally worth the visit. We visited Dendara as part of a whole day tour along with the Temple at Abydos (we booked through Aladin Tours: please see review for details). The entry fee was one of the cheapest at 35 EGP and we definitely got value for our money.
The temple complex is huge and one of the most complete in all of Egypt. I suggest you walk around the outside of the temple first to see one of the only depictions of Cleopatra VIII (yes that Cleopatra) and her son Caesarion carved on the back wall.
Inside the temple there has been a lot of restoration aka cleaning the soot off the ceiling to realize absolutely brilliant murals. A closer look at the scenes show some really weird looking hieroglyphics so we started a game of who could find the strangest hieroglyphics (twerking bull anyone?).
The standout feature of this temple is the second story which you can climb up to and see the sacred shrine to Hathor. Inside the shrine is a copy of the famous Dendara Zodiac ( the real one is in the Louvre).

Date of experience: July 2017
2  Thank Christena H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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