The incredible Egyptian temples reminiscent of ancient civilizations are one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions. In ancient times, Egyptian temples were built to be places of official worship for the Gods and Pharaohs. Each is dedicated to a particular God and serves as a place for the living to perform rituals and give offerings. Egyptians believed the temples to be essential in keeping the universe in order. Within their walls, people can protect against dark energy and seek prosperity for the country. As such, they are adorned with artwork, sculptures, and decorative elements suitable for both their divine beholders and their purpose.
With core ties to Egyptian heritage, culture, and ancient beliefs, it’s no surprise that there are hundreds of temples to explore. Egypt has done a remarkable job in preserving these ancient temples for visitors to appreciate today. On our travels, we visited four major Egyptian temple complexes. Here’s a look at each and their unique design and history.
Karnak Temple Complex
The Luxor region is one of Egypt’s most well-preserved areas, containing many ancient artifacts. One of the most magnificent monuments here is the Karnak Temple Complex, the largest religious building to ever be built. This Egyptian temple dates back to 2055 BC during the Middle Kingdom. However, construction continued for the next 1,600 years, with each Egyptian king adding further buildings to the complex. As such, it consists of many separate buildings and places of worship. The name “Karnak”, meaning “fortified village”, is fitting for its size and village-like appearance.
The Egyptian temple is dedicated primarily to three Gods: Amun, Mut, and Khonsu. Of these three, the compound dedicated to Amun is the most infamous. Within this precinct lies the Great Hypostyle Hall, one of the most stunning pieces of architecture we have seen. This area consists of 134 columns, with some standing 70 feet tall. Intricate detailing on these columns and the outside walls depicts scenes of smiting Egyptian gods. Karnack’s pylons surrounding the main Wadjet Hall are too adorned with decorative sculptures and hieroglyphics. Several sphinxes with rams heads that represent the god Amun line the entrance to the chapel, welcoming visitors and worshippers. Karnak Temple is a true display of Ancient Egyptian architectural skill and design.
Rameses III Mortuary Complex
Also located in Luxor is the Medinet Habu, which contains the Mortuary Temple of Rameses III. This Egyptian temple is often overlooked but became one of our favorite destinations. Its overall structure is similar to the Karnak Temple Complex and, in fact, many other Egyptian temples. Pylons line the entrance, opening into courtyards and sanctuaries with intricate colonnades and decorative walls. However, what stood out with this temple was its fortress-like design. There is a distinctive militarian feel which fits perfectly with the palace being built for Rameses III. This Ancient Egyptian king defended his country in three great wars, and the Medinet Habu was built after his last victory.
This theme of war is seen throughout the temple’s design. The exterior mud-brick wall once surrounding the site resembles a fortress. Besides, the original entrance into the temple is through a fortified gatehouse, known as a migdol. This architectural feature is seen in many Asiatic fortresses at the time. At the entrance, you also pass statues of Sekhmet, the lioness-headed goddess of war. On the gateway pylons, scenes of Rameses III’s victory in battle against the Sea Peoples are inscribed into the sand-colored stone. These pylons lead to a large courtyard that features colossal statues of Rameses III to further celebrate his successes.
Kom Ombo Temple
The Kom Ombo Temple is dedicated to two gods, crocodile-headed Sobek and falcon-headed Horus. This double dedication makes for a unique design of two architecturally duplicated temples lying side-by-side. Both halves are completely symmetrical, featuring their own entrances, Hypostyle Halls, and sanctuaries. No other Egyptian temples are constructed in this manner, which is what makes this site one of the most famous in Egypt. Most of the construction occurred during the Ptolemaic Dynasty, but additions were later added during the Roman period. This creates a unique blend of styles, with notes of Greco-Roman style worked into the design.
As with all Egyptian temples, the pylons, columns, and walls are intricately decorated with texts and reliefs. One of the best-preserved scenes is that on the inner rear wall which represents a set of surgical instruments. Medicine was highly developed in Ancient Egypt, with connections to divine power and magic. The scene shows Imhotep, the architect of the first pyramid, with the medical instruments used at the time. The parallels between the tools used then and now are remarkably similar. Within the beautiful scene, Emperor Trajan presents offerings to Imhotep.
Edfu’s Temple of Horus
The last of our favorite Egyptian temple complexes is Edfu’s Temple of Horus. Built in the Ptolemy Dynasty, it is one of the country’s newer temples and thus is one of the best-preserved ancient artifacts. It is a true celebration of the ambition of temple builders and architects at the time. The Great Pylon that marks the entranceway into the chapels and halls beyond boasts fine examples of hieroglyphics. Carved into the sandstone are extravagant images of the god Horus and previous Egyptian rulers. Heading into the forecourt and you’re surrounded by 32 towering columns. Each is decorated with further inscriptions and intricate detailing of the Gods.
Entering the inner temple the architecture is equally breath-taking. The chamber has 12 further columns decorated with elaborate patterning and imagery. Murals on the walls here and in the Hypostyle Hall also show interesting reliefs. Scenes include that of a solar barque, a ritual vessel used by the sun god Ra in Ancient Egyptian mythology. Others include images of Pharaohs making offerings to the Gods and astronomical representations. It is thought that the construction of the Egyptian temple began in 237 BC, but these decorations weren’t finished until 90 years after the foundations were laid.