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          Best Places to Visit in Egypt



Exploring Lake Nasser Temples   


The temples on the shores of Lake Nasser are known for their interiors.  Shown in a scene from Derr Temple

Other temples on Lake Nasser

Access to the temples along the shores of Lake Nasser is by tender from your cruise ship.

During these landings the crew usually try to  “beach” the tender, as there are no formal dock at most of these locations. Alternatively, the crew will ride the tender as close to the shore as possible and extend a portable walkway onto dry land. 

Reaching the shore can be a simple as “walking a wide plank”, but that depends on how close the tender gets to the shore. Landing often takes several attempts and some minor reallocation of weight in the tender (moving people around) to get close enough in to set the plank.

At one location there was a three  plank trail zigzagging to the shore, so be prepared.  In this instance, members of the crew actually held a pole with their hands that served as  a banister to support those who needed assistance getting ashore.  All in all, it was good fun, but if you have trouble walking or with your balance this might not be right type of exploration for you.

Qasr Ibrim

Approximately 40 miles (64 kms) to the northeast of Abu Simbel is a small island that holds the only monument in the Nubian area of Egypt that did not need to be relocated as a result of  the damming of the Nile and the creation of Lake Nasser.

Most cruises merely slow down when they reach this small island for a float-by, as there is not much to see,  Qasr Ibrim (Ibreem) in ancient times was a fort and small trading settlement along the major camel route through the area. Today, it is largely a ruin that is in the process of being reconstructed, although there is some question as to whether there are materials to actually recreate the original site.

Click the image of the camera above  for photos of Qasr Ibrim.

Amada and Derr 

A further 25 mile (40kms) cruise from Qasr Ibrim brings you to the temples of Amada and Derr (both Pharaonic temples) set next to each other on the west bank of Lake Nasser. Both temples are small, with modest architectural details, but interesting nonetheless.

Amada, one of the oldest of the lake Nasser temples, was built by the Pharaoh Thutmose III (Thutmosis - New Kingdom, circa 1450 BC), although completed by his son Amenhotep II (circa 1400 BC). The temple was enlarged by Thutmose IV (Akenhaten) who had the images of Amon-ra defaced in order to honor his preferred God named Aten, who was represented in the form a solar disk. Thutmose IV was the step-son of Hatshepsut  and his early reign was usurped by his step-mother who claimed the title of pharaoh, dressed as a man, and wore a fake beard to seal the impersonation.

Click the image above for a photo tour of Amada Temple

Other pharaohs were involved in maturing the temple at Amada, including modifications by Ramesses II. As a result of his intervention Amada  was dedicated to the sun god, specifically as the god existed in the forms of Amon-Ra and Ra-Horakhty.)

The entrance to the temple opens into a hall whose pillars are decorated with a number of interesting and well-preserved cartouches. The pillared hall leads to an older section of the temple that contains the inner sanctuary. There is a lot to see here, including two inscriptions that  describe military campaigns, and it is an enjoyable temple to visit.  Note that flash photos are not allowed.

The nearby Derr Temple was another Ramesses II effort, again dedicated to Ra-Horakhty. The present temple, as was the pre-relocation original, is partially carved into rock.  It is presumed by Egyptologists that the temple had an entrance or first pylon, but that is now missing.

The interior consists of two pillared halls with a  three-room sanctuary connected to the back of the second pillared hall. Some of the reliefs  in this temple retain very strong color and are quite remarkable. Other images were defaced by early Christians when the original site was used as a church.

Click the image above for a photo tour of Derr Temple

As an aside, the caretakers at these temples may offer a fun photo opportunity.  They frequently carry a scorpion or a local snake or two that they will drape on your shoulder for a small fee (these are pets and have been rendered non-poisonous).

Wadi el Seboua, Dakka and Maharraqa

Cruising another 30 miles (48 kms) along  a passage that twists through a relatively narrow section of Lake Nasser brings you to the site of another three temples.

The main attraction here is Wadi el Seboua (pharaonic), known as the Valley of the Lions. This compact temple, built in honor of Ramesses II  and to  celebrate the gods Amon Ra and Ra-Horakhty, was another monument that was moved and, then, re-constructed to accommodate the flooding of Lake Nasser. The temple is free standing, although set in a cliff face that has been hallowed out to replicate the original setting. Parts of the original structure did not survive the passage of time, as and the front pylons are missing and some of original courtyard detail has been lost to time.

Click the image above for our photo gallery on Wadi el Seboua

The temple is approached through a pathway lined with two rows of sphinx, some adorned with the head Ramesses II attached to the body of a lion bearing human hands. This path leads up a few steps to a pylon whose reliefs are weathered, but just visible. In these reliefs Ramesses II is shown in battle sacrificing his enemies to the gods (Amun (left) and Ra-Horakhty (right)). To the left of the entrance is a large statue or Ramesses holding a standard, with a smaller figure peeking from behind him. It is thought that there were four statues of Ramesses II at one time, but the other three have been lost.

The pillars on each side of the  courtyard behind the pylon  are, unsurprisingly, lined with statues of Rameseses II. Beyond the next pylon is a pillared (hypostyle) hall that leads to a small sanctuary. The walls of Wadi el Seboua are richly decorated and there is much to see and delight over in this compact temple.

Click the image above to see more of the interior detail of Wadi el Seboua

There are two other minor temples within a short walking distance of Wadi el Seboua. Both are modest and lacking the detail and presentation quality of Wadi.  Dakkah,  built during the Roman period (3rd century B.C.) is the largest of the three temples and is noted for its large pylon, but is otherwise unremarkable.  The third temple, Maharraqah (Maharraka) is quite compact. It was a Roman-era temple celebrating Isis that was never completed and, then, was turned into a church.

Click the image above to see the setting of  Maharraqah Temple

From here your cruise may head to the Temple complex at Kalabsha or simply return to port at Aswan for your departure to Cairo.

Kalabsha, Gerf Hussein, Beit el Wali and the Kiosk of Kertasi

These four small temples have been located to one island that is quite close to the High Dam in Aswan.  They can be visited at the end of a cruise on Lake Nasser from Abu Simbel. However, the majority of visitors see them during a tour of Aswan and it is in that section of our guide where we have chosen to included them.


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Best Places To Visit in Egypt

Nile - Luxor to Aswan
Aswan Area
Abu Simbel
Lake Nasser Temples

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