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Overview of Dendera Temple Near Luxor



Cleopatra and her son make an offering to the  gods of the Ancient Egyptians in this scene from Dendera Temple

Cleopatra and one of her sons

Luxor Area- Dendera Temple

Dendera Temple, is a modestly-sized, extremely interesting temple located approximately 40 miles north of Luxor  on the West Bank of the Nile across from the town of Qena. 

The temple  is considered Greco-Roman, as it was built by the  Greek Ptolemaic Dynasty and later enhanced by the Emperors of  Rome. This is  a temple associated with Cleopatra, and you will find images of her on the walls of this temple (an example is on the left).   If Dendera is not a stop on your tour, you might want to consider making additional arrangements to see this enchanting temple.

According to the U.S. State Department, Qena, along with the regional centers of Minya, Sohag and Assiut (all located in the Nile Valley to the north of Qena) have been associated with extremist activity, so travel here only if conditions permit.


Many of the gods worshipped by ancient Egyptians are represented in the well-preserved walls of Dendera Temple ( also spelled Dandera, or Dandara).  However, Dendera was considered the most important center for the worship of Hathor (the cow-headed goddess of the sky). The area surrounding Dendera was a center for the worship of Hathor well before the Ptolemy's ruled Egypt (i.e. before 300 BC).

Hathor is depicted in Dendera as a beautiful woman with cow ears in some representations and in others as a beautiful woman with cow ears and a crown with horns that wrap up towards a large solar disk.  Hathor is often thought of as an earth mother figure, as well as a protector of women.  In Ptolemaic times, it appears that Hathor was associated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite and was adapted to be a goddess of joy and love.  In the Egyptian mythology of her exploits, she is not always seen as a protector, but sometimes as a destroyer of humankind.

When the temple was active, a  statue of Hathor that resided in the sanctuary at Dendera Temple and thought to contain the spirit of the goddess,  was transported by barge on the Nile to Edfu and its temple honoring Horus, so that he and his consort (through their statues) could enjoy a conjugal visit. This event was celebrated yearly and was recorded as time of great joy and celebration in ancient Egypt

The entrance to Dendera is through a tall, but unimposing arch whose gateway facing  the main temple is all that remains of the temple's pylon. Behind this is a courtyard that is now empty, although there are minor temples to the right.  The first temple on the right is a Roman Mammisi or birth house.  The Dendera complex is surrounded by intricately constructed  walls that add an air of mystery and formality to the monument.

Click the image above for a photo tour of Dendera Temple

As you enter the Hypostyle Hall you will pass under the “winged solar disk of hover” was a celebration of  the form that the god  Horus  took in battle.  This symbol is often used over the doorways of temples, where is was posted as  a warning  that the gods protected all who entered.  At  Dendera Temple the symbology has additional importance, since Hathor was often depicted as the wife of Horus.

The  Hypostyle Hall of Dendera  is filled with columns whose capitals are faced with the image of  Hathor. The ceilings and walls of this area are covered with representations of gods, goddesses and hieroglyphics related to the gods worshipped in this modest temple. On the ceilings of the Hypostyle Hall you can find a marvelous representation of the goddess Nut,  the goddess of the sky, who daily gave birth to the sun.  In addition, you can see the detail of the solar boats carrying the gods and Ra as he makes his nightly journey through the Underworld, so that the sun can rise in victory each day.  Dendera Temple is relatively unique in that the ceiling of its Hypostyle Hall remains intact.  Be sure to look up as it is quite stunning and worthy of your attention.

You will note that the ceiling of temple is blackened in many areas, as it was slowly coated with soot when the temple was used the temple a place for holding religious ceremonies and as residence by early Christians. 

In one of the rooms of the upper story of the temple you can see a  rather poorly executed replica of the well-known Zodiac of Dendera, which incorporates the goddess Nut. The original Denderan Zodiac is now in the Louvre in Paris, France.

Behind the Hypostyle Hall are two minor halls, with rooms used for storage and religious purposes, that eventually funnel  to the Sanctuary, where the goddess Hathor was believed to reside in a statute that represented her form.  There is an upper story to the temple that includes areas where the same statue of Hathor was taken to the roof for exposure to sunlight from Ra, before her journey to Edfu for her visit with Horus.  This is one of the few temple ceilings in Egypt that remains strong enough to support the weight of visitors.

We mentioned the Roman influence on the temple and much of this can be seen on the exterior walls.  In the photo tour provided above, an image is included that shows Cleopatra and one of her sons  offering gifts to the god Horus and goddess Hathor.  The outside walls of the main temple contain numerous reliefs of  scenes that are quite interesting and if you look closely you will see the figures of several Roman emperors who ruled Egypt near the end of the Pharaonic period.

Egyptian Gods, Goddesses and Mythological Stories

The mythology of the deities of Ancient Egypt are as fascinating as they are complex.  For a fabulous, concise review of the gods worshipped by the pharaohs read the book - Gods and Myths of Ancient Egypt by Robert A. Armour

Other Luxor Area Attractions

For details on specific attractions in the Luxor area, follow these links: Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, the Theban Necropolis (Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut's tomb, Medinet Habu, Colossi of Memnon).

Click this link if you are interested in learning about a hot-air balloon ride that will float you over many of the temples in the Theban Necropolis (including  the Valley of the Dead) as the sun rises over the Nile.

Click this link for information on shopping for alabaster bowls and vases.

Or click a link in the box on the upper right of this page to select another area of Egypt for exploration.

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