Tod Temple: The Preciousness is in the Details

Pharaohs built their falcon-headed god of war multiple homes around the ancient city of Thebes. The god Montu rose to prominence in the Middle Kingdom at a time when the pharaohs made him their patron deity. Many pharaohs of this period were named Montuhotep, meaning "Montu is Satisfied" and he must have been very satisfied with the four temples built in his honour that marked the territory of, and protected, Thebes (modern Luxor). To the North was his house at Medamud. He had another just outside the north wall of Karnak temple. To the South, on the west bank of the Nile, the god lived at Armant; while on the east bank he also had a temple at Tod (pronounced 'toad').

One of the first modern visitors to Tod was Jean-Francois Champollion, who would become the decipherer of hieroglyphs and the Father of Egyptology. During his trip in 1828/29, Champollion investigated a 'crypt' that was engulfed by an Egyptian village. Almost a century later another Frenchman, Fernand Bisson de la Roque, cleared the village and began excavations to reveal two halls of the buried temple. The crypt that Champollion investigated and Bisson de la Roque cleared was beneath this chapel dedicated to the consorts of Montu: Tjenenyet and Ra'ttawy. On the walls, the pharaoh is depicted performing the holy rites for the goddesses.

In fact, the chapel was a mammissi, or birth house. At other sites, Dendara in particular, the mammissi was a separate building within the sacred precinct, but they were also built as chapels within a temple. Mammissi commemorated either the birth of the diety or the divine birth of the pharaoh, thus proving his divine right to rule. This special building or chapel appeared in the Ptolemaic period when the pharaohs, of Greek origin, had to prove their birthright. At Tod, the hippopotamus goddess Taweret waddles across the ways. She presided over fertility and childbirth. In her hands she holds what is thought to be a roll of cloth that is tied near one end. This is the hieroglyph sa that symbolized protection. Taweret protected mothers in childbirth and the household in general.

Although the temple is beautiful in its own right, perhaps the most fascinating aspect of a visit today is wandering through the storage area of decorated fragments that have not yet been restored to their proper place in the temple. French archaeologists are still working at the site and have arranged the blocks in groups of like pieces. They have before them a massive jigsaw puzzle and, in this case, each fragment is extraordinary in its own right.

It is in the blockyard that one can see evidence from what may have been the earliest temple at Tod. A slab of pink Aswan granite bears the cartouche of Userkaf, the first pharaoh of Egypt's fifth dynasty. Userkaf ascended the throne in c. 2494 B.C. and ruled for only seven years. Yet within that short space of time he constructed his pyramid at Sakara, a solar temple at Abusir and, perhaps, the temple of Montu at Tod.

The massive granite block was excavated at the site but archaeologists have not found any other evidence for an Userkaf temple. The first temple structure that they have direct evidence for was built by Mentuhotep II in 2050 B.C., some four centuries after Userkaf. It is possible that the block may have been moved from another site and reused at Tod. Unfortunately, no mention of Tod (ancient Djerty) or the god Montu has been preserved on the fragment. Such mention would have been proof positive that Userkaf built a temple here. So the question of the existence of an Userkaf temple remains for open for discussion.

Egyptian temples can be overwhelming when visitors try to comprehend the multitude of figures that are carved on any one wall. Viewing a fragment allows the beholder to appreciate the exquisiteness of the carving. For example, looking at the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet in her original position as a very small part of a complete temple wall, the viewer might easily overlook her regal whiskers, the tautness of her cheek, and the details of her crown. As a goddess of war and protector of pharaohs, she is a feminine compatriot of Montu. She and Montu also originated as solar deities, hence the sun disk crowning her head.

One corner of the blockyard is dedicated to carved architectural fragments from two churches built at the site. One dates to the 5th century A.D. The other was dedicated to Anba Ibshay, a local saint, and was destroyed in late medieval times.

In this section of the blockyard lies a beautiful lintel carved with the Coptic Cross. The cross is derived from the pharaonic ankh, symbol of life. Since the ankh is composed of a T cross with a circle on top, it was an easy step for early Christians to associate it with the eternal life promised by Christ. On the lintel block, the cross is placed inside a building which probably refers to the very church that the stone decorated.

Beneath a church and the Ptolemaic temple's flooring, in the foundation of the Middle Kingdom temple, French Egyptologist Fernand Bisson de la Roque discovered the Tod Treasure. Although the treasure contained silver, lapis lazuli and some gold bullion, the stone fragments that are lined up around the temple seem just as precious.


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The temple itself does not look as impressive from the satellite as it does with feet firmly placed on the earth. The small building in the upper left of the satellite image is Montu's barque shrine, originally built by Tuthmosis III but also bearing decoration from succeeding pharaohs. The square space to the right of the temple are the Roman period walls of the temple's sacred lake.

Be sure to purchase an entry ticket at Luxor Temple before setting out for Tod. Tickets are not sold at the temple. Ticket price for a foreign adult is 25LE.

Head South for 5.6 km beyond the Luxor Bridge. There is a checkpoint at the turn for Tod village. Turn left (East) at the checkpoint and follow the road through the village and past the monastery. At the Y-intersection with a yellow mosque building in the center, turn right (West) and drive for another .3 km to the temple's entrance.

Egyptian Monuments blog by Su Bayfield, Tod
Tour Egypt website, The Temple of Montu at Tod in Egypt by Mark Andrews
Louvre Museum Collection 11th Dynasty Relief from the Temple of Monthu at Tod
Louvre Museum Collection The Tod Treasure

Deir el Shuhada: In Reverence of Martyrs

Diocletian ascended Rome's imperial throne in difficult times. Anarchy of the third century A.D. had enabled invasions by Goths, Visigoths, Vandals and others, fueled civil wars that split the empire into three competing states, and fostered economic hardship through hyperinflation and the breakdown of once-prosperous trade networks. The empire was crumbling and it seemed to Diocletian that the moral fabric of his people was crumbling too.

With authoritarian single-mindedness he set out to rectify the empire's problems. To fix the administration of the empire he created the Rule of the Four (Tetrarchy); to fix the economy, he instituted wage and price controls, and to fix the moral fabric of the people he promoted "pious, religious, peaceable and chaste life" through veneration of the traditional Olympian gods and elimination of religious minorities. Beginning in 303 until his retirement in 305, Diocletian oversaw the worst persecution of Christians across the empire. It was most brutal in Egypt where more than half a million men, women and children are estimated to have been killed.

To mark the momentous suffering, Year 1 of the Coptic calendar is 284 A.D., the first year of Diocletian’s rule. Hence, 2011 corresponds to 1728 A.M (Anno Martyri – Year of the Martyrs). Moreover, martyrdom remains a significant cornerstone of Coptic faith. Copts honour those who die because of their faith, as seen in the martyrdom of those killed on Christmas Eve 2010 in Nag Hamadi and whose portraits appear on postcards recently seen in Luxor. It was with this background that an excursion to Deir el Shuhada, the Monastery of the Martyrs, located at the desert's edge near the city of Esna, was made.

In the first centuries A.D., Esna had a significant Christian population. A monk named Ammonius was ordained their bishop in the early years of fourth century as Diocletian's persecution was raging. Perhaps in the year 307 A.D., Ammonius took his congregation to the monastery of St. Isaac the Hermit, located in the mountains West of Esna, to celebrate the saint's feast day. Diocletian's appointed governor for the area, Arianus, followed with his troops and killed the congregation, said to number 160,000 people. Ammonius was arrested and tortured but would not recant his faith. Instead, he prophesized that Arianus himself would embrace Christianity and be martyred. With that, Ammonius was put to death. Remains of "innumerable bodies" found in a mass grave about three kilometres West of Esna, at a location that corresponds with the monastery of St. Isaac, provided tangible proof of the persecution.

The Monastery of the Martyrs is also known as Deir el Manawus, the Monastery of Ammonius. Tradition states that Ammonius built the monastery in the early fourth century but, as yet, there is no evidence for such an early date. Another tradition says that Queen Helena built the monastery to commemorate the martyrs. Today, there are two churches within the monastery which has been re-newed and re-inhabited by nuns. The newest church, dedicated to the Virgin and built in 1931, was required to hold the growing congregation that visits the monastery from the surrounding villages as well as pilgrims coming from further afield.

Copts do not worship saints. In fact, such worship is forbidden. Icons are "windows to heaven". The faithful pray before an icon to honour the life and deeds of the saint and to ask for the saint's intercession with God and Christ to help them in their daily lives. Prayers are often accompanied by the lighting of a candle placed before the icon. Appeals for help are also written on scraps of paper and slipped behind the glass that fronts the saint's image, as here before Saint George in the new Church of the Virgin at Deir el Shuhada.

Written appeals have a long tradition. In the older Church of the Martyrs prayers to Saint Theodore are preserved on the fragmentary plastered walls which probably date to the 11th or 12th century.

On the opposite wall rides another warrior saint, Saint Claudius.

Brooklyn Museum - Early Christian (Coptic) Monastery at Esna - Edwin Howland Blashfield
In ca. 1887, Edwin Blashfield visited the Church of the Martyrs and was able to provide a more wide-angle view of the sanctuary with a pencil than I could capture digitally. His drawing captures the central and southern haykals dedicated to the Holy Virgin and the Holy Martyrs of Esna, respectively.

No doubt, Blashfield saw more than meets the eye today. Some restoration work has taken place recently to stop further plaster fragments from falling off the mud-brick walls. Lacuna in the painted plaster emphasize the preciousness of the images that remain.

The concha (semidome) of the apse bears an image of Christ in Majesty. He sits within a mandorla symbolizing spiritual power or the transition of heaven and earth. He holds a codex in his left hand and raises his right hand in blessing. On the inner curve of the arch Saint Peter holds two keys in his left hand and points to them with his right. 

Below the dome is an image of the Virgin and Child (barely visible) sitting on a throne flanked by the archangels Michael and Gabriel, who hold orbs. A red cloth with white crosses covers the altar in the centre of the chapel. Time has faded, abraded and soiled the images but it has not hidden their glory.

The visit to the Monastery of the Martyrs was most enjoyable and enlightening. Worshipers welcomed us, shared sacramental bread, and proudly guided us around their monastery. Leaving, one of the nuns who now inhabit the monastery waved good-bye and locked the door behind her as has been done in centuries previous. They are reviving the monastic life inspired by the teachings of the fourth and fifth centuries. They "are social martyrs who have sacrificed their life in the world for an existence of worship and total dedication to the rules of the Church." (van Doorn-Harder, p. 17)


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Arriving at Deir el Shuhada by car, rather than by balloon from on high, I had no concept of the vastness of the cemetery that stretches to the West of the church complex. The satellite imagery from Google Maps provides a widened dimension of understanding of the monastery's context.

Cross the Nile at Luxor to the West Bank and turn left (South) on the Luxor-Esna highway. Some 46 km after the checkpoint and before arriving in Esna, there is a road on the right that leads off the highway to the West. This is a ring road that avoids the city's traffic jams. After 8 km turn right (West) at an intersection that takes you over the sugarcane railway tracks and onto a gravel road. Drive another 2 km and you will see the monastery on the left hand side. Christianity and Monasticism in Upper Egypt by Gawdat Gabra and Hany N. Takla: Chapter 10: Esna Martyrs, pages 95-104
Encyclopedia Coptica: The Christian Coptic Orthodox Church Of Egypt
Claremont Coptic Encyclopedia article: Dayr Al-Shuhada'
Nelly van Doorn-Harder article: Imagined Antiuqity: Coptic Nuns Living Between Past Ideals and Present Realities

Secrets Unveiled at Dendara

 In wanton imitation of Dr. Hawass, who has achieved literary fame with an untold number of 'secret' articles and at least five 'secret' books (Secrets from the Sand, Secrets of the Pharaohs, Secrets of the Sphinx, Zahi Hawass's Secret Egypt: A Travel Guide, and the ultimate, limited edition A Secret Voyage: Love, Magic and Mysteries in the Realm of the Pharaohs selling for a princely $4,400), I bring to my dear readers the secrets of Dendara as unveiled to me on a recent Travel Tuesday.

Although I had visited Hathor's temple at least twice before, this visit proved that repeat visits can be as exciting as the first. Setting out early from Luxor, I had no idea what wonderful surprises were in store.

The first surprise was immediate upon our arrival. A new visitors centre has been built offering a very comfortable, air-conditioned theatre in which to watch an interesting introduction to the temple and its rites. It also offers the more mundane, but necessary, toilets -- for the price of a 1LE tip to the attendant. For all his (well-known) faults, Dr. Hawass must be credited for the creation of this and other visitor centres and small site museums across the country. They enrich the experience of visiting Egypt's extraordinary monuments.

The second and more astonishing surprise also credits Dr. Hawass' leadership of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (now Ministry of Antiquities). Upon entering Hathor's temple, brightness and colour radiate all around its hypostyle hall, as does the din of the work of a large team of Egyptian conservators who are cleaning the ceiling, walls and columns. Dendara temple has long been famous for its "profuse and mysterious" decorations and Amelia Edwards, travelling A Thousand Miles Up the Nile in 1873-74, was "bewildered" by what she saw. She wrote,
. . . dimly visible on every wall, pillar, and doorway, a multitude of fantastic forms -- hawk-headed, ibis-headed, cow-headed, mitred, plumed, holding aloft strange emblems, seated on thrones, performing mysterious rites -- seem to emerge from their places, like things of life. Looking up to the ceiling, now smoke-blackened and defaced, we discover elaborate painting of scarabaei, winged globes, and zodical emblems divided by border of intricate Greek patterns, the prevailing colours of which are verditer and chocolate. (page 124)
I can only imagine Amelia's awe should she have the opportunity to look heavenwards now. The sooty veil that once concealed Hathor's loveliness has been lifted. As a result of the SCA's work, the monument is breathtaking. The hypostyle hall was built in 36 AD, during the reign of Emperor Tiberius. The walls show Tiberius, and his successors Nero and Claudius, presenting offerings to the goddess.

The goddess Nut (pronounced 'Newt') stretches across breadth of the hall's ceiling. She arches her body over the earth and her fingers and toes touch the four cardinal points. She is the embodiment of the dome of the night sky and across her body the stars float on their boats. She swallows the winged sun disc every night . . .

. . .  in order to give birth to it every dawn. From floor level, more than 25 m below, the detail of Nut's beaded gown is clearly visible.

The ceiling is supported by 24 Hathor-headed sistrum-capitals. The sistrum was a sacred musical instrument, similar to a rattle or tambourine, that made noise when it was shaken during religious ceremonies. It became the sacred image of the goddess herself. With purposeful determination, the features of all four faces of the column were brutally hacked away by early Christian fanatics who feared the power of the goddess -- she who personified the principles of love, beauty, music, motherhood, and joy. By literally defacing her, they stripped her of her magical energy.

After the surprise from above, there was a surprise from below. Temple priests stored Hathor's treasures in a crypt at the rear of the temple. An open invitation to descend was a new opportunity for me. Visiting the crypt requires an intake of breath as one crawls through a narrow opening at the base of a wooden ladder, but once inside the narrow underground passage is high enough to stand in. The beautiful carvings make the effort to beat back feelings of claustrophobia well worthwhile.

The depiction of the goddess' sacred menat necklace details the heavy semi-circular pectoral that hung from four sistra pendants. Chains attached to these pendants linked the necklace with its counterweight that hung down the back of the wearer. The necklace on the wall probably reproduces the actual necklace worn during the temple's holy rites and one of the most important objects stored underground.

The other sacred object stored in the crypt was a statue of Hathor's ba (or soul, for lack of a better translation). Every year, the priest carried the statue up to the temple roof to celebrate the New Year's festival. At sunrise, the goddess was raised aloft in symbolic union with the solar disc Atum. Even after several visits to the temple, climbing those same steps alongside the priests is a pretty awesome experience. Time contracts as the priests and the visitor ascend the dark staircase together into the dazzling sunlight. 

Dendara has always been one of the most important temples on the Egyptian tour itinerary because it is one of the best preserved. The ongoing work of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities ensures that with each visit further secrets will be revealed.


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The satellite image clearly shows the temple surrounded by its massive mud-brick enclosure walls that delineated the sacred precinct. Also visible, in the left-hand corner are the palm trees that now grow in what was the temple's sacred lake.

We drove to Dendara along the western desert 'highway'. As I mentioned to my parents, do not expect this to be HWY 401. I'm afraid I did not keep track of the mileage and the various turns, but Dendara is a well known site and is located directly across the Nile from the city of Qena so all taxi drivers will know how to get there. Egyptian Monuments blog:
Tour Egypt article: Dendera and the Temple of Hathor by Mark Andrews
Living in Luxor article: Trips to Dendera and Abydos

The Ghost of Howard Carter

Behind every door lies the unknown - even a ghost perhaps. Howard Carter broke open the door of the tomb of Tutankhamun on November 26, 1922 and found "wonderful things." Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities opened the door of Howard Carter's residence to visitors about a year ago and has revealed a wonderful glimpse into the life a man who probably felt as cursed as he felt blessed. With a collection of period pieces and some of Carter's own belongings, the SCA has ably re-created his home at the time of his 10 years' work in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Carter built the house soon after establishing a partnership with Lord Carnarvon. He knew that the project before them, to find a tomb, would require a comfortable base of operations near to the Valley of the Kings. He situated his home on a raise near the base of the escarpment at the point where the desert and the agricultural land meet. Although this was the closest spot to the Valley suitable for a house, Carter still would have had an arduous journey to work every morning by donkey, following the rock-strewn and twisting path through a wadi to reach the burial area.

It took Carter seven years to find the tomb and ten years to excavate it. Fascinating photographs of the work, taken by Harry Burton, are displayed throughout the house along with a few letters from his rais (crew captain) to Carter in England.

The trials and tribulations of discovering a royal tomb are brought to life by the ghost of Howard Carter himself. The holographic film created for the house tells the story of excavation and the difficulties of dealing with thousands of visitors to the site every day. The latter provides a lead-in for discussion of the SCA's own challenges to protect the tombs while providing access to tourists.

Howard Carter deserves commendation for his meticulous documentation of the tomb and each of the 5,398 objects found. He not only described each object in his notes and had Burton photograph it, he also detailed all conservation treatments conducted by his chemist Alfred Lucas. Perhaps Carter learned the necessity of such documentation when working for Sir William Flinders Petrie, who founded excavation standards for Egyptian archaeology. Some of Carter's notes, photographs and drawings are spread across the dining room table and buffet, which is a very plausible re-creation of an archaeologist's dining room.

Less plausible is the re-created neatness of Carter's office; but perhaps the room captures a moment soon after Carter's cleaning man had passed through.

Carter's darkroom for developing plates and photographs is very evocative with the red film-safe light and prints hanging by clothespins from a line to dry. Outside the darkroom door is Harry Burton's large-format camera on its hefty tripod.

The guest bedroom is quite inviting, as is the entire experience of visiting Howard Carter's house.

Carter was known for his hospitality. As Alan Gardiner, the great British Egyptologist whose tome still teaches hieroglyphs to every budding Egyptologist, once wrote: Carter "is quite sociable and decent towards us". Visitors to his home can again stop in for drinks thanks to a cafe operated by the Winter Palace hotel. Prices are dear, but as you sit gazing at the desert escarpment into which mighty pharaohs were buried, your drinking companion is the ghost of the eminent Egyptologist who 'resurrected' one of their kin.

And so, as inscribed on Tutankhamun's wishing cup and Carter's tomb:
May your spirit live, May you spend millions of years, You who love Thebes, Sitting with your face to the north wind, Your eyes beholding happiness.


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Even without the golf-green grass that the SCA has planted since this satellite image (an attraction in itself), Howard Carter's house appears as an oasis in the desert.

Carter House is situated at the intersection that leads to the Valley of the Kings, Gurna. It cannot be missed. Ticket price is LE 20 for adults and LE 10 for students. Be sure to ask the attendant to see the holographic presentation. If you don't ask, Howard Carter's ghost may remain hidden. The t3.wy Project:
Dig Houses in Egypt. Castle Carter II
Highclere Castle: The Home of the Carnarvon Family
Egyptology Exhibition
Heritage Key: Harry Burton and His Camera by Malcolm Jack
Griffths Institute, Oxford: Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation. Complete database of all objects found in the tomb with Carter's notes and Burton's photographs.

Creation and Elimination at Esna

Divine forces create humans while human forces eliminate them -- so might be the lesson enshrined in the Temple of Khnum at Esna, 55 km South of Luxor. Carved into the temple's sandstone walls is the ancient Egyptian belief that ram-headed Khnum created the world and crafted humans out of Nile mud on his potters' wheel. He shaped the individual features and languages of Egyptians and foreigners.

Carvings tell that Khnum plants the seed of life in every mother's womb, depicted as a zigzagged oval perhaps to illustrate its life force. Simultaneously, Khnum also forms the 'ka', or spirit, of the child. Nine months later, he and Heket, the goddess of childbirth, help the mother at the child's birth as she sits on the birthing chair. The Great Hymn to Khnum (M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol. 3, p. 112) praises his effect:
He makes women give birth when the womb is ready,
So as to open --- as he wishes;
He soothes suffering by his will,
Relieves throats, lets everyone breathe,
To give life to the young in the womb.

The temple at Esna is dedicated to Khnum, his consort Menheyet, and his son Heka ('Magic'). The goddess Neith is also honoured here because she is the feminine force of creation and works in partnership with Khnum's maleness. While Khnum created the world and separated heaven and earth, Neith uttered seven sentences to give form to and organize creation.

As Khnum's temple at Esna celebrates the creation of life its walls also bear witness to the snuffing out of human life at the hands of less than godly men.

The Roman emperor Septimius Severus ruled the Roman empire from 193 to 211 A.D. He appears on Esna's walls with his sons Caracalla and Geta, who ruled jointly with him in the final years of his reign, 209-211. One might surmise that the reliefs were carved during this time.

Soon after the death of their father, Caracalla murdered Geta. Across the empire, from Rome to Esna and beyond, the murderer ordered that all mention of his brother to be erased from monuments in an act of damnatio memoriae. Thus, late in 211 or early 212, carvers returned to Esna to chip away the existence of Geta. Yet his shadow and the shadow of his name in hieroglyphs remains evident on the wall and so he is not forgotten.

Building temples could take centuries to complete as successive pharaohs renovated and enlarged important holy sites. When the Romans took control of Egypt, the emperors continued the tradition of the pharaohs and similarly made their alms to the Egyptian gods with temple building and decoration. Much of what can be seen today at Esna is the work of Roman emperors from Claudius (41-54 AD) to Decius (249-251 AD). One of the unique images decorating the temple is that of the Roman emperor Trajan, as pharaoh, dancing before the enthroned goddess. The lion-headed goddess looks a lot like Sekmet but she is Menheyet, Khnum's consort.

An image not found in any pharaonic period temple is that of the emperor presenting a victory wreath to the god. The Roman emperor would have considered this the highest tribute he could offer.

The temple is famous for its astronomical ceiling. The constellations, as the Egyptians knew them, sail across the sky in boats just as boats were the main form of transportation for earthly beings.

The ceiling is intact, supported by 24 columns. Each column capital is unique and colourful. The carving is intricate and awesome to behold. Every inch of the column shafts are also carved with hieroglyphic texts that provide the program of religious festivals conducted in the temple -- perhaps so that the festivals continue in perpetuity through the magic of the sacred texts.

This column represents a date tree. The base of the capital recreates the palm's knobby trunk. Sprouting upwards from the column/trunk is the broad capital carved with palm fronds and heavy fruit clusters. As if to emphasize the fecundity of creation, grape vines also prosper amidst the fronds.

Even the standard images that one expects to see on an Egyptian temple have a slightly different character at Esna. The scene of the pharaoh smiting Egypt's enemies is seen over and over again on temple walls as each king showed off to his people that he was an effective defender of the realm. The common motif depicts the pharaoh holding in one hand the chiefs of enemy states by their hair, while raising his club high above his head in the other hand. Esna's depiction of Ptolemy III Euergetes is unique with the presence of a pet lion that appears to eat the hands of the captured.

Less than one-third of the temple is visible today. In the mid 19th century the French Egyptologist, Auguste Mariette, removed buildings and excavated a 9-metre deep pit to reveal the temple's hypostyle hall. Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities hopes to conduct excavations to clear the debris and reveal the interior rooms of the god's house. No doubt, their excavations will produce exciting finds and understanding of the earlier pharaonic worship of the god of creation.


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The shadows give an impression of the 9m (30')-deep pit in which the temple currently resides. There is a plan to extend the pit all the way to the Nile river to reveal the ancient causeway and provide access to the temple for tourists arriving on the cruise boats. An historically significant mosque, however, is situated along the proposed route so this plan requires some serious thought.

Esna is an easy half-day trip from Luxor. We drove South on the west side of the Nile and returned to Luxor on the eastern highway. The western road is slower due to a number of villages, but it is an interesting route for that very reason.

The temple is located less than kilometer south of the Esna barrage. It cannot be seen from the Corniche. Look for the small wooden kiosk that sells entry tickets on the east side of the road. Park the car nearby and walk a short distance through the souk to the temple. 
Egyptian Monuments blog:
Esna Temple
Tour Egypt article: The Temple of Khnum at Esna by Mark Andrews
The Great Hymn to Khnum: Ancient Egyptian Literature translated by Miriam Lichtheim
Ancient Egypt Online article: Esna Temple