Travel to Dendera – Temple to Hathor, Goddess of Sensual Pleasures
Before Isis, Hathor was mother goddess to the ancient Egyptians. As such she was also goddess of love, sensual pleasure, drunkenness, music and dance. At Dendera the faithful worshipped her and celebrated these attributes in what remains a wonderful, well-preserved temple.
Although finds at Dendera date back to the 6th Dynasty (around 2320 BCE) the superb temple dates from around 125 BCE – recent in terms of Egyptian temple-building. At this time the Ptolemies ruled the country integrating their Greco-Roman and the local Pharaonic religions and this temple is the latest of several which were built on the site.
Hathor is represented as a woman with cows’ ears or as a cow with a disc between her horns and was a mother deity. She was also associated with joy, sensual pleasure and drunkenness as well as love and in later times became associated with the Greek Aphrodite. Her temple at Dendera was a celebration of her love for Horus, the falcon-headed god and ended with the Festival of Drunkenness.
The temple at Dendera is built in the common rectangular shape, but without the usual pylon gateways that are widespread at earlier complexes. Instead visitors enter via an Outer Hypostyle Hall where there are 18 Hathor-headed columns, organised into groups of 3. Look up to see the superb ceiling with much of the original roof covering. The inner Hall of Appearances has more columns with walls carved with scenes from the royal court. Finally beyond the Hall of Offerings lies the Sanctuary, the holy of holies, completely preserved here at Dendera.
Allow approximately 3 hours to explore Dendera. Visit either on a day trip from Luxor or as part of a wider itinerary including other Nile Valley sites. With an early start you could be back in Luxor for a late lunch.
Whilst there is little in the form of organised refreshments at Dendera you’ll be able to grab a cold drink from a vendor and sit in a shady spot to admire the temple.
Travelling to Dendera requires the compliance of the local police as the area north of Qena, the nearest town, is restricted. Take a bus to Qena and then a taxi to the site; the police may well prohibit you using shared taxis. A far easier and more comfortable way of travelling to Dendera is by hiring a vehicle and driver, perhaps with a guide.
- See the Outer Hypostyle Hall and its painted roof
- Enter the Sanctuary, Dendera’s holy of holies
- On the exterior of the south wall look for the relief of Cleopatra and her son Ptolemy XV