Travel to Philae Temple – Majestic Island-Temple
Dramatically saved from the rising waters of the Nile, Philae – centre of an Isis cult – remains the draw it was when wealthy Victorian travellers visited during their winter holidays. These early western travellers were only doing so in the footsteps of countless others who had been making pilgrimages to what is one of Egypt’s most romantic temples.
With a history dating back to the 7th century BCE most of what we see at Philae today is of a later period, when the cult dedicated to the worship of Isis was at its height. In the early Christian era the cult was still alive providing a rival to this new religion and indeed even as late as the 6th century AD the temple was in use. It was closed in 550AD by Justinian. The construction of the old Aswan Dam created a reservoir behind it which flooded the temple bi-annually, so, with the coming of the High Dam, UNESCO carefully de-constructed it moving it to an island landscaped to resemble the original, but some 20 metres higher.
The temple’s location is probably the most romantic in Egypt. The boat drops visitors at Hall of Nectanebo through which you walk into the outer temple. Here an arcade formed by pillars with papyrus capitals looks out onto a courtyard dominated by the first pylon carved with images of Ptolemy XII smiting his enemies, the gateway itself flanked by images of Isis. Beyond lies the Mammisi birth house and the Temple of Isis itself, where once a golden statue of the goddess stood; the interior is profusely decorated with images of the goddess. After exploring make your way to the wonderful Kiosk of Trajan, perhaps Philae’s most famous monument.
Ideally a visit is best undertaken in the early evening when a tour makes the most of the romantic setting, however the site is rewarding at any time of the day. Allow around 2 hours for a visit. The evening son et lumière show is said to be better here than at Karnak in Luxor.
Wander off from the crowds – not difficult here at Philae – and find a shady spot to relax and admire the view, soaking up the atmosphere of the temple.
The temple can be reached by taxi to the ferry point at Shellal and thence taxi or by organised tour which includes transport and a local guide.
- Egypt’s most romantic temple
- Fantastic bas-reliefs inside the Temple of Isis
- Visit as night falls to see the temple at its best