Philae Temple

Temple of Isis at Philae Temples is one of the greatest temples in Egypt and it occupies about a quarter of the island, with its huge complete pylons and beautiful scenes. The romantic and majestic aura surrounding the temple complex of Isis has been luring pilgrims for thousands of years. During the 19th century the ruins were one of Egypt’s legendary tourist attractions. From the turn of this century, Philae and its temples became swamped for six months of every year by the high waters of the reservoir created by the construction of the old Dam.  

In the 1960s, with the approaching completion of the high Dam, a rescue was organised by UNESCO. The massive complex was disassembled and removed stone by stone from Philae between 1972 and 1980. The temples were reconstructed 20 m higher on nearby Agilika Island, which was even landscaped to resemble the sacred isle of Isis, in position corresponding as closely as possible to their original layout.

The oldest part of Philae dates from the 4th century BC but most of the existing structures were built by the ptolemies and the Romans up to the 3rd century AD. The early Christians also added their bit by transforming the main temple’s hypostyle hall into a chapel, building some churches and defacing the pagan reliefs. Their inscriptions were in turn vandalised by the early Muslims.

At first it was the cults of Isis, Osiris and Horus, and the Greaco- Roman temple raised in honour of the goddess, that drew devotees from Egypt and the whole Mediterranean. The boat to Agilika Island, wich is where the temple is located, leaves you at the base of the Hall Of Nectanebo, the oldest part of the Philae complex.

Heading north, you walk down the Outer Temple court, which has colonnades running along both sides, to the entrance of the temple of Isis marked by the 18m- high towers of the 1st Pylon. In the central court of the temple of Isis is the mammisi ( birth house ) dedicated to Horus. Successive Pharaohs reinstated their legitimacy as the mortal descendants of Horus by taking part of the mammisi rituals, which celebrated the god’s birth. The 2nd Pylon provides access to the vestibule and the Inner Sanctuary of Isis; a staircase, and the western side, leads up to the Osiris Champers, which are decorated with scenes of mourners.

On the northern tip of the island are Temple of Augusts and the Gate Of Diocletian; east of the 2nd Pylon is the delightful Temple Of Hathor decorated with reliefs of musicians and bes, the god of singing and pleasure. And south of that, the elegant, unfinished pavilion by the water’s adge is the Kiosk feature Emperor Of Tarjan. The completed reliefs on the Kiosk feature Emperor Tarjan making offerings to Isis, Osiris and Horus.