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Destination Details

Egypt

 

Dendera Temple complex, located about 2.5 km south-east of Dendera, Egypt. It is one of the best-preserved temple complexes in Egypt. The area was used as the sixth Nome of Upper Egypt, south of Abydos.The beautiful ancient temple at Dendera really stands out for its excellent state of preservation. Dating back to the first century BC, this fascinating ancient temple is part of a wider complex of temples, tombs and even a Christian chapel. Many tourists visit Dendera on a day trip from Luxor and this makes it both a popular and practical place to explore, ensuring it remains among the top visitor attractions in Egypt.
 
 
The most prominent site in the Dendera complex is the Ptolemaic-era Temple of Hathor. Dating back to the first century BC, Dendera’s Temple of Hathor was continually developed throughout the Ptolemaic and Roman eras and contains references to both Egyptian rulers and Roman Emperors – including Nero, Domitian & Trajan.
 
However, although the Temple of Hathor is a relatively late construction by Ancient Egyptian standards, the Dendera complex as a whole dates back much further and the current temple was built upon the remains of older strutures.
 
As well as the Temple of Hathor, other notable areas at Dendera include both Egyptian- and Roman-era birth houses, a chapel dedicated to the Egyptian deity Isis, the gateways of Domitian and Trajan and a late-Roman Empire period Christian basilica.
 
Along with the temple itself, there is also a necropolis that includes tombs of the Early Dynastic Period, but the most important phase that has been identified was the end of the Old Kingdom and the 1st Intermediate Period. The provinces were virtually autonomous at that time and, although Dendera was not a leading political force in Upper Egypt, its notables built a number of mastabas of some size, though only one has any decoration apart from stelae and false doors. On the west end of the site are brick-vaulted catacombs of Late Period animal burials, primarily birds and dogs, while cow burials have been found at various points in the necropolis. Of course, this was a significant site for the Hathor cult, whose forms included a cow.
 
The main temple complex is oriented, as usual, toward the Nile, which here flows east-west, so that the temple faces north. However, to the ancient Egyptians, this was symbolically east, since the temple faces the Nile.
 
The main temple area is fronted by several Roman Period kiosks. After those, the monumental gateway of Domitian and Trajan is set in a massive mud-brick enclosure wall that surrounded the complex, and leads to an open area. Although the site lacks a colonnade and the two pylons which ought to precede the inner temple, an unfinished inner enclosure wall of stone surrounds a courtyard with side entrances which open before the large hypostyle hall added in the 1st century AD by the emperor Tiberius.
 
 
The new sanctuary was well designed and followed Ptolemaic models. In order to match the level of the Hathor temple, the new building was erected on a high platform. A temporary access staircase led up at the side of the platform. The roofing slabs were not positioned, as usual, beneath the level of the cavetto molding around the buildings top, but would have probably been hidden by a parapet wall. The core building contains a sequence of three rooms. Two corridors that isolate the large sanctuary are notable. These passages are too narrow to be used and must have been added for symbolic and optical effect. The rear wall of the sanctuary is dominated by an enormous false door that is framed by a double cavetto molding on slender columns and topped by an uraeus frieze. A cult niche high up in the wall corresponds to the location of the statue niche in the sanctuary of the main temple.
 
The temple plan is classical Egyptian, completely enclosed by a 35 by 59 meter wall standing 12.5 meters high. However, unlike those of earlier temples, the facade of the hypostyle hall that fronts the main temple is constructed as a low screen with inter-columnar walls exposing the hall's ceiling and the Hathor style sistrum capitals of its 24 columns. According to a dedication inscription on the cornice thickness above the entrance, this part of the temple was built under Tiberius between 34 and 35 AD. The structure measures 26.03 by 43 meters and is 17.2 meters high. It has an 8 meter long architrave that spans the central intercolumniation. Above, a towering cavetto, built from one course, and the massive volume of the corner tori cast heavy shadows and articulate the edges of the facade.
 
 
East of the temple was a part of the town, which the temple texts mention as having a temple of Horus of Edfu in its midst. This may be the same as some remains of the Roman Period about 500 meters from the main enclosure. The triads of deities worshiped at Edfu and at Dendera were similar, consisting of Horus, Hathor (or Isis), and Ihy or Harsomtus. Hathor of Dendera and Horus of Edfu met at a sacred "marriage" ceremony, when she made a progress to the south.
 
Many tourists will visit Dendera on a day trip from Luxor and, given that a number of tour companies offer this option from many Luxor hotels, this can be the most practical way to explore the Dendera complex and Temple of Hathor. 

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