Edfu is a trading centre for sugar and pottery and it is found on the western shore of the Nile River about 100 miles south of Luxor. Agriculture is important for Edfu but its biggest money earner is tourism and the number of shops found here especially in the bazaar around the temple complex is amazing.

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The Temple of Horus at Edfu is the most completely preserved Egyptian temple and the second largest after Karnak. The temple is dedicated to the sun god Horus and the structure you see today is Ptolemaic — it was begun under the rule of Ptolemy 111 in 237BC on the site of an earlier and smaller New Kingdom building. The temple is surrounded by a high brick wall which is partly preserved and being renovated.

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The impressive pylons at the entrance of the main temple are about 36m high with typical scenes of the pharaoh in battle with his enemies. These pylons are guarded by two granite statues of falcons. The main building includes a great Hypostyle Hall with many reliefs including a depiction of the Feast of the Beautiful Meeting which was the annual reunion between Horus and his wife Hathor. The reliefs are mostly situated on the inside of the first pylon, and spiritually connect this temple with Hathor’s Temple at the Dendera complex. During the third month of summer, the priests at the Dendera complex would place the statue of Hathor on her barque (a ceremonial barge) to bring the statue to the Edfu Temple where it was believed that Horus and Hathor shared a conjugal visit. Each night, the god and goddess would retire to the mamissi, or birthing house. Images that still have some of their colour showing the ritual of the birth of Harsomtus, son of Horus and Hathor can be found in the entrance to this birthing house.

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The facade of the first hypostyle hall has images honouring Horus and Hathor, and there is huge statue of Horus as the falcon god here (a matching statue was destroyed). Just inside the hall are two small rooms, a robing room on the west and a library to the east where the priest would obtain the religious orders of the day. Within this hall are scenes of offering including the temple foundation ceremonies.

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Beyond the great hypostyle hall is a second, smaller hypostyle hall which leads to a well called the Chamber of the Nile where the Priests obtained pure holy water. On the west side of the room are doors that lead to a small laboratory with recipes engraved on the walls for ointments and perfumes which where used daily to anoint the statue of Horus and to a treasure room where offerings were stored.

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On either side of the hall are doorways that exit to the Passage of Victory running between the temple and the enclosure walls. Here you will find the walls decorated with scenes of Horus and Seth at the annual Festival of Victory. Seth is shown as a tiny hippopotamus which makes him seen less threatening.

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Beyond the second hypostyle hall is the offering hall followed by the vestibule and finally the sanctuary. The sanctuary is surrounded by chapels and rooms with shrines to the other gods including Hathor, Ra and Osiris. The room still contains the granite shrine that once housed the gold statue of Horus. At the back of the sanctuary is a modern reproduction of the wooden barque (barge) that would take the statue of Horus out of the temple during festive occasions.

Traveller's Tip

In the offering chamber there are 242 steps leading to the rooftop for a fantastic view over the Nile and surrounds of the temple. You will probably have to pay the guard baksheesh to let you go up.

Getting There
The easiest and probably the way most people get to Edfu is as part of a Nile Cruise. It is also possible to travel by coach or train to the site. Coaches/taxis travel as part of a police convoy to Luxor (2hours) and Aswan (1.5hours) and are therefore restricted to convoy times. Trains run several times a day with direct routes to Luxor, Aswan, Kom Ombo, Isna and Cairo.
To find out information about trains visit the following website: http://www.seat61.com/Egypt.htm#Cairo%20-%20Luxor%20-%20Aswan.