Located in between the cities of Aswan and Luxor and dedicated to God Horus, the impressive Edfu Temple is a must in any trip to Egypt.
After arriving back in Luxor for the second time, I walked in the heat to also explore Luxor Temple on the East Bank of the Nile. A magnificent example of Egyptian architecture that changes completely when visiting by day and by night. That's why I decided to visit both times!
How to visit Edfu and Luxor Temple
During my 6th day in Egypt, we stopped by Edfu Temple on the way from Aswan back to Luxor, followed by a day and night visit of the impressive Luxor Temple. These visits were part of my Essential Egypt tour with Travel Talk Tours, which lasted for a total of 9 days and covered the main highlights of Egypt from north to south. You can find the entire itinerary in my post Essential Egypt in 9 days: itinerary, arrival and first impressions of Cairo.
Edfu Temple is located 112km north of Aswan and 110km south or Luxor. A visit to the temple costs 100 Egyptian pounds (approx. €5.70). The temple is the perfect stop on the long way between Aswan and Luxor.
Back in Luxor, Luxor Temple is the main highlight on the East Bank of the Nile river. The temple is located right in the middle of Luxor and easily accessible by foot from host hotels. The visit inside has a cost of 100 Egyptian pounds (approx. €5.70).
My tour included a visit to Luxor Temple at night. However, since we reached Luxor just after midday, I decided to visit on my own during the day as well.
Luxor Temple at night is an absolute must, it really is impressive with its extraordinary illumination. However, visiting during the day is also necessary to fully appreciate it in the sunlight. If you have ent time in Luxor, I recommend both visits. You won't feel like you're visiting the same monument, as it really changes from day to night
Once more, we had a very early start to head back to Luxor and say goodbye at the incredible Helnan Hotel in Aswan. The day to rest was finished, ad the itinerary still had some of the gems in the country of Egypt.
The first stop of the day would be Edfu Temple, located 112k north of Aswan. But first, we still had to pick up the rest of the group that had gone in the Felucca Odyssey tour. They had been sailing for a couple of days, but they didn’t actually advance that much, as they were just outside of Aswan. They all came quite exhausted after two days of almost non-sleep, but all of them had loved the experience. I still was happy to have stayed in my luxury hotel for those couple of nights.
2h30m later, at around 8:30 am, we arrived in the Edfu Temple with an already unbearable heat that went well beyond the 30 degrees.
Edfu’s Temple belongs to the Ptolemy Dynasty and it was built int he 2nd century BC. The complex is one of the best-preserved sites in Egypt, all covered with immense hieroglyphics depicting the lifestyle of the earlier pharaohs.
Even though the temple was built during the Greco-Roman period, it preserved a classic style, reproducing the architecture of the times of the pharaohs. This is what makes Edfu such a special place, as it allows you to enjoy how the temples that were built 2000 years before would’ve looked like.
The temple is accessed through a pylon, ordered by Cleopatra’s father back in the first century BC. The two towers are a perfect mirror of each other, both in the style and the images carved on the surface.
The gates are flanked by two statues of Horus as a falcon, one of the most prominent symbols of Egyptian mythology.
God Horus was the sky-god of the Nile Valley, whose eyes were the sun and the moon. He was born in the delta of the river from Isis and Hathor, and all pharaohs affirmed that they were the incarnation of Horus in Earth.
I had seen this statue so many times in Egyptian history books that I couldn’t believe that I was seeing it with my own eyes!
The pylon leads into a peristyle court, constructed with paired columns that are topped by capitals in different styles. Here is where people could enter to make offerings to the image of Horus.
This courtyard precedes the sanctuary of Horus, the most relevant part of the entire complex. The centre of the sanctuary is a shrine built in black-granite dedicated to Nectanebo II. Following the shrine, you can find an offering table with the ceremonial barque on which the image of Horus was carried during the festivals.
The sanctuary is surrounded by a corridor with multiple different rooms and chapels. These include the chapels to Min and the Throne of the Gods on the left-hand side, while the room at the back is dedicated to Osiris. In the south part of the right corridor you can find the New Year Chapel, decorated with an impressive blue relief of the sky goddess Nut on the ceiling.
There are other corridors and passages that surround the external part of the sanctuary, one of them with a very relevant depiction the triumph of Horus over Seth. In the carving, Seth is represented by a hippopotamus lurking under his brother’s boat.
The state of conservation of Edfu Temple was truly remarkable. Even though the structure was quite similar to other templates, such as Philae Temple in Aswan, the carvings, paintings and details were absolutely fascinating.
A must to appreciate and get a closer look at what ancient templates used to look like in Egypt!
We still had a 2h30m ride before we reached Luxor, our next and last destination of the day. Since we had started pretty early in the morning, we arrived in Luxor’s Steigenberger Nile Palace quite early at around 1 pm.
The itinerary with my Travel Talk tour only included a visit to Luxor Temple at night, as the lightning is quite spectacular. However, I wasn’t quite happy with the idea of missing Luxor Temple during the day, especially considering that we had arrived so early in the city.
I really considered whether it would be worth visiting Luxor Temple twice in the same day, but I finally decided to go ahead walk on my own to the temple. The temple was only a 20 minutes walk from my hotel, so I made it to the ruins quite quickly.
I was hoping to see most of the temple from the outside, and if that was the case, I would take a few pictures and save the 100 Egyptian pounds entrance fee (approx. €5).
However, even though you can see quite a lot without getting in, most of the external ruins are quite uninteresting and the best part is right in the middle. Since the tickets weren’t that expensive, I decided to visit inside before returning for a night visit.
The ancient city of Luxor used to be the seat of the sun god of the gods, known as Amun-Ra. The entire city was a vast complex of temples located on both sides of the Nile River. It was divided into different sections; Luxor Temple was on the east bank, and it was the site of Amun-Ra’s birth and land of the raising sun. Three kilometres north, also on the east bank, lies the impressive Karnak Temple, where Amun resided for most of the year.
The other side of the river was considered the land of the dead, and there rose the royal mortuary temples, where Amun-Ra and the deceased kings were worshipped in the form of the setting sun. In the desert cliffs of what back then was known as Thebes were the Valley fo the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. They protected the royal dead of the New Kingdom, while the desert foothills between them housed the Tombs of the Nobles, the necropolis of the nobility.
Luxor Temple is one of the largest and best preserved in Egypt, and it is distinguished by an elegant simplicity and beauty that set it apart from Amun’s labyrinthine palace at Karnak. The temple is accessed through the pylon of Rameses II, guarded by two massive statues of Ramses II, which are flanked by four more standing statues of the king (one of them still under restoration).
Egyptians had the belief that time was an endless repeating circle, and as such, Amun-Ra of Karnak had to return to Luxor Temple once a year to be reborn during the Festival of Oper.
Both temples were connected by the Avenue of Sphinxes, a long, sacred road bordered by hundreds of painted sandstone androsphinxes, bearing the king’s head with a lion’s body as a symbol of his strength and kingship over all nature.
After crossing the pylon, you’ll reach Rameses II’s court, filled with papyrus bud columns and colossal statues. Between the columns on the southern end of the court, Rameses II placed colossal statues of himself beside the pharaoh Amenhotep III, who was responsible for building the rest of the temple.
This was Rameses II’s way to associate himself with his famous predecessor, sharing the responsibility for constructing this grandiose temple. However, just before the celebration of his first jubilee in his thirtieth year, he erased the name on all statues of Amenhotep III and replaced them with his own name, erasing and absorbing the identity of the earlier king.
Back in the 6th century AD, a Coptic Church was constructed in this same court, which was later transformed into the Mosque of Abu El-Haggag, which still functions today.
You can see the tiled entrance to the mosque just next to the pylon. This entrance was used until the 60s when the entrance was moved to the east on the city side of the mosque. This makes Luxor Temple one of the few sites in Egypt that has been a continuous place of worship since 2000 BC.
If you continue walking, you’ll reach the great Colonnade Hall, which was constructed at the end of the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. He died before it was completed, so the structure was finished by Tutankhamun, who was also responsible for decorating most of the inner walls, but he also died before the decoration could be finished. King Ay finished the decoration finally completed the decoration of the southern end of the hall and also carved the façade.
During Tutankhamun’s time, the Colonnade Hall had a roof made of stone slabs. It collapsed in the first century BC, and these stones were reused in other buildings around Luxor Temple during the medieval times.
It was past 2 pm and the heat was so unbearable, that I was literally the only tourist in Luxor Temple. The experience of having this temple just for myself was absolutely incredible, but it was time to head back to the Steigenberger Nile Palace hotel before getting sunstroke. I decided to get a taxi back to the hotel, which wasn’t hard to find as absolutely everyone in Luxor stopped me when they realised I was a tourist.
I arrived quite exhausted, but thankfully I still had some time to rest before going back to Luxor Temple to visit with the rest of the group. I was the only one that visited the temple during the day, and I didn’t regret my choice! It’s true that the temple at night is gorgeous, but if you have the chance to visit at both times of the day, do so!
Visiting Luxor Temple at night is absolutely magical, the entire complex is very well illuminated and it really feels like you’re visiting a completely different site when compared to the day visit. Temperatures were also lovely at that time of the day, so it really helped to explore this unique monument.
After our night visit to Luxor Temple, the entire group headed to an 'Irish’ restaurant just next to our hotel. We had always gone to restaurants serving quite decent local food, but this Irish restaurant was actually quite disappointing.
The place didn’t look Irish at all (some flags were hanging upside down, so they were the flag of Côte d’Ivoire instead of Ireland), and the quality of the food was quite poor as well. The only positive is that it was located literally just across the hotel!
Next day, we’d say goodbye to Luxor by visiting the outstanding Karnak Temple, before driving all the way back to Cairo, the start and end point of our tour.
Travel Talk Tours were kind enough to sponsor part of my trip, but as usual, all opinions are my own.