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Philae Temple

Philae Island was a rocky island in the middle of the River Nile, south of Aswan. It was called in Hieroglyphic “Apo” which means Ivory. It was also known by the Greek “Elephantine”, most probably because it was an important centre of trade, especially for ivory.

The Ancient Egyptians built a beautiful and magnificent temple on this island for the Goddess Isis, but the temple became submerged after the first Aswan dam was built in 1906, and it was not until the seventies that many nations attempted to save the temple. All these countries, together with UNESCO, selected a suitable place, but they had to wait until the completion of the High Dam, in 1971, which would stabilize the level of the water around their chosen island. The new island was called Egilica (also called Agilika), and it was completely reshaped to imitate Philae Island as closely as possible.

Firstly, a cofferdam was built around the temple and the water was drained. Next, the temple was dismantled and transferred, stone by stone, from the submerged Philae Island to the redesigned Egilica Island. Each and every stone had to be numbered, and then replaced, in the same position, in the new location. It was a massive, and very complicated, project taking over 9 years to be accomplished.The Temple of Philae was reopened in 1980!

The Temple of Isis is one of the greatest Temples in Egypt and it occupies about a quarter of the island. It is the main Temple on the island, with its huge, complete, pylons and beautiful scenes. 

The construction began during the reign of King Ptolemy II, and then other Ptolemaic Kings (Ptolemy IV, V, VI, VII and XI) contributed by adding more parts to the main Temple. The temple is built in the same style as the temples of the New Kingdom, as well as some other elements, which appeared in the Greco-Roman period, such as the Mamisi (the House of the divine birth of Horus), and a Nilometer.

The Temple of Isis consists of the 1st Pylon, which is a great traditional pylon with two towers, and an open forecourt, which leads to the 2nd pylon. On the left side of this court is the Mamisi, which has scenes depicting the birth of the God Horus by his mother Isis. The 2nd Pylon leads to a Hypostyle Hall with 10 columns, and then 3 vestibules leading to a sanctuary.

In addition to the main temple of Isis there are other monuments on this island; Kiosk of Trajan, the Chapel of Osiris, Horus temple, Hathor temple, Gateway of Tiberius, Gateway of Diocletian and Augustus temple.  The temples of the island were neglected, and some of them even destroyed, after the persecution of the Christians by the Roman Emperors. During the reign of the Emperor Justinian (527-565 A.D), the main temple was converted to a church.

Other Points of Interest in Aswan

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