The obvious appeal of a Nile River cruise is the chance to delve deep into the fascinating history of the region.Egyptology is a keen interest for many and the temples along the river banks provide a fantastic insight into the lives of this ancient civilisation and the times in which they lived.
From Cairo (often included as a pre-cruise stay option) to Aswan, there are so many amazing sights to visit. Plus, when you sail with Sanctuary Retreats, you can glide through Egypt in style and relax between the temples listed below.
The Philae Temple Complex is one of the most architecturally diverse sights along the Nile, largely due to the fact that the Greeks, Romans and Byzantines all added their own adornments after it was built by the Egyptians. Moved from Philae Island to Agilika Island in order to preserve the various structures, it was built to worship the God Isis. Must-sees include the grand entranceway and various reliefs depicting Isis, Hathor, Horus and Pharaoh Neos Dionysos.
Temple of Hathor
This small temple is found close to that dedicated to Isis,above, and was built to honour Hathor, Goddess is the sky, fertility and women.The main temple chamber is quite well preserved and features columns illustrating the dwarf God Bes, a complicated creature who represented both war and humour.
Temple of Luxor
The Temple of Luxor is one of the only buildings still standing from what used to be Thebes (Waset to the Ancient Egyptians), the country’s former capital. Built by Amenhotep III, but added to by a number of rulers including Tutankhamun, it is still used for worship today, with parts of it having been converted into a Christian church and the mosque of Sufi Shaykh Yusuf Abu al-Hajjaj built over the top. Now returned to how it would have looked, it features a hypostyle hall with 32 columns and a chapel, built much later, dedicated to Alexander the Great.
Temple of Karnak
Sure to be a major highlight during your river cruise through this part of Africa, the Temple of Karnak was the largest religious building ever built and still leaves many visitors in awe. Created to honour the trio of Amun (sun), Mut (mother), and Khonsu (moon), it was an important pilgrimage destination and would have left most civilians in no doubt that the Gods could be found in such an impressive structure.
At the complex’s centre, a large Sacred Lake, which can still be seen today, would have hosted sacred ships during the Opet festival –an elaborate celebration held to encourage the earth to regenerate at the end of the year.
Temple of Khnum
Also known as the Temple of Esna, the Temple of Khnum was constructed to pay tribute to the creator God, said to have forged all humans at his potter’s wheel. The complex features many additions made by the Romans, including names and images of important emperors added alongside the Ptolemaic pharaohs that built the structure. As much of the temple still lies under the Old Town of Esna, the only part that can be entered is the hypostyle hall.
Temple of Horus
For many people, the Temple of Horus is what they look forward to most during their Nile River cruise. Because it was built quite late in the period, it is the best-preserved Ancient Egyptian complex and displays techniques and ideas used hundreds of years prior.
Horus was the God of the sky and many Ancient Egyptians believed that each Pharaoh had a direct link to him, to the point that they were considered an earthly version of the God. Amongst the spectacular highlights of this temple, you’ll see a giant relief depicting Neos Dionysos holding his enemies by the hair whilst Horus waits to crush their skulls – a popular piece of propaganda used by this particular Pharaoh.
Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
Unlike most the temples on this list, this one was not built to honour a specific God but to show the power and prowess of Queen Hatshepsut during her reign. As the first female ruler, she went above and beyond to make sure her name was remembered and created this magnificent structure (heavily influenced by the temple of Mentuhotep II next door) to elevate her status. At the time, it would have been surrounded by beautiful trees and filled with products like cinnamon, ebony and gold sourced from the mystical Land of Punt – an ancient trading partner.
Temple of Kom Ombo
This complex is unique in the way that it was built to praise two different Gods and laid out as twin temples. There are two entrances, two hypostyle halls and the entire building is like a mirror image of itself. Its position,on a bend in the Nile where sacred crocodiles used to bask in the sun, was chosen because one of the Gods celebrated is Sobek, the crocodile God. The other is Haroeris.
Inside, there are several fascinating reliefs, the most interesting of which shows the unification of Egypt through the crowning of Ptolemy XII by both Nekhbet and Wadjet, two deities worshipped by Upper and Lower Egypt respectively. Outside, the Crocodile Museum has been established to display mummified crocs and explain more of the story relating to Sobek and his animal counterpart.
Temples of Abu Simbel
Just like those on the island of Philae, the Temples of Abu Simbel were deconstructed and moved when the creation of the Aswan Dam led to arise in the water level of the Nile and therefore the potential destruction of the buildings. They were painstakingly moved to nearby higher ground and meticulously rebuilt.
There are two different temples, both built by Ramses II and dedicated to the sun gods Amon-Re and Re-Horakhte. The most striking feature of the Abu Simbel complex is the entrance to the main temple, featuring four giant statues of Ramses II. The smaller of the two temples honours Nefertari, RamsesII’s Queen. It, too, has large statues outside, this time portraying both the king and queen.
The Sphinx Temples
Some of our Nile River cruises include the chance to visit the Pyramids of Giza, either before or after you set sail. When visiting this ancient wonder, as well as the trio of iconic monuments, you’ll see the Sphinx and its attached temples.
The largest of these was built using the same limestone as the Pyramid of Khafre and the Sphinx itself, leading many to believe they were built around the same time. Many theories exist as to why this Old Kingdom Sphinx Temple was built with unusual symmetry. The most prevalent, though, is that it was used to worship the three stages of the sun (rising, midday and setting) and is thus the oldest solar temple in Egypt.
If you would like to know more about our river cruises along the Nile and the sights you can see, call the Rivers of the World team on 0800 028 4272.
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