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Philae Temple - Nile Cruise Tours
Temple was dismantled and reassembled (on Agilika Island
about 550 meters from its original home on Philae Island) in
the wake of the High Dam. The temple, dedicated to the
goddess Isis, is in a beautiful setting which has been
landscaped to match its original site. It's various shrines
and sanctuaries, which include The Vestibule of Nectanebos I
which is used as the entrance to the island, the Temple of
the Emperor Hadrian, a Temple of Hathor, Trajan's Kiosk
(Pharaohs Bed), a birth house and two pylons celebrate all
the deities involved in the Isis and Osiris myth. The
Victorian world fell in love with the romance of the Temple.
But at night you can also visit the Sound and Light Show, a
magical experience as floodlit buildings are silhouetted
against the volcanic rocks and water surrounding them. So
today, Philae is more fun then every before.
Although antiquities on the island date between the 26th
Dynasty and the Roman Period, most of the work is from that
of the Roman. This was a time of immense popularity of the
Goddess Isis, and this was her island, where pilgrims would
come from all over the Mediterranean. Construction on the
island took place over an 800 year span, and it was one of
the last strongholds of Ancient Egyptian Religion which
continued to flourish here into the 6th Century. When the
Temples where finally closed by Justinian in A.D 550, it
ended 4,000 years of worship of the pagan gods.
The Philae Temple complex, prior to its removal and
restoration, set alongside Biga Island. To the ancient
Egyptians, Biga was the sacred mound, the first ground
created from Nun out of Chaos. This was the legendary burial
place of Osiris. The earth was considered to be part of his
body so that only priests and temple servants were permitted
to live there.
is an approximate Greek rendering of the local name "Pilak"
known from hieroglyphic texts and which may be Nubian in
origin. The ancient Egyptians saw in their name for Philae
an etymology with the meaning "island of the time [of Ra]",
i.e. creation, but the island's history is later than that.
What we refer to today as Philae is the main temple complex
relocated from that island, after the High Dam was built, to
the island of Agilika. It was the center of the cult of the
goddess Isis and her connection with Osiris, Horus, and the
Kingship, during the Ptolemaic period of Egyptian History.
Today, there are two dams at Aswan but of course, in ancient
times, there were none. Prior to the dams, Philae Island
occupied a position at the beginning or southern end of the
First Nile Cataract, where the river gathered speed,
dropping sixteen feet in swirling eddies and turbulent falls
of white water for a distance of three miles. Various
pharaohs attempted to calm or at least provide better
passage around these rapids. Pepi I built at least one
canal, as did Merenre, as early as the Old Kingdom, but
later kings would also, such as Senusret III.
There were numerous islands in the region, Amelia Edwards
says hundreds, including Biggeh, the temple's current
location of Agilika, a group of small islands at Awad and El
Hasa, and below the Cataract (north), Siheil and
During early times, the priests of Philae claimed that the
source of the Nile was bottomless and lay beneath the rocks
of Biggeh, where half the river rose to flow north and half
to flow south. Their rivals were the priests of Elephantine,
who made the same claim. Indeed, the river around these
islands was even then over one hundred feet deep in places,
with confusing waters that could twist and turn in all