Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut in Egypt: Part One of A Photographic Essay
N estled beneath the cliffs at Deir al Bahari — near the Valley of the Kings on the west bank across the Nile River from the city of Luxor — is the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, who was one of the 13 female pharaohs in the history of ancient Egypt.
I had eyed the temple the night before across the Nile River from the poolside of the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa, where I arguably experienced the best service I have ever received from a hotel property.
As the sun disappeared behind the jagged horizon, floodlights shone upon the temple and the cliffs, which were alit like — well — jewels of the Nile, to use a poor simile.
The Visit to the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut
The hot sun beat down onto the pale beige sand from the brilliant cloudless azure sky upon my arrival. The contrast of colors was stark in what would otherwise be a barren landscape of towering cliffs and mounds of sand and rock.
I can see the three layered terraces of Djeser-Djeseru — another name for the temple, which means “the Holy of Holies” and whose construction is thought to have started approximately in the year 2050 B.C. — built into the cliffs off in the distance after parking the car and purchasing my ticket.
Looking off to the southwest, I can imagine what the unforgiving terrain might look like had there been no impact by humans.
For those who are tired or whose mobility is impaired, you have the option of taking a tram from the parking lot to the temple — for a fee, of course.
I was stumped as to the root of why the tree had to leave.
I found the natural terrain to be just as interesting and awe-inspiring as the architecture and artwork of the ancient temple itself — despite the supposed significant alteration of the temple as a result of reconstruction during the early 1900s.
Statues and a relief have survived over the millennia — partially, anyway — as shown in the photograph above. More reliefs and other artwork will be shown in part two of this photographic essay.
You could touch virtually anything which is within your reach; but that would not be advised. Keep in mind that doing so can potentially contribute to causing damage to the artifacts — and there are vigilante “touts” who will attempt to charge you a fine if they catch you touching what you are not supposed to touch.
Reminding me of a similar azimuth set at a passage tomb in Ireland called Newgrange, the main and axis of the temple is set to approximately 116.5 degrees in order to be aligned to the sunrise of the winter solstice, which typically occurs on either December 21 or 22 every year — allowing the sunlight to penetrate through to the rear wall of the chapel before moving to the right to highlight one of the Osiris statutes which stand on either side of the doorway to the second chamber.
My visit was towards the end of spring; so there was no chance of me seeing that phenomenon.
The view from the temple — which faces east southeast towards Luxor — shows the barren landscape with the parking lot off in the distance. Beyond that are trees along the Nile River.
Turning southeast, one can see the green and lush Nile River valley in the distance, with some mountains behind that; while ruins are nearby where gardens are thought to have once thrived adjacent to the temple.
These are some of the surviving statues at the temple. Many of the statue ornaments are missing — among them, the standing, sitting, and kneeling figures of Hatshepsut — because they were destroyed in condemnation of Hatshepsut after she died in a blatant attempt to erase her history.
Talk about cutting your nose off to spite your face…
The colonnade structure north and east of the temple stands amongst ruins with the cliffs immediately behind it.
More ruins and artifacts lay adjacent to the temple — perhaps in anticipation of being part of the renovation of the temple itself, which is supposedly ongoing.
This statue is in a fowl mood.
Some areas of the temple were roped off — I was not certain if that was temporary or permanent — but it was not as though the insides of the temple could not be seen.
More ruins and artifacts littered the area adjacent to the temple…
…possibly to be used in further restoration of the temple itself.
Giant statues “guard” the temple, so to speak. I marveled at their ornate designs, first carved thousands of years ago.
It is a good thing I had purchased a ticket to the temple.
Do not miss visiting and seeing this site if you are interested in Egyptian history and architecture.
The cost of admission for one adult person is 50 Egyptian pounds, which is approximately $6.25 in United States dollars. I am not sure of the cost of the tram between the parking lot and the temple itself, as I did not take it. Negotiating a better rate of admission was unsuccessful — not that this rate was bad in the first place — but it never hurts to try anyway.
Although the temple is right across the Nile River from Luxor, there is no crossing in the immediate vicinity — vehicles must use the Luxor Bridge south of the city — so give yourself at least 45 minutes to travel the approximately 30 kilometers to get from Luxor to the temple.
There are rudimentary washroom facilities located near the parking lot.
Keep in mind that there is no air conditioning and there are few places where you can escape the sun but not the heat — plus there are stairs — so although there is nothing to do at the temple that is too strenuous and you can take your time as you can stay there as long as you like, you should be in reasonably good physical condition at the time you visit for best results.
All photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.