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Temples in Egypt

The sands of time blow strong across Egypt. Home to some of the most innovative and massive empires in the history of human civilization, this country in northeastern Africa is known for its iconic structures. Of course, the best-known are the Pyramids of Giza, but there are dozens of temple complexes scattered across the country that are just as massive and breathtaking in their own right. Ancient Egyptians believed the gods themselves lived within the sacred walls, meaning only the priests and reigning pharaoh were permitted to enter. Providing for the gods was one of the king’s primary responsibilities – order depended upon it – and, therefore, large amounts of resources were dedicated to building and decorating these compounds.
The Karnak Temple Complex on the Upper Nile is visited almost as much as the Pyramids of Giza. The largest religious site from the ancient world ever uncovered, construction spanned the sovereignty of thirty pharaohs and possibly 1,000 years. Though three of the four precincts in the complex are closed due to structural issues, The Great Temple of Amun, the father of the gods, is the central attraction. The Hypostyle Hall is a tremendous example of Egyptian architectural ingenuity, using 134 columns to support the roof above a 50,000-square-foot room depicting battle scenes of Seti I and Ramesses II.
Less than two miles away, the Luxor Temple was initially believed to be the primary location for the cult of Mut, Amun’s wife. Though Egyptian gods went through changes as the dynasties evolved, part of the area’s traditions continued on: during the Opet Festival, a statue of Amun would be ceremoniously floated down the Nile to visit Mut in her temple, in the hopes they would bring about fertile soil. (The festivities occurred during the same month as the Nile floods.) Like Karnak, work continued on it for several centuries, including a chapel commissioned by Alexander the Great.
The Temple to Isis at Philae has an interesting history: it’s no longer on the original island it is named for. Due to flooding caused by the Aswan Dam, the entire 40,000-piece structure was pulled apart and moved nearby for the sake of preservation. The temple complex is rather small but very beautiful. It was said to be a burying place of the god Osiris, the god of the underworld, and legend had it wildlife would not approach it.
The Temple of Kom Ombo is one of the more recent and peculiar complexes in Egypt: it’s actually two perfectly symmetrical temples in one. On the North, the falcon god Horus presided over the sky, sun and moon. Opposite his temple is that of the crocodile god Sobek, deity of fertility. On display inside the temple are some of the three hundred mummified crocodiles found in the area, offerings to him in honor of his role in the co-creation of the world. Because of its relatively late construction, the artwork on the walls is more advanced than other temples, though some of it has been vandalized by Coptic Christians that moved in later. 
Last Updated: 07/19/2010

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