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Kom Ombo Temples

Most of the main temples in Ancient Egypt have some unique features. In the case of the Kom Ombo Temples it turns out that they give the impression of being one when actually are two. But why? Let's find out more about this fascinating place!

What are the Kom Ombo Temples?

The Kom Ombo Temples are dedicated to two gods: Sobek, the crocodile headed god and Horus, the falcon headed god. It is a peculiar temple because it is the only one built for the veneration of two gods, therefore everything in it was duplicated and two symmetrical temples were built side by side.

When was the Kom Ombo Temple built?

Between 180 BC and 145 BC. It is from the Ptolemaic period, so it actually is a recent temple if we compare it to others that were built during the New Kingdom. Yet, there are traces on the site of a temple built by Queen Hatsehpsut and Pharaoh Tutmeses III, called The House of Sobek (Ber Sobek).

During the Ptolemaic era the structure gained new additions, and between 51 BC and 47 BC Ptolemy XIII added two large hypostyle halls (one for each) that became the largest contribution to the temple.

Even though a temple for veneration, the Kom Ombo Temples were also knows as healing center and the closest of a hospital in ancient times, attracting many pilgrims that looked to be cured from many types of ilness.

What is the legend of the Temple of Kom Ombo?

There are several legends and several versions regarding the Egyptian gods and their origins, but according to the legend of Kom Ombo, the gods Sobek and Horus were brothers. Horus ruled the region and was known for being a good king, but Sobek was envious of him and expelled Horus, thus becoming the new ruler.

But things were not easy for Sobek. Since the local population density was low, there were not enough people to work on the plantation fields. Sobek then decided to make a pact with demons to work on the crops. At harvest time, however, gold sprouted in place of food. The people went hungry and Sobek found in reconciling with Horus a way to resolve the situation. In the end, Horus returned to the throne, this time shared with his brother, and the region prospered again.

What to see in the Kom Ombo Temples?

When touring the temples, visitors will first notice that passing through the forecourt there is a double altar in the centre. From that point, walk towards the shared hypostyle halls (inner and outer) of 10 columns each. The walls of both hypostyle halls show different Ptolemy emperors being presented to or crowned by Egyptian Gods. 

After the hypostyle halls, there are three antechambers, each one with two doors that lead to the sanctuaries of Horus and Sobek. It is possible to see in both a secret passage through where the priests used to answer the pilgrims' prayers. 

The outer passage around the temples is different. On the northern side of the Kom Ombo' s back wall a series of surgical instruments are shown in the hieroglyphs. Most probably they were used during the daily rituals since the temple worked as a place of healing. 

Walking towards the southeast corner of the Kom Ombo temples there is a small sanctuary dedicated to the goddess of love Hathor. Finally, on the way out of the complex visitors will find a new Crocodile Museum, that displays an impressive collection of mummified crocodiles. 

Is it worth visiting the Kom Ombo Temples?

The Kom Ombo Temples are among the most interesting temples to visit. There are not many artifacts, but there is a considerable number of mummified crocodiles, and the hieroglyphics on the walls have unique records of surgical procedures done in Ancient Egypt.

Another interesting point of the temple is the "nilometer", a well connected to the Nile through channels that measures the water level in order to know when the floods would arrive. 

Unfortunately, the temples suffered greatly from earthquakes over the subsequent centuries, in addition to vandalism and religious persecution. Local residents also contributed to the temples deterioration by using rocks to build houses. Even so, after an earthquake in 1992  the temples were completely closed for three years and restored. Nowadays visitors can enjoy a fully renovated temple which fortunately is part of the main attractions between Luxor and Aswan.