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The Temple of Kalabsha is one of the great temples of Egypt. The Egyptian Government put great effort to save it from being submerged after the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Yet, it is the most off the beaten track amongst all temples and receives less tourists. For the adventure and curious ones, it is an opportunity to do something different. Here are some information about this beautiful place in case you want to include it in your tour.
It is a temple dedicated to a Nubian solar god called Mandulis by the Greek and Merwel by Romans. In later years it served as a church.
When was the Temple of Kalabsha built?
The temple is not as old as the other Egyptian temples. It was built during the Ptolemaic period and finalized somewhere between 30BC and 14 AD during the reign of Augustus.
What is the origin of the Temple of Kalabsha?
The temple initially stood south of the ancient city of Talmis, which was situated on both sides of river Nile at a point where the river narrowed. This area was therefore named Gate of Kalabsha. The temple named after actually has its origins back to the XVIII dynasty, referred to kings Amenhotep II and Tuthmosis III.
Amenhotep II is portrayed in the pillared hall in the temple and Tuthmosis III was represented in a black granite statue found near the river bank.
After Augustus, other emperors made additions to the temple, such as Caligula (37-41 AD) and Trajanus (98 - 117 AD).
The Temple of Kalabsha also moved place
When the Aswan High Dam's project became a real thing and was about to be built, several temples on the way would be inundated by the rising waters of the artificial lake Nasser. The Egyptian government in partnership with UNESCO decided to literally move some temples to new locations where they would be safe. That is what happened to Abu Simbel and Temple of Philae. The Temple of Kalabsha was also amongst the lucky ones.
Because the German government helped moving the temple, the Egyptian government gave to Germany as an appreciation gift the temple's original outer stone gateway. It is currently in Berlin, in the Egyptian Museum.
The temple's dimensions are 22 meters wide and 76 meters long. There are many inscriptions on the wall that display the names of many pharaohs and emperors surrounded by gods and goddesses.
There is a spectacular stone sidewalk from the lake to the first pylon, followed by the colonnaded court and a Hypostyle Hall with eight columns (they were originally fourteen). The temple has a sanctuary with three chambers, one of them with stairs that lead up to the roof with a beautiful view of the Lake Nasser.
On the south of the temple visitors will also find a well-preserved Nilemeter. These meters were very useful in ancient times to calculate the rise of Nile's annual flood, that could bring many problems to the population in case there was not enough water to irrigate the plantations, leading the country to periods of hunger.
In the surrounding area of the Temple of Kalabsha
If you wish to explore the area, behind the Temple of Kalabsha there is a chapel. It is small and only the door-way of the chamber is decorated, but it has hieroglyphs of a king yet-to-be-discovered offering to Nubian Gods.
Another chapel is located to the northeast, dated from the reign of Ptolemy IX. It was not finished, therefore the exterior remains without decoration. Yet entering the chapel you will find representations of various gods and goddesses, such as Isis, Osiris, Horus, Mandulis, Khum, and others.
On the same island, you might want to visit Gerf Hussein and Beit el-Wali, temples dedicated to Ramses II. The first was also was saved from the waters and reconstructed, and the second has very interesting and colourful paintings.
Last but not least, the Kiosk of Qertassi is an elegant monument in Roman style with 6 columns.
Where is the Temple of Kalabsha located?
The new site is south of the High Dam on the west bank of Lake Nasser, in Aswan.