Rising in the desert valley of Deir el-Bahri, the Temple of Hatshepsut is one of the most prominent monuments of ancient Egyptian architecture. However, this is not surprising, because the sovereign ruler of Egypt herself was a well-known and very outstanding figure. As the daughter of Pharaoh Thutmose I, she almost immediately after the death of her father married her brother and became one of the most influential personalities of the royal court. Hatshepsut came to power just a few years after her marriage.
At first, she was only the regent of the 12-year-old Thutmose III, but armed with the support of the priests, she very quickly removed the young pharaoh from the throne and took his place. During the reign of “the first among noble women” Egypt entered a period of unprecedented prosperity and exaltation. But of all the areas in which this great woman has shown herself, it is the construction one that deserves the most attention. She not only restored many monuments destroyed by the conquerors, but also built several significant religious buildings. One of them is the famous rock complex located near Luxor. We will tell you about it.
The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, which the locals call the Most Sacred of the Sacred or Jeser Jeseru, is a grand funeral sanctuary for the first female pharaoh who ruled Egypt during the New Kingdom. The construction of this unique sanctuary, dating back to the second half of the 15th century BC. e., lasted as much as 9 years (from 1482 to 1473). Today it is part of Deir el-Bahri, an archaeological complex of burial tombs and temples located on the western side of the Nile, and is under state protection.
Looking at the photos of the temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahri and comparing them with the sanctuary of Mentuhotep, located in the same valley, one can easily notice their obvious similarity. And it is not dictated by the lack of talent or imagination among local architects. Having taken the throne not by right, the glorified ruler wanted to emphasize the continuity of her own power from the great forefathers by any means, so she made Jeser Jesera look like a monument erected in honor of the founder of the Theban dynasty.
The construction of the temple began during the life of the queen. The management of the work was entrusted to Senmut, an outstanding architect, builder of the first Egyptian pyramid, as well as adviser to Hatshepsut and educator of her daughter Nefrura. By the way, it was he who, several decades before that, followed the construction of the main temple prototype. Perhaps for this reason, both buildings are similar.
According to numerous historical sources, the temple of Hatshepsut in Egypt remained in the possession of the pharaoh until the beginning of the Ptolemic period. Later, Coptic tribes came here and organized a small Orthodox church on the site of the funeral sanctuary. It existed until the middle of the 10th century, and then gradually fell into desolation.
Architecture and interior design
The funeral temple of Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahri, the width of the facade of which is at least 40 m, is carved into the rock. The main architectural feature of this monumental structure is 3 terraces located one above the other, each of which housed an open courtyard, covered rooms with pilasters and sanctuaries hidden in the depths of the mountain. The so-called ramps became the connecting link that united the tiers into one whole. These are inclined roads that served as stairs and dividing the temple into 2 equivalent parts – the southern and northern.
Previously, a variety of plants were planted on these terraces and entire ponds were built. Now not a trace remains of them, however, as well as of the huge T-shaped pools, as well as a huge exotic garden, laid out in front of the very entrance to the sanctuary. But the snow-white colonnade, made of local sandstone rocks, has been perfectly preserved. With its slenderness and grandeur, it resembles even more ancient Dorian columns.
Once a long alley led to the ramp of the Hatshepsut temple in Luxor, starting at the very desert on the border with cultivated fields. The beginning of the road was marked by a majestic pylon, and people walking along this path could enjoy the view of myrtle trees brought from Punta, and sculptural images of sphinxes, personifying the god Osiris in the guise of Hatshepsut.
The porticoes of all tiers are lavishly decorated with stone reliefs and skillful paintings dedicated to various events. Let’s consider each of them.
The lower floor of the funeral temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Luxor is surrounded by a powerful wall and decorated with huge bird figures. At the very end of this building, you can see a portico with 22 columns, in the middle of which there were statues of lions and monuments to the queen herself, who “posed” both in an ordinary tight-fitting dress and in a luxurious ceremonial dress.
The images decorating the walls of this tier tell not only about the construction work that took place here and the delivery of boulders along the Nile, but also about the numerous military campaigns and battles. There are also images of anacondas and falcons, which are the embodiment of Horus and Uadzhet, the main guardians of both parts of Egypt.
As you can see in the photo of the Hatshepsut temple in Deir el-Bahri, the middle tier portico consists of 12-column halls and many internal suites extending into the very thickness of the rock. The door leading to the inside of the halls is made of black copper and inlaid with precious metals, and the rooms themselves contain many items that are not only material, but also of historical value.
The reliefs on this floor tell about the most important deeds of the female pharaoh, including the fateful journey to Punt (modern Somalia). According to the information provided in the official documents, the expedition equipped by the pharaoh was so large-scale and terrifying that the inhabitants of the island practically without hesitation recognized themselves as subjects of Egypt. The events of those days are depicted with such accuracy and thoroughness that even now in the ancient rock paintings one can easily see the fleet of the Egyptian sovereign, and the features of the local landscape, and the figure of the king, who brings gold jewelry, incense, valuable tree species, animal skins and several dozen slaves.
In addition, here you can see scenes dedicated to the divine marriage of the god Amun and Queen Yahmes, the parents of the famous ruler. There are also several sphinxes and 2 spacious chapels built at opposite ends of the terrace. One of them is dedicated to the guide to the world of the dead, Anubis, the second to Hathor Imentet, which in Ancient Egypt was considered the main symbol of beauty, motherhood, femininity and fertility. The walls of this basilica are painted with images of a woman-pharaoh drinking healing milk from the udder of a sacred cow, and the capitals of the columns are decorated with gilded faces of the deity, facing in different directions.
The upper tier of the Hatshepsut temple in Deir el-Bahri (Luxor) served for the main religious rituals. At the time of its foundation, the entrance to the portico was guarded by majestic statues of the queen, which accompanied visitors to numerous underground halls. There were at least 2 hundred of them. Moreover, each of the monuments presented here personified the ruler in 3 different images – the sphinx, the pharaoh and Osiris. Many of these statues have been restored. Most of them have now been transported to the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
On both sides of the central courtyard of the third terrace, there are 2 important sanctuaries – the parents of the pharaoh and Amun-Ra, which are considered almost the main pride of the entire temple complex. This building was crowned with a giant portrait of the queen, made in the form of a sphinx. Unfortunately, after the death of Hatshepsut, it was destroyed, but during her life it could be seen even from ships sailing along the Nile.
As for the interior decoration, it is replete with the presence of gold, silver, bronze, alabaster, ebony and other valuable materials used to decorate floors and create various interior items.
Excursions to the temple
You can see the temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahri not only on your own, but also as part of an organized excursion group. A typical excursion program from Khurkada includes visits to several interesting sites.
- After watching the show, a boat trip across the Nile awaits you and (if desired) a visit to the small Banana Island (for a fee – about $ 10).
- On the opposite bank of the river, you board the bus again and follow to that part of Luxor, which is called the “city of the dead”.
- The first attraction of this place is the Colossi of Memnon, 2 twenty-meter stone statues depicting Pharaoh Amenhotep III.
- Then the bus goes to the Valley of the Queens, on the territory of which there are 79 tombs with the remains of the ancient Egyptian rulers and their children.
- To get started, you will get acquainted with the famous Karnak complex, the largest religious complex in the world and the greatest structure of Ancient Egypt. Several centuries ago, he was completely buried under the sand. Excavations began only in the 20th century. and continue to this day. Every evening within the walls of the temple there is a 60-minute show “Sound and Light”.
- After walking through this sacred place, you will visit the memorial temple of Hatshepsut itself, the Papyrus Museum, as well as 2 “souvenir” factories – alabaster and perfumery.
- At the end of the program, the bus leaves the Deir el-Bahri valley and returns to Luxor.
The duration of the tour is at least 17.5 hours. The cost of the trip starts at $ 40. There is a discount for children. You can buy such an excursion in three ways – from a hotel guide, at a travel agency or via the Internet.
Temple of Hatshepsut in Del el-Bahri is fraught with many more mysteries, most of which, most likely, will remain unsolved. In the meantime, the best scientists in the world are puzzling over the secrets of this sacred place, here are a few facts from what we know:
- When power in the country returned to Thutmose III, he did everything to make the memory of the great ruler disappear forever. During that period, not only statues and relief images of a woman-pharaoh, but also rock inscriptions containing any mention of her name were erased and destroyed in the temple. The main part of the sculptures was buried near the sanctuary and found during the next archaeological excavations.
- At about the same time, faces of great healers appeared next to the images of the god Ra, and people who assured the holiness of this place came to be healed of a variety of diseases. The walls of the complex to this day keep pleas for recovery and deliverance from torment.
- As many as 2 chapels are dedicated to God Anubis in the temple of Queen Hatshepsut (Egypt) – on the lower and upper tiers. Why exactly 2 is not known for certain. One can only guess that in this way the queen decided to emphasize the special role of the “guardian of the scales” in the life of every person.
- On the walls of Jeser Jeseru, there are often portraits of Senmut himself, but in order to examine them, you need to be very careful. The fact is that the main part of the images is located near the doorways, so they are always hidden behind the opened door.
- The famous Egyptian architect had another rather daring idea. Wanting to stay as close as possible to the sanctuary he created, he began to build his own tomb. But since the terrace, which the architect was looking for, belonged to the supreme god, Hatshepsut regarded this as an encroachment on the sacred land. It is for this reason that the work on the tomb was never completed.
- Despite the fact that the temple of Hatshepsut is a funeral one, the queen herself was buried in a huge crypt, located in the immediate vicinity of this place. At one time, they even tried to connect it to the sanctuary with a special underground passage, but whether it actually exists has remained unknown.