Welcome to Edfu, a city located on the west bank of the Nile River between Esna and Aswan in Egypt. With a population of approximately sixty thousand people, Edfu is a city steeped in ancient history and culture. The city is home to the Ptolemaic Temple of Horus and an ancient settlement, Tell Edfu. The city is also known for the remains of one of seven small provincial step pyramids built along the Nile Valley, situated about 5 km south of Edfu near the west bank village of Naga el-Goneima. Here’s a closer look at what makes Edfu a must-visit destination.
The Ancient Settlement of Edfu
The remains of the ancient settlement of Edfu are situated about 50 m to the west of the Ptolemaic temple. This settlement is known as Wetjeset-hor and the Greek name was Apollinopolis Magna. Although unassuming and unglamorous to the visiting tourists, Tell Edfu is a monument that contains evidence of more Egyptian history and is of more archaeological interest than the Ptolemaic temple. The remains of the settlement (tell) provide an insight into the development of Edfu as a provincial town from the end of the Old Kingdom until the Byzantine period. The settlement at Edfu was the capital of the Second Upper Egypt nome, and played an important role within the region. Today, the ancient mound of Tell Edfu is preserved in some areas up to 20 m high and contains complete archaeological sequences of occupation dating to the Old Kingdom until the Graeco-Roman period, more than 3000 years of history, therefore providing ideal conditions to study the development of a provincial town.
The Temple of Horus
The town is known for the major Ptolemaic temple, built between 237 BC and 57 BC, into the reign of Cleopatra VII. Of all the temple remains in Egypt, the Temple of Horus at Edfu is the most completely preserved. Built from sandstone blocks, the huge Ptolemaic temple was constructed over the site of a smaller New Kingdom temple, oriented east to west, facing towards the river. The later structure faces north to south and leaves the ruined remains of the older temple pylon to be seen on the east side of the first court.
The remains of one of seven small provincial step pyramids built along the Nile Valley, is situated about 5 km south of Edfu near the west bank village of Naga el-Goneima. The structure was built from rough reddish sandstone and rises to a present height of 5.5 m. The pyramid has been loosely attributed to King Huni of the Third Dynasty. The purpose of these pyramids is unknown. Further investigations and a detailed survey are carried out by the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago since 2010.
In the Hellenistic period and under the Roman Empire, the city was known as Apollonopolis Magna or Apollinopolis Magna. Ptolemy assigns Apollinopolis to the Hermonthite nome, but it was more commonly regarded as the capital town of the nome Apollopolites. Under the Roman emperors, it was the headquarters of the Legio II Trajana. Its inhabitants were enemies of the crocodile and its worshippers. The ancient city derived its principal reputation from two temples, which are considered second only to the Temple of Dendera as specimens of the sacred structures of Egypt. The larger temple is in good preservation, and is being excavated. The smaller temple, sometimes, but improperly, called a Typhonium, is apparently an appendage of the former, and its sculptures represent the birth and education of the youthful deity, Horus, whose parents Noum, or Kneph and Athor, were worshipped in the larger edifice. The principal temple is dedicated to Noum, whose symbol is the disc of the sun, supported by two asps and the extended wings of a vulture. Its sculptures represent the progress of the Sun, Phre-Hor-Hat, Lord of Heaven, moving in his bark (Bari) through the circle of the Hours. The local name of the district round Apollinopolis was Hat, and Noum was styled Hor-hat-kah, or Horus, the tutelary genius of the land of Hat. This deity forms also at Apollinopolis a triad with the goddess Athor and Hor-Senet. The members of the triad are youthful gods, pointing their fingers towards their mouths, and before the decipherment of the hieroglyphics were regarded as figures of Harpocrates. The entrance into the larger temple of Apollinopolis is a gateway 50 feet high, flanked by two converging wings in the form of truncated pyramids, rising to 107 feet. The wings contain ten stories, are pierced by round loop-holes for the admission of light, and probably served as chambers or dormitories for the priests and servitors of the temple. From the jambs of the door project two blocks of stone, which were intended, as Ddnon supposes, to support the heads of two colossal figures. This propylaeon leads into a large square, surrounded by a colonnade roofed with squared granite, and on the opposite side is a pronaos or portico, 53 feet in height, and having a triple row of columns, six in each row, with variously and gracefully foliaged capitals. The temple is 145 feet wide,