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Temple of Hathor at Dendera: A Well Preserved Temple near Luxor

Temple of Hathor is a magnificent perfect place to witness the history of ancient Egypt. It is a well-preserved temple distinguished with the stunning blue inscriptions and eye-catching decorations found on the ceiling and the walls, moreover, the incredible Dendera Zodiac, and Dendera lightbulb. It was built during the Late Ptolemaic period by Ptolemy XII and Cleopatra VII, and additions were made during the Roman period by Emperor Trajan.

Temple of Hathor is the main part of the Dendera Temple Complex, which also includes the Roman Mammisi or birth house, Mammisi of Nectanebo II, Temple of the birth of Isis, Coptic Basilica, and a sacred lake. The Complex covers 40,000 square meters and surrounded by a huge mudbrick wall. It is located in Qena, about 60 km away from North Luxor, and on the west bank of the Nile.

The Art of Temple of Hathor

The facade of the Temple of Hathor is fabulous. There are 6 columns on the entrance of the temple with faces of Hathor on the top of each column, and beautiful inscriptions on the walls of the entrance. The first thing to see after entering the temple is the large hypostyle hall, where more unique columns with Hathor faces are there, 4 faces of Hathor for each column. The hypostyle hall was constructed by Emperor Tiberius as per inscription above the entrance. A depiction of Roman Emperor Nero is also found in the hypostyle hall showing that he contributed to the construction of the building.

Ceiling of Temple of Hathor at Dendera Temple Complex
Columns inside the large hypostyle hall. Image Credit: By Olaf Tausch – Own work, CC BY 3.0

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The ceiling of the temple is gorgeously decorated in blue carvings and inscriptions. This luminous blue color of the ceiling symbolizes the sky, and it shows a map of the stars.

Ceiling of Temple of Hathor, Dendera
Part of the ceiling at Dendera Temple. Image Credit: By Khaledgamelyan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Dendera Zodiac

An amazing part of the ceiling of the Temple of Hathor is Dendera Zodiac, which is considered one of the oldest horoscopes in the world. The bas-relief of the Zodiac forms a disc held by four women presenting the sky, and between them falcon-headed spirits. There are 36 spirits inside the disc that symbolize the 360 days of the Egyptian year. Some familiar signs are found in the Zodiac like Taurus, Libra, and Scorpio. The original Dendera Zodiac was taken during the Napoleon Campaign and finally placed in the Louvre in Paris, while the currently existing one in the temple is a replica.

Dendera Zodiac
Dendera Zodiac. (Public Domain)

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Dendera Lightbulb

In the underground crypt of Hathor Temple, there is a relief with a mystery not solved until now. It is called The Dendera Lightbulb. There is a suggestion that this relief represents an Ancient Egyptian lightbulb

Dendera light bulb at Temple of Hathor
Dendera Lightbulb. Image Credit: By Olaf Tausch – Own work, CC BY 3.0

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Cleopatra VII Relief

Another interesting thing to see at the Temple of Hathor is the evidence that the temple was built during the Late Ptolemaic period, as a depiction exists on the back wall of the temple showing Cleopatra VII and her son, Ptolemy XV (Caesarion), son of Julius Caesar.

Cleopatra VII and her son at Temple of Hathor, Dendera
Cleopatra VII and her son, Ptolemy XV. Image Credit: By Olaf Tausch – Own work, CC BY 3.0

Usually, trips are conducted from Luxor to Dendera Temple, but a lot of one-day trips are taken from Hurghada and Marsa Alam to Dendera Temple. Temple of Hathor or Dendera Temple Complex is not very famous like other temples in Luxor but it is a wonderful temple that deserves a visit.

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Dendera Temple Complex by Ancient Egypt Online.

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Featured Image: Temple of Hathor, Dendera (Public Domain).