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In Egypt: Philae Island


I woke in my cabin on the river boat Tuya having arrived during the night in Aswan. The management had booked a tour for me with an English-speaking guide and driver and after breakfast we headed out on an excursion across town to Philae Island and it’s temple.


Philae Island is not really Philae Island. It is, or used to be, Agilkia Island, Philae’s next-door neighbor. The dock that accommodates boats to ferry visitors to the island is on the edge of the lake formed by the first Aswan Dam, now known as Aswan Low Dam. Flooding of the temple became a problem on Philae after completion of the first dam in 1902, but the second, Aswan High Dam, threatened the complete loss of Philae’s Temple of Isis and a number of other monuments in 1960. Some were saved by being removed entirely to museums around the world and others by local relocation, including Philae Temple to higher Agilkia Island and Abu Simbel some miles away, now overlooking Lake Nasser.

Below, Philae and Agilkia Island behind Aswan Low Dam.


Philae Temple, 1902


From UNESCO's website:  "Island of Philae - The international campaign for saving of the Nubian monuments was launched by Unesco in 1960. Famed for its monuments, the island of Philae in the River Nile has been submerged nine months out of twelve since the first Aswan dam. The construction of the High Dam above the island has worsened the situation; not only are the monuments permanently flooded to a third of their height, but they are subject to daily fluctuations in the water level which eat away their foundations and threaten to bring them down to ruins. In May 1968, the Campaign's Executive Committee endorsed the decision taken by the U.A.R to dismantle and re - erect the monuments on the neighbouring island of Agilkia which is sufficiently elevated to be above the maximum level of the water."

Philae Temple, 1960


Approach to the temple by boat from the west.


The temple complex is almost entirely from the Ptolemaic & Roman periods (332 BC - 646 AD).  The first pylon, below, is decorated with reliefs of Ptolemy XII, father of Cleopatra.


Above & below, forecourt columns decorated with the head of Hathor.

Hathor, below, can often be identified by her cow ears.


Graffiti is nothing new.


Below left, falcon-headed Horus. Center, lion-headed Sekhmet.


Trajan’s Kiosk


Back to the boat...


...then our return route past Trajan's Kiosk on the east bank.




All episodes of 'PortMoresby in Egypt' can be found here.





And others of PortMoresby’s contributions here.





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Comments (4)

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A fascinating (and detailed) look at a site that many visitors completely miss, even based in Aswan !

The rescue (as with Abu Simbel) is a story in itself, but the 19thC visitors take the biscuit for hubris - wasn't it Edward Lear who set up his camp in the temple ?

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