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Philae Temple

Philae Island

Philae Island, which just avoided drowning in the waters of the Nile in the 1960s of the previous century, is the most significant of the several ancient Egyptian structures that make up the city of Aswan. Since Philae was initially constructed more than 2000 years ago, it has always been located in the middle of the Nile.

Aswan’s Philae Island is crucial. Due to Isis’ status as the Island’s patron goddess, the Island of Philae was home to many temples. The Ptolemaic and Roman eras saw the construction of these temples. The Temple of Philae is one of the Island’s well-known temples.

Where is the Philae Temple?

Philae Island
Amazing top view of Philae Island

The Philae Temple is located on the island of Agilika, which belongs to the administration of the city of Aswan and is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Egypt.

The island that embraces the temple is located in the low reservoir of the Aswan Dam and at the bottom of Lake Nasser and was in the past located near the first waterfall of the Nile.

Don’t miss to book Aswan Day Tour to High Dam, Lake Nasser and Philae Temple

What does the name Philae mean?

Philae Island
Nile view with Philae Island

Its name, Abou, comes from “Ab” which has two meanings: Elephant and ivory. According to ancient texts, the city was an important trading center for ivory from Africa. Other theories claim that the island is named after its shape, which could be reminiscent of an elephant’s tusks. This is the meaning of the Greek word Elephas Elephas or ελέφας. Its ancient Egyptian name was Yeb.

The Greek pronunciation of the Ancient Egyptian name “Pilak” is whence the name Philae originates (thought to have been Nubian in origin).

When was Philae Temple built?

Philae Island
Inside temple of Philae

280 BCE, the Temple of Isis in Philae is devoted to Isis, Osiris, and Horus. It was constructed during Ptolemy II (Egypt’s Greco-Roman Period). Scenes from Egyptian mythology depicting Isis resurrecting Osiris, giving birth to Horus, and mummifying Osiris after his death may be seen on the temple walls.

The History of the Temple of Philae:

Temple of Philae
View of Temple of Philae

Despite being a small island, Philae is among Egypt’s most attractive places. It was no longer than 120 meters in length and 380 meters across, and it was one of Osiris’s resting places. William John Bankes brought the Philae obelisk to England in the 19th century. When the Egyptian consonantal alphabet was matched to the Rosetta stone, it provided significant new insight.

The Philae islands served as sacerdotal residences and trade hubs between Meroe and Memphis. Philae has always been a unique location due to the effects of light and shade brought about by its proximity to the Tropic of Cancer. Due to a concern with Aswan’s low dam, the government was forced to move the Philae Temple to another island, accomplished by UNESCO. The temple is now located on Agilkia Island.

 Elephantine’s necropolis dates to the earliest dynasties. It was built for the Nomarchs, the ruling princes who lived on the island and whose rock burials date from the Old Kingdom (2647–2150), specifically those of the 6th Dynasty (2321-2150), to the Middle Kingdom (3022–1650), specifically those of the 12th Dynasty (1991–1783).

The most famous include:

  • The double tomb of Sabni (No. 25) and Mekhou (No. 26) from Dynasty VI.
  • The Tomb of Sarenput II (No. 31).
  • The burial of Pepynakht Hekab (or Hekaib-N° 35) was a powerful Nomarch of the city at the end of the 4th Dynasty.
  • The vast tomb of Sarenpout I (N° 36) from the 12th Dynasty.

Description of Philae Temple:

Philae Island
Top view of temple of Philae

At the entrance to the temple, we find the eastern and western columns on the west of the island, and the number of these columns is 39 columns, and the capitals of the columns are made of papyrus and lotus flowers. On the eastern side, the temple of the god Set and the goddess Hathor is located. In the north, the main entrance, the Temple of Horus, and the Minamah hall are located. At the entrance, there are two lions whose function is to protect the temple. The entrance to the temple is located in the Holy of Holies, the hall of the starboard, and the hall the starboard is for the goddess Isis, in which Horus was born. The hall of the starboard includes 3 rooms, the first room is small.

It is the one in which Isis lived the first three months of her pregnancy with Horus. The second room is larger than her, so Isis lived in the second three months. The third room was where Isis lived for the last three months, in which Horus was born.

The outer hall of Philae

Philae Island
Nile view in Philae Island

Entering the Philae Temple is possible through the first Pylon. On the western side of the forecourt is a structure known as the Birth House that was consecrated to Hathor and Isis in recognition of the birth of her son, “Horus.” There are arcades all around it. The second Pylon is an impressive structure with a doorway that is 32 meters wide and 12 meters high. A little chapel’s foundations are in front of it. Some faded Christian paintings are also present.

Inside the Philae temple

Philae Island
Inside Philae Island isis temple

Eight columns screened off from the court may be found in the temple’s first room. Inside this room are numerous Coptic crosses and Greek inscriptions, which demonstrate how the temple became a Christian location during the Byzantine era under Bishop Theodore’s rule. A description honoring the 1841 archaeological expedition to Philae may be found above the entryway.

The top relief in the south wall above the entryway depicts Horus sitting on a bench while Nephthys and Isis offer the Lower and Upper Egyptian crowns. To the left of the entrance, unfinished obelisks show the king making land concessions. The River Nile’s source is depicted in exquisite relief on the right.

Philae temple facts:

Philae Island
Philae Island
  • The Philae Temple is the last ancient temple built in classical Egyptian architecture because its construction was finished around 690 A.D. It was constructed as a monument to the goddess Isis and is an incredible illustration of the cult created around the tale of Isis and Osiris.
  • Because God Osiris was interred on the island where the temple existed, the temple of Philae was regarded as the most sacred temple by the Egyptian and Nubian peoples. Only priests were allowed to live there; fish and other aquatic creatures were never allowed to get close to the island’s shoreline.

Isis temple Philae island:

Philae Island
Isis Temple in Philae Island

The “Temple of Isis” is the main temple on the island, occupying a quarter of its area. It was built by King Ptolemy II in the place of another smaller temple that was also dedicated to Isis and dedicated to the soldiers charged with protecting the southern borders of Egypt. Many Ptolemaic kings contributed to its construction. The Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, the Temple of Isis after the completion of its restoration project and the development of tourism services there.

The Temple of Isis is located on the eastern bank of Aswan Governorate, next to the eastern fence of the city, opening to the northwest facing the Nile River. The length of the temple is about 19 meters, its width is 15 meters, and the ceiling height is approximately 7 meters.

The temple is one of the most important archaeological discoveries, preserved in good condition so far since it was found in 1871. The temple still stands tall with its four walls and a roof with distinctive granite panels.

The restoration and development work is represented in providing various services provided to visitors, such as: «indicative and explanatory boards – development of visitor centers – toilets – umbrellas – seats – garbage bins designed for recycling – brochures and brochures in Arabic and English» allowing people with special needs to rehabilitate movement paths and brochures in a way Braille and subtitling of films in visitor centers in sign language, and other services that improve the visitor experience.

The Temple of Isis, situated on a tranquil island and honoring the goddess of love, was nearly destroyed by floodwaters when the Aswan Dam was constructed in the 1960s. Thankfully, it was saved, and now it is among Egypt’s most exquisite and well-preserved ancient sanctuaries.

Philae Temple Sound & Light Show

Philae Island
Philae Temple Sound & Light Show

Explore the past to learn the meaning of the name Philae. The name Philae, which means “Remote spot” in ancient Egyptian, ensures an experience you won’t soon forget. On the island of Philae, numerous temples were built, the earliest of which dates to the reign of King Thutmose |||.

We revive this mystical temple, especially the Egyptian Gods and Goddesses like King Osiris, in the Sound and Light performance Aswan. This famous temple was the most visited tourist destination in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Philae Temple Sound and Light Show will take you on an extraordinary journey while illuminating the mysteries and ancient secrets, winning your heart.

Don’t miss to book Aswan Sound Light Show, Philae Temple Show


The Philae Temple is situated in Nubian City, one of Aswan’s most significant historical landmarks. It was a rocky island with the hieroglyphic name “Apo,” which translates to “Ivory.” On Agilika Island, 12 km south of Aswan and below the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser. It was moved as part of the UNESCO Nubia Campaign project from its original location in Upper Egypt, which was close to the sizable first cataract of the Nile. It was a holy place as a hub of ancient pilgrimage for the cult of Isis. In 1980, this magnificent shrine was reopened.

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