Marveling at the Neck Bending Beauty of Hathor Temple in Qena, Egypt

Cozily sitting near the banks of the Nile River in Egypt, rests the spectacular Hathor Temple.  Dating from the first century AD, Hathor offers famously painted blue ceilings adorned with astronomical reliefs.  Most definitely the two thousand year old complex left me pleasantly speechless and completely in awe.

Marveling at the Neck Bending Beauty of Hathor Temple in Qena, Egypt

Hathor Temple resides in the Dendera Temple Complex in Qena, Egypt. Serving as one of the best preserved temple complexes in Egypt, it originally was used as the sixth Nome of Upper Egypt, south of Abydos.
Hathor Temple resides in the Dendera Temple Complex in Qena, Egypt. Representing one of the best preserved temple complexes in Egypt, it originally served as the sixth Nome of Upper Egypt, south of Abydos.

 

We visited Hathor Temple as part of our Viking River Cruise down the Nile River in Egypt.

Restoration work was performed on the temple’s ceiling and columns between 2006 and 2011 to remove layers of soot.  As a result, the effort revealed an intricately carved, blue ceiling displaying an astronomical map of the heavens. Most definitely one needs hours to fully-appreciate the bizarre world displayed above.  Between reliefs of star gods and zodiac signs, stranger figures appear like snakes with long legs and avian bodies with human heads.

Quite literally I spent the entire time with my camera in hand, facing towards the heavens.  Other than the Sistine Chapel in Rome, I’ve never seen such a splendid display of art on a roof.  Honestly, Hathor trumps even Michelangelo with its elaborately crafted canopy and columns.

Map to Dendera's Temple in Qena, Egypt, Home to Hathor Temple
Map to Dendera’s Temple in Qena, Egypt, Home to Hathor Temple

 

On the ceiling in Hathor Temple you can see the relief of the God Nut giving birth to the sun, seen here.
On the ceiling in Hathor Temple you can see the relief of the God Nut giving birth to the sun, seen here.

Adding to the aura of Hathor Temple are four column capitals crowned with the face of Hathor.

These cow-eared replicas introduce almost a mythical quality to what is otherwise an already mysterious display of Egyptian art.  As I observed the columns more closely, I noticed her head was covered with a square structure.  Later I learned this sphere is a musical instrument called a sistrum.  Apparently the swishing sound produced by this gizmo is believed to please Hathor.

While most of my time was spent looking up, I did notice the decoration continues on the column shafts below.  Each was carved with intricate designs highlighted in blue.  Essentially from floor to ceiling the entire temple was a hand-made work of ancient artistry.

The columns in Hathor Temple represent the four cardinal points of the universe and symbolize the goddess Hathor, also known as the "Lady with the four Faces".
The columns in Hathor Temple represent the four cardinal points of the universe and symbolize the goddess Hathor, also known as the “Lady with the four Faces”.

While I wandered towards the rear of the temple, I discovered a small room with a most memorable relief on the ceiling.

Hathor, the sky goddess, is displayed swallowing the sun at night, and then giving birth to it in the morning.  Since the room was so small, to take this photo I had to place my camera on the floor.  Then I used an external remote to capture this shot.  After several attempts, I finally achieved the picture seen below.

Hathor was a sky deity. As such, she was the mother or consort of the sky god Horus and the sun god Ra.
Hathor was a sky deity. As such, she was the mother or consort of the sky god Horus and the sun god Ra.

 

The sun goddess Nut seen here swallows the sun on the ceiling of Hathor Temple.
The sun goddess Nut seen here swallows the sun on the ceiling of Hathor Temple.

To me, Hathor Temple was certainly one of the most dazzling sites I saw in all of Egypt.

In fact, all my future temple visits would be compared against Hathor.  Most seemed to lack the punch and wow I experienced here.  Actually I would suggest visiting Hathor towards the end of your trip, if possible.  That way you can save the best for last.

On the ceiling at Hathor Temple, the sun goddess seen here has raised arms covered in feathers which are figuratively used to support the ceiling.
On the ceiling at Hathor Temple, the sun goddess seen here has raised arms covered in feathers which are figuratively used to support the ceiling.

If you are interested in visiting Hathor Temple, there is no direct route from Cairo.

You can fly from Cairo to Luxor, and then take a taxi to the Dendera Temple Complex in Qena.  Otherwise, you can pick a river cruise, like Viking Cruises, which offers Qena on their itinerary.  At an entrance cost of only fifty Egyptian pounds ($3 USD), the admission is inexpensive.

On the column shafts in Hathor Temple winged, lion-headed serpents are displayed, exemplifying the cobra goddess Wadjet.
On the column shafts in Hathor Temple winged, lion-headed serpents are displayed, exemplifying the cobra goddess Wadjet.

READ MORE ABOUT EGYPT

Photos of Nefertari’s Tomb: Capturing Over Three Thousand Years of Egyptian History

Hot Air Balloon in Luxor, Egypt: Soaring Above the Valley of the Kings

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Matt Weatherbee
Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

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2 Comments

  1. Kailash Sahu
    February 4, 2019 / 12:29 am

    A huge thank you to Holly (who is just amazing) and Alex (awesome cameraman), you guys were super.

  2. Vinod Balchandani
    February 13, 2019 / 1:01 am

    Definitely very attractive!

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