We return to our boat and continue our cruise south to Kom Ombo, an agricultural town famous for the unusual double Temple of Kom Ombo. It is very pleasant sitting on the sun deck and watching people going about their daily lives on the banks of the Nile. The scenery here is lush filled with palm trees and farmlands, cattle grazing, and fishermen in their small boats along the shores.
The Temple of Kom Ombo was built during the Ptolemaic period between 332 BC and 395 AD and was dedicated to two gods: Sobek, the crocodile god, and Horus, the falcon-headed god. In Egyptian mythology, Sobek was believed to be the creator of the world. It was believed that the Nile river was created from his sweat and that he controlled the waters and fertility of the soil. Because the Nile used to be infested with crocodiles, Egyptians prayed to Sobek so that he would protect them from being attacked by crocodiles. In the ancient times, crocodiles were kept in pools and fed the best cuts of meat, thinking that as an object of worship, they would not attack the worshippers. Many mummified crocodiles have been found around the temple. As previously mentioned, Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris and husband to Hathor, was worshipped in ancient Egypt as the God of the Sky and later identified as Apollo by the Greeks. He was usually depicted as a falcon or a falcon-headed man whose right eye was the sun and the left eye was the moon. According to ancient Egyptian royal traditions, the ruling pharaoh was always considered the living form of Horus and when he died, he became Osiris, the god of the dead and the father of Horus. He is often considered the god of war and the king’s protector resulting in many images with Horus hovering above the king’s head.
Within the temple complex are two symmetrical sides with separate sets of gateways, courtyards, and sanctuaries for each of the two gods. Unfortunately, little remains of the original structure. The eastern half of the temple was dedicated to Sobek, Hathor (goddess of love and joy) and Khonsu (god of the moon), while the western half was dedicated to Horus, Tasenetnofret (“the good sister” considered a manifestation of Hathor), and Panebtawy (“Lord of the Two Lands”). It was believed that there were two different sets of priests here to tend to the different deities. The forecourt has 16 columns, 8 on each side of the court with a granite altar in the center used for making offerings. On the rear wall are reliefs depicting Horus and Thoth pouring sacred water over the king on the right side and Sobek doing the pouring on the left. From here are two entrances leading to the shared outer hypostyle hall with the columns separating the two sections and then to the inner hypostyle hall. In the inner hypostyle hall, there is a beautiful relief where Horus presents the king with the curved sword victory and the hieroglyph for eternal life. There are three antechambers with twin sanctuaries found beyond and separated by a hidden chamber. The most intriguing feature of Temple of Kom Ombo is the relief on the outer passage at the back of the temple. It is a relief depicting surgical instruments such as scalpels, forceps, scissors, medicine bottles etc as well as two goddesses sitting on birthing chairs. There are different speculations as to whether these were actually depictions of medical instruments or just tools used for the temple’s rituals in preparing the perfumes and incense. Egypt at that time probably did have the most advanced medical knowledge in the world and temples often acted as the earliest forms of hospitals.
From Kom Ombo, we continue to sail south to Aswan. Stay tuned!
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