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Dendara Temple / Temple of Hathor
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Dendara Temple / Temple of Hathor
Dendara, Egypt is home to Ptolemaic Temple of Hathor, as well as the ruins of a Coptic Christian church, and the starting point for numerous excursions on the Nile River! The Temple of Hathor at Dendara, on the Nile north of Luxor, is one of the latest Egyptian temples. Dedicated to the wife of the god Horus, it was built in Roman times and its decorations include Roman emperors alongside Egyptian gods. Along with Abydos further north, Dendara is a popular day trip from Luxor.

Dendara, Egypt & The Temple of Hathor
Dendara is a little town in Egypt situated on the West Bank of the Nile River and just north of Luxor. It is known for its historical sites, most notably the surprisingly well-preserved Ptolemaic Temple of Hathor. In fact, most visitors state that this temple is the best reason for visiting this small town.

Historically speaking, Dendara was once the capital of the 6th Nome of Upper Egypt and was called Nikentori. Some believe Dendara was originally built in honor of the sky and fertility goddess named Hathor, who is associated with the image of a crocodile. Dendara was mostly associated with Egyptian worship, as there were only two names ever found of Christian Bishops, Pachymius and Serapion.

The Temple of Hathor was built between 30 BC and 14 AD, making it one of the youngest Egyptian temples. However, it was built on top of an older temple, the date of which remains unclear. It is probable that the design of the later temple is based on that of the older one.

Dendera was an ancient healing center, comparable to a Greek Asklepion or the Catholic Lourdes. Hathor, wife of Horus, was the goddess of the sky, fertility and healing, and the rituals performed by her priestesses included the use of a sistrum, or rattle.

What to See
Come excited, because you will be given the opportunity to see one of the best-preserved temples anywhere in the world! The Temple of Hathor covers 40,000 square meters and is surrounded by a mud brick enclosed wall. The temple is as old as the Ptolemaic dynasty, though Roman Emperor Tiberius most recently completed the project. The temple also rested on the foundations of other buildings that pre-dated that time period, perhaps as far back as Khufu and Cheops of the Fourth Dynasty.

Also in and around this temple complex you can find Roman and Pharaonic birth houses, as well as the ruins of a Coptic church, and a small chapel dedicated to Isis. The Temple is opened from morning until late afternoon.

The Temple of Hathor is boxy in shape and surrounded by a portico with thick columns and walls about half as tall as the roof. There are many reliefs of figures and rituals on the exterior of the temple, including pharaohs, Egyptian deities, and Roman emperors.

Inside, the most fascinating sight is the roof chapel dedicated to Osiris, which contains a sundial and circular zodiac. The zodiac, a replica of the original that is now in the Louvre, consists of two superimposed constellations. One is centered on the geographical north pole, the other on the true north pole. An axis passes through Pisces, confirming what we know from archaeological evidence: it was built in the age of Pisces, just over 2,000 years ago.

Interestingly, two hieroglyphs on the edge of the zodiac seem to indicate that another axis passed through the beginning of the age of Taurus (about 4,000 BC; a thousand years before dynastic Egypt). This may be a clue to the great age of the first temple that stood here.

Among the many other structures here are the remains of a 5th-century Christian basilica, an excellent example of early Coptic church architecture. There is also a sanatorium, where pilgrims could bathe in the sacred waters or take holy water which had been run over magical texts to infuse it with power home with them.

You will be treated to a tourist-friendly area around the temple complex, including a modern visitor center, a bazaar and even a small cafeteria.

Getting There
If you are taking luxury tours, private tours or guided tours, then you may be driven to and from your destination. However, budget tours may require that you drive or take a taxi from Luxor, or perhaps to travel by way of a police convoy, which is actually common outside of heavily populated tourist like Cairo and Luxor. You could choose to stay at a nearby Luxor hotel and arrange for excursions to Dendera by coach or by a Nile cruiser provided by the hotel.

Everyone agrees that Dendara is worth the price of land tours because of its temple, still well-preserved even after centuries of conflict, wear and tear and natural aging. Come to Dendara to experience a part of Egyptian history.

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