Kalabsha Temple on an island on Lake Nasser near Aswan in Egypt.

© Karel Stipek/Shutterstock

Kalabsha Temple

Southern Nile Valley

Kalabsha Temple is an impressive Ptolemaic and Roman structure, not unlike nearby Philae in its layout. The early 19th-century Swiss traveller Burckhardt (who rediscovered Abu Simbel) thought it was 'amongst the most precious remains of Egyptian antiquity'. The temple, started in the late Ptolemaic period and completed during the reign of Emperor Augustus (30 BC–AD 14), was dedicated to the Nubian solar god Merwel, known to the Greeks as Mandulis. Later it was used as a church.

An impressive stone causeway leads from the lake to the first pylon of the temple, beyond which are the colonnaded court and the eight-columned hypostyle hall. Inscriptions on the walls show various emperors or pharaohs in the presence of gods and goddesses. Just beyond the hall is the sanctuary, consisting of three chambers. Stairs from one chamber lead up to the roof, from where there are superb views of Lake Nasser and the High Dam, across the capitals of the hall and court. An inner passage, between the temple and the encircling wall, leads to a well-preserved Nilometer. The temple's original outer stone gateway was given by the Egyptian government to Germany in 1977, in thanks for helping to move this building. It is now in the Egyptian Museum, Berlin.

As a result of a massive Unesco effort, the temples here were transplanted from a now-submerged site about 50km south of Aswan. The new site is on the west bank of Lake Nasser just south of the High Dam.

When the water level is low you can sometimes walk across to the site; otherwise, you can find a motor boat on the western side of the High Dam (around LE60 for the return trip and an hour to visit).

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