The mighty River Nile played a crucial role in the development of the Ancient Egyptian civilization that became a cornerstone in the history of human civilization. Because the river overflowed its banks annually and left rich silty deposits, the surrounding soil was very fertile. The Ancient Egyptians were able to adapt to these conditions and cultivated crops, such as wheat, flax and papyrus. They also traded with the surrounding regions and this trade system secured Egypt’s economic stability and diplomatic relationships with the surrounding countries.
Only by cruising along the river can one fully appreciate its importance and some of the archaeological sites.
The Temple of Kom Ombo is an unusual double temple constructed during the Ptolemaic period (323-30 BC) as a temple as well as a healing center. It was dedicated to two Egyptian gods: the crocodile god Sobek (god of the Nile and creator of the world) and the falcon god Horus (god of the sky and protector of the king). The existing Ptolemaic temple has a sandstone doorway built into a wall of brick, which was part of an earlier temple built by an 18th-dynasty pharaoh Thutmose III (1481-1425 BC).
The temple’s double dedication is reflected in its layout as well: it is symmetrical along the main axis and has twin entrances, two connected hypostyle halls with the reliefs of the two gods on either side of a column, twin sanctuaries, and twin chambers. The eastern (right) half of the temple was devoted to Sobek, his wife Hathor, and their son Khonsu. Whereas, the western (left) half of the temple was devoted to Horus, his wife Tasenetnofret, and their son Panebtawy. It is likely that there were also two separate priesthoods who tended to the deities.
Much of the temple has been destroyed by natural forces and builders who used its materials for other projects. Some of the reliefs were defaced by Copts who once used the temple as their church. However, what survived is still reminiscent of its magnificent history. The walls and columns are decorated with finely executed reliefs of both gods. Some surfaces even managed to hold onto their original colors.
To give the gods a ‘voice’, in the sanctuary there is a false door decorated with a relief depicting Sobek and Horus with their cult scepters. Sobek’s sign of power is a lion-headed wand, while Horus’s is a strange knife with legs. In the middle of the false door is an oracle niche with ‘hearing ears’ and ‘sacred eyes’ through which the priests would deliver answers to the requests of pilgrims. Above them is the winged goddess Ma’at holding up the sky.
A relief showing medical instruments for performing surgery is among the most intriguing feature of the temple. It can be found in the building’s rear, in the passageway that surrounds the main area. The depicted surgical instruments include scalpels, curettes, forceps, dilators, scissors, medicine bottles and prescriptions. The image is completed with two goddesses sitting on birthing chairs. At the time the relief was carved, Egyptian medical science was almost certainly the most advanced in the world.
Back in the forecourt is a Crocodile Museum where you can see remains of mummified crocodiles.