The Temple of Kom Ombo, Egypt

While in Egypt, we visited probably a half dozen temples. After a while, they can sort of blur together. The Temple of Kom Ombo, however is one that is particularly interesting in design.

The Temple of Kom Ombo is located in Upper Egypt in the Aswan Governorate. The temple was built in the 2nd century BC, during the Ptolemaic dynasty – the last dynasty before Egypt fell into Roman rule after Cleopatra VII lost the Battle of Actium.

The Kom Ombo temple was designed in an unusual double temple style. It was actually built for two sets of gods, so the halls, sanctuaries and courts are all duplicated. The double entrance to the temple is below:

Kom Ombo temple, Egypt

The southern (right) side was dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god, along with Hathor and Khonsu. The northern (left) side of the temple was dedicated to the falcon god Horus, as well as the lesser-known gods, Tasenetnofret and Panebtawy. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s sort out these gods and their importance to the ancient Egyptians.

The Ancient Gods and Goddesses of Kom Ombo Temple

Gods of the Southern Side of the Temple

Sobek, the crocodile god, took on many roles. He was the god of fertility, military strength, and pharaonic power in general. He also protected against the hazards of the Nile. Sobek was a pretty big deal back in the day – the entire region of Faiyum (then known as Shedet), encircling one of the oldest cities in Egypt, centered around the cult of Sobek. Outside of the Faiyum, Kom Ombo was the largest cult center dedicated to Sobek.

Hathor was the goddess of music, dance, happiness, fertility, motherhood, and foreign lands. She was often depicted as a cow deity, holding a sun disk between the horns on her head. (Predynastic cults often used imagery of the cow to depict nature and fertility). Needless to say, she was an important and popular deity in ancient Egypt.

The photo below depicts Hathor, on the far left, and Sobek, to her immediate right:

Sobek hieroglyph Kom Ombo

A hieroglyph depicting Hathor and Sobek at Kom Ombo temple

Khonsu may not be a name you think of when you think of the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt. Khonsu was the god of the moon. Interestingly, in Thebes, he was worshipped as the son of Mut and Amun. But at Kom Ombo, he was worshipped as the son of Sobek and Hathor. He was often depicted as a man with the head of a hawk or falcon. In his human form, he’s in the form of a mummy with a sidelock of hair, to signify childhood. His name means “traveller,” as the moon travelled through the sky at night. He was thought to protect those who travelled at night.

Gods of the Northern Side of the Temple

Horus was the falcon god, and one of the oldest gods in ancient Egypt. He was also known as Horus the Elder, and Egyptians worshipped him as a sky god and one of the great creators. In early Egypt, he was the brother of Osiris, Isis, Set and Nephthys. But in later representations, he became the son of Osiris and Isis. As a sky god, he held the sun in his right eye, and the moon in his left, which he carried across the sky in his falcon form. The Eye of Horus was a symbol of protection, royalty, and good health.

In the hieroglyph below, Horus is shown just to the right of center, and to the right of Hathor. Also note Sobek to the far left.

Kom Ombo temple hieroglyph Horus

Tasenetnofret was the consort of Horus, and mother to Panebtawy. Her name means “good or beautiful sister”. She appears to have been a local deity of Kom Ombo and a manifestation of the goddess Hathor. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find much information on her. (If you have more info, let me know!)

Panebtawy was the son of Horus and Tasenetnofret. He was often depicted as a young boy with a finger to his lips. His name meant “Lord of the Two Lands”.

Kom Ombo Temple

Ptolemy VI Philometor (180–145 BC) started work on Kom Ombo temple at the beginning of his reign. Other Ptolemies continued construction and expansion.  Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator (51–47 BCE), Cleopatra VII’s brother and co-ruler, built the inner and outer hypostyles.

Kom Ombo hypostyle columns

Kom Ombo temple columns

Roman emperor Trajan (53-117 AD) added the forecourt and outer enclosure walls. Unfortunately, much of this section, including the great pylon, which most Egyptian temples had, no longer exist. Only low walls and stumps of pillars remain.

Kom Ombo forecourt pillars

row of columns at the Temple of Kom Ombo

The temple itself has two identical entrances, hypostyle halls and sanctuaries for the two sets of gods. Kom Ombo was built on the ruins of an older temple, also dedicated to Sobek.

Kom Ombo temple

The temple resides at a bend in the Nile River, where crocodiles used to gather in ancient times. The Crocodile museum houses several mummified crocodiles, highlighting just how important Sobek was to their ancient belief system.

Note the relief above the doorway, where Sobek and Hathor appear to accept an offering:

Kom Ombo temple entrance

The temple consists of a front courtyard, a hypostyle hall, three inner halls, and two sanctuaries; one dedicated to Sobek and the other to Horus. The temples are divided into seven main chambers and smaller rooms, used for different rituals.

Kom Ombo temple

This is a cartouche in Kom Ombo temple. A cartouche is an oval or oblong circle encasing a set of hieroglyphs. This usually represents the name of a monarch. Does anyone know whose name this particular cartouche represents?

Kom Ombo cartouche

Another cartouche surrounded by additional hieroglyphs. This cartouche represents the Ptolemy family name.

Kom Ombo temple cartouche

This was one of my favourite hieroglyphs. I found it unusual since most hieroglyphs depict faces from a profile view, and this one was head-on. Who is it supposed to be, I wonder?

Kom Ombo hieroglyph face

Parts of the temple sustained damage from floods, earthquakes, and other builders who dismantled portions of the temple for other construction projects. When the Coptic church took over the building for its own house of worship, they defaced and destroyed many of the hieroglyphs inside the temple.

However, in 1893, an archaeologist named Jacques de Morgan cleared the debris from the southern section of the temple and restored the buildings to their former grandeur.

Kom Ombo templeKom Ombo temple exterior

Getting There

Kom Ombo is located approximately 47km north of Aswan (about an hour away). If you’re travelling on a group tour, you’re very likely to visit the Kom Ombo Temple, as it’s a very popular tourist destination. It’s usually in combination with a visit to the Temple of Edfu.

GPS Coordinates: 24° 27′ 59.99″ N 32° 56′ 59.99″ E

Opening Hours: 9am-5pm

Admission: LE 80

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