The building of the Aswan High Dam forced the relocation of people and ancient sites in the southern region of Egypt. Many structures would have been lost if the Egyptian government in cooperation with other international groups did not take steps to lovingly disassemble and then reassemble many sites. Abu Simbel is a leading example, but there are scores of other sites, and the Temple of Dakka is among them.
There are many questions about the date that it was built, though, with some experts saying it dates to 220 BCE, when it was built by the Meroitic (Nubian) king known as Akamani. However, others say that it was an earlier Ptolemaic rule known as Ptolemy II who is responsible. Still others insist that it was earlier than that and a work done by Ptolemy IV around 222-205 BCE. However, what most scholars have come to agree upon is that it was likely a joint project between the Ptolemaic Pharaohs and the Nubian kings.
NOTE: The discovery of some depictions of the god Horus have also led many modern researchers to feel the Temple of Dakka could be far older than originally believed, even dating to Hatshepsut or Thutmose III. However, many also argue that it could be a classic case of the reuse of blocks from an earlier structure in the same area.
Its location near the site of the Aswan High Dam meant it had to have a new home, and in the 1960s, it was moved to the famous Wadi el-Seboua area. This places it close to several other temples also spared from the rising waters (including the Temple of Wadi el-Seboua, the Temple of Amun built by Ramses II, and the mysterious little Temple of Maharraqua) and roughly 25 miles upriver from its original home.
THE TEMPLE OF DAKKA TODAY
Visitors today find it on a small bluff, standing alone and showing off its impressively stylistic design. It is utterly unique in that it was designed to be oriented north to south, parallel to the Nile; a façade positioning unlike any other temple of its kind.
The overall structure of the Temple of Dakka is quite traditional and uses a dramatic pylon (which stands on its own since the original walls were gone before the relocation was required) as well as a courtyard and two sanctuaries. The double sanctuary layout is believed to have been the end result of the different hands at work in the design and improvements to the Temple of Dakka over the centuries.
The free standing pylon is unique as it is, as well as its absence of any sort of enclosing wall. However, the pylon is also outstanding for the use of a solar disk and serpent at the entrance. It also has another innovation – a small door in the southern portion that takes the individual to a set of stairs that lead to different rooms contained within the pylon itself.
Pass through and you reach the courtyard. The relief work in this space is often cited by scholars to identify the Temple of Dakka with the Ptolemaic rules. There are many bas-reliefs that show a Ptolemaic pharaoh making traditional offerings to an array of gods. Within the sanctuaries, though, this is altered. They are full of reliefs that show the Nubian king, Arkamani, making offerings to many Egyptian gods, including Thoth to whom the Temple of Dakka is dedicated. There are also depictions of another king, thought to be the Roman Augustus also making offerings to such familiar Egyptian gods as Anquet, Thoth, Isis, Tefnut and Sekhmet.
It surprises many that the Temple of Dakka has remained so well preserved over time since it also once served as a Roman fortress and underwent a full transformation with protective walls and other alterations. Today’s visitors can see signs of the changing leadership in Egypt by looking for the different graffiti in an array of ancient languages, including Meroitic, Greek and Demotic among others.
Experts say that the Temple of Dakka was once very similar to the large and impressive Temple of Wadi es-Seboua nearby, with the exception of the avenue of sphinxes that so distinguishes the larger temple. Yet, experts do point out that, prior to the relocation of the temple, it had a 180 foot long processional approach that extended from the pylon all of the way to a terrace at the edge of the Nile’s waters.
PAYING A VISIT
If you are planning a Lake Nasser cruise or headed to the Aswan area, it makes a lot of sense to schedule a visit to this temple. Not only is it a fascinating look at the later Pharaonic age and the Nubian leaders, too, but it is also a chance to see those three other temples easily.
Whether you head to this area specifically to tour the site, or you are on a wider tour of the region, it is easily accessible by water or land. In fact, many visitors pay a visit as part of a Lake Nasser cruise, though just as many hire a water taxi from Aswan (just 4km away) to enjoy a day trip to the Wadi el-Souba.
There is no admission fee for any of the temples on the site, but to make the very most of it, you should hire a knowledgeable and professional guide. They can help you visualize what the temples would have been like in their prime and even before their relocation. There is so much to take in at any of the ancient sites, and it is far more rewarding to journey to them in the company an expert. Don’t forget that this area is known for higher temperatures, and it is wise to bring water, dress comfortably, and wear comfortable shoes, as you will want to pay a visit to each of the wonderfully preserved temples at this site.