Ramses II or Ramses the Great ranks easily as one of the most well-known of all Ancient Egyptian pharaohs. This is for many reasons. He had one of the longest reigns in the Pharaonic era. He was one of the most powerful in history, leading many successful campaigns north and south, and west to Libya. He fought sea pirates and celebrated an unmatched 14 Sed festivals before dying at the age of 90.
There are scores of monumental structures built during his reign, and some of them are famous throughout the world. Abu Simbel, for example, is one example, but so too is the Temple of Derr. Once sitting on the eastern shore of the Nile (which makes it the only one of its kind), it is a beautifully made, rock-cut temple dedicated to the god Ra-Horakhty.
Not meant for show, it was a temple designed to support the assimilation of Nubians into Egyptian life. Yet, it faced ruin when the Aswan High Dam was complete. Rather than risk losing something so significant, the Temple of Derr was relocated along with the Temple of Amada to a new and secure location.
Over 120 miles south of Aswan, it has been safely restored and is a destination of incredible interest to many travelers. Often part of the itinerary on a Lake Nasser cruise, the Temple of Derr was considered a ruin before it was relocated.
Abandoned and looted, then used as a church by early Christians, much of its decorative work had disappeared over time. Yet, during relocation and restoration, some of the powerful, painted reliefs were found to be in much better condition than what was previously believed, and still showed the pharaoh’s love of bright colors.
SOME DETAILS ABOUT THE TEMPLE OF DERR
Though it once featured a pylon and forecourt, those were lost long before the Temple of Derr was relocated. Today, visitors will be able to see two hypostyle halls that bring them into the triple sanctuary. There, you find a space where an array of statues once stood, including one of the pharaoh, Ptah, Amon-Re and Ra-Horakhty. It is also where the vividly colored decorative paintings were discovered during the restoration. The painted ceiling depicts vultures and the walls show scenes of the pharaoh engaging in purification rituals along with images of other gods.
The reliefs are also meant to show the power of the pharaoh and illustrate the famed Nubian campaign of the pharaoh, with ample images of him smiting enemies in the company of his pet lion.
The Temple of Derr is also a neighbor to the famous Temple of Amada, the oldest temple ever found in Nubia, and built by Thutmose III, though finished by his son Amenhotep II. Altered by succeeding leaders, it is considered quite small and unassuming from the outside, but it is what visitors find inside that make it so interesting.
Moved in a single piece to spare it from the waters of Lake Nasser, it has a hypostyle hall with 12 pillars, and inner chambers with some of the most astonishing reliefs and paintings ever found, they depict pharaohs Thutmose III and his son Amenhotep II making offerings to the gods and participating in different Pharaonic rituals. They are considered to be some of the finest reliefs discovered, and their colors are surprisingly vibrant for a temple of this age
This site is also home to two stele noted for their remarkable inscriptions explaining the brutal suppression of the Libyan invasion around 1209 BCE and the military campaigns of Amenhotep II into far away Palestine around 1424 BCE.
Both temples are worth a visit as they are excellent examples of Nubian Egyptian history. Both were meant to help assimilate the population and convey the power of the Egyptian rulers.
VISITING THE TEMPLE OF DERR
As mentioned, a visit to the Temple of Derr part of a Lake Nasser cruise or a day trip from Aswan, and you can opt to reach the site via your cruise ship or hire a private transport to the area. And as we usually suggest when explaining how to plan an excursion to a significant Egyptian destination, you will want to hire a knowledgeable guide, or join in on a professionally organized tour.
The Temple of Derr is incredibly relevant because it represents an example of the pharaoh’s favorite style of architecture – the rock-cut method. It uses a lot of bold colors and features some remarkable painted reliefs and imagery. It is considered one of the most elaborate of the temples he built, and it was a rarity among the rock-cut structures because it was the only one to be set along the eastern banks of the river.
It is easy to reach, but as it is south of Aswan, it can be very hot year round. Because of that, travelers are always advised to wear lose and protective clothing, sun block, hats and sun glasses. Bring some water and always wear comfortable walking shoes as these sites do require you to do a bit of exploration to make the most of the experience.
The Temple of Derr has earned a “must see” status among those interested in Egyptian travel. It is small and a bit out of the way, but as it was the creation of what many feel was the greatest pharaoh of all Egyptian history, it makes it worthy of the trip. The unique layout, with the pillars of the first hall facing the center of the temple, and the beauty of the relief paintings with their bold and unique imagery also ensure it will not disappoint.
Whether you pair it with other relocated temples tucked safely out of harm’s way along the banks of Lake Nasser, or on some of its islands, or you head to this area just to see the one temple, it will only add to your experience. As a unique part of Ancient Egyptian history, it should be on your “must see” list when visiting Egypt.