Location: 4 km southwest of Qena on the West Bank of the Nile
Not wheelchair friendly
Dendera – Greek Tentyra – is situated on the western bank of the Nile south of Abydos, where the river makes a great curve to the east. Hathor, the sacred cow, was the popular deity there. Evidence of actual temple building at Dendera dates to the Middle Kingdom, and some restoration was carried out in the New Kingdom, when Thutmos III revived the greatly popular ancient “Voyage of Hathor”. Complete reconstruction, however, was started under the later Ptolemies and was finished some 185 years later under the Roman emperor Tiberius, with the names of other 1st century AD emperors appearing on the entrance gateway. It is, therefore, of Ptolemaic style.
The Ptolemies claimed that they were constructing the temple on the site of an ancient monument built by the pharaohs of the Old Kingdom. In dedicating a temple to Hathor, the Ptolemies were honouring one of Egypt’s best loved deities. Hathor was sometimes depicted as a cow, sometimes as a female figure with the head of a cow, and later with a woman’s head and the ears of a cow. She was a widely popular goddess, and although Dendera was her cult centre, she was well known far afield.
The Temple of Hathor comprises a Great Hypostyle Hall which has 18 Hathor columns once painted in brilliant colours. They supported a roof that is divided into 7 sections, each of which is decorated with astronomical scenes. These are similar to those which adorn most Ptolemaic temples, but nowhere are they so well preserved as on the ceiling of the Hypostyle at Dendera. The Second Hypostyle hall has 6 columns with richly ornamented capitals. Three small chambers on each side of the temple were used as stores, treasuries or repositories for offerings. The ante-chamber is decorated with 4 rows of reliefs of offerings to the deities of Dendera. The Boat shrine – is a place where only the pharaoh himself or the high priest was permitted to enter - a holy place where a sacred boat of Hathor lay. And the Crypts - the subterranean chambers where the treasures of the temple were stored or hidden.