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The Temple of Hatshepsut in Deir el Bahari

by M. Maxine George


The Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahari 2018

 photo courtesy of Julie Bergeron


The Temple of Hatshepsut 1988


A highlight of my tour of the West side of the Nile was a return visit to Deir el-Bahari to see the Temple of Hatshepsut. The valley was consecrated to the goddess Hathor. Approaching the valley on my first visit, I was awestruck by the sight of this magnificent temple appearing at the bottom of the huge cliff. There it was, apparently in the middle of no-where, the impressive Temple of Hatshepsut. This temple is also known as Djeser-Djeseru or Holy of Holies. The setting of the temple is magnificent. It is nestled at the base of a massive, fan-shaped rock cliff. Great stone ramps lead to the second story with it's tall columns then on to the third story. Porticos on each side of the second story, are dedicated to ancient deities. One is dedicated to the goddess Hathor. Her image, with the ears of a cow, is to be seen at the top of the columns. Queen Hatshepsut ordered this temple built as a funerary monument for her father, Tuthmose I, and herself.



Hatshepsut was the wife of the Pharaoh Tuthmose II. Upon his death she reigned as Co-regent for her infant step-son and nephew Tuthmose III. She ruled, quite successfully, during the 18th Dynasty, from 1473 to 1458, as the country prospered. Rather than war, she focussed on trade and building her mortuary temple. History tells us that she took an expedition to "Punt", which is believed to have been a trade mission to either Eritrea or Somalia. Among the many things she brought back were frankincense trees. Those trees were planted along the facade in front of her temple. A diversion of the Nile once provided moisture to this soil, so that trees and flowers could be grown there. Now, we saw only a large sand and rock expanse as we walked the long causeway and ramps leading to the temple. There is a historical record that they grew those frankincense trees there then. Now all that remains is the small stump of a tree, with a sign saying it was the last remaining tree of that period.


A small tree root lies within the caged area under the sign


On the walls of the second portico, bas reliefs depict the birth of Queen Hatshepsut, herself. These birth reliefs would have been done to legitimize her right to rule Egypt. They depict Tuthmose I, as the god Amun, impregnating her mother, Ahmose with his breath. The architect, Senenmut, who built this monument to his Queen, was believed to have been her lover, the father of her daughter.


The new causeway leading to the temple

Posterity can be grateful to a Christian convent, which was installed here at some later period. They prevented further destruction of this the largest temple of an Egyptian Queen. Also, they would have been responsible for naming Deir el Bahari, which translates roughly to mean either Northern Monastery or Monastery by the Sea.



Statues on second floor terrace

On this visit I found that the three levels of the Temple are presently being restored by Warsaw’s Polish Academy of Science. The three terraces are meant to be nearly 100 feet tall and connected by long ramps. Many depictions of Hatshepsut were destroyed by her step-son, Tuthmose III, after her death. As we were there during the afternoon heat of the day, I would like to return again someday, in the early morning, to further examine the changes being made to this marvellous monument.


Colours still bright on wall paintings in Hatshepsut's temple

Note the ceiling is painted blue with stars


A footnote to the history of this site: When robbers stole the contents of the tombs, they usually tore the jewels from the bodies, then abandoned the mummies in the hills. Having been dispossessed of their tombs, and no longer identifiable, the mummies of the Pharaohs, when discovered, were rewrapped and then placed in two known caches. The first cache to be found was in the tomb of Queen Inhapi in Deir el-Bahari. This cache was found in 1875. The other cache, in the tomb of Amenhotep KV35, was discovered in 1898 and along with other mummies, contained nine Royal mummies. Some mummies were not easily identifiable, so in recent times, DNA and ultrasound has been used to try to make positive identification. This has been made especially difficult owing to the prevalence of intermarriage between members of the royal family and plural relationships. Intermarriage was thought to make their royal connections stronger, however, it led to much repetition in their genetic makeup. However, by DNA research, scientists were able to verify many of the incestuous relationships that were referred to in the historical records.


Hathor Columns




  Story  by M. Maxine George

Pictures by M. Maxine George and Julie Bergeron

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Last Updated on November 05, 2018 by M. Maxine George editor.