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Kalabsha Temple

Kalabsha Temple

The temple of Kalabsha (Kalabshe) built by the Roman emperor Augustus near Aswan and the Dakka temple farther south are interesting as well because they date to Egypt's Greek and Roman periods around 1,000 years after the heyday of the pharaohs. You'll also see Beit El Wali, a temple with ancient drawings, and Kertassi, a columned monument.


At Kalabsha, the width of the Nile narrowed to 300 metres. "It is thought that this rocky stretch of the river had once been a cataract but has long since eroded," Ismail notes, before informing his readers that Kalabsha fell precisely on the Tropic of Cancer and that it was the capital of the ancient Balmiz . At Kalabsha (Kalabshe) stood the remains of two great temples that had continued to function through the Hellenic, Roman and early Christian eras. It was here, too, that Ramses II was victorious over the Nubians.

Further up river, on the east bank, the boat passed Korsika, the juncture of the overland route to Sudan and, from the other side of the river, of the caravan route westwards towards North Africa.

Soon afterwords, the boat approached Abu Simbel on the west bank. "On this site there was once located a populous city called Abu Kis in which stood the Temple of Hathor. Carved into the cliff. This temple was constructed by Ramses II and his wife Nefartari whose statues and those of their children ornament the façade." As for Abu Simbel, This is the largest Egyptian temple in Nubia.
The temple of Kalabsha (Kalabshe) near Aswan and the Dakka temple in Nubia
Kalabsha Temple was moved to its present location in 1970, together with other monuments from Nubia. Reachable by taxi or by boat, depending on the water level, the sandstone edifice was built by the Roman Emperor Octavius Augustus and dedicated to the fertility god Mandulis. The Kiosk of Qertassi, with its two Hathor-headed columns, was moved at the same time and now stands near the water commanding fine views over Lake Nasser. Nearby, dug into the hillside, is another of Ramses II's Nubian monuments to military might; Beit al-Wali celebrates his victories over the Nubians, Ethiopians, Asiatics and Libyans and brightly-coloured scenes inside the temple show Ramses making offerings to the gods.

Many of Upper Egypt's monuments have been moved to save them from the waters of the old Aswan Dam and the Aswan High Dam. At Aswan itself, the temples of Philae and Kalabsha have been dismantled and rebuilt stone by stone in new locations. These ruins date from the time of the Ptolemies-the Greek dynasty founded by a general of Alexander the Great-who ruled Egypt for three centuries, until Rome overthrew Cleopatra and Mark Antony in 30 B.C. Philae, the larger of the two, still retains a patina of age and mystery on its island site.

Visitors will be able to tour the magnificent temples of the New Kalabsha Island, 56 kilometres south of Aswan. The temples -- Kalabsha, Beit Al- Wali, Gerf Hussein and the Kiosk of Kartassi -- have been restored, and the area surrounding them revamped and provided with tourist facilities. The temples were originally transported to the present site courtesy of the German Federal Republic within the framework of a UNESCO-sponsored salvage operation in the 1960s.

Apart from the twin Abu Simbel Temple complex, which took priority in the project to save Nubia's ancient heritage, the Kalabsha Temple compound was the most important. It included the main temple of Kalabsha, the largest free- standing temple in Nubia; Beit Al-Wali, the smallest temple built by Ramses II; Gerf Hussein, the first temple he constructed in Nubia; and the Kiosk of Kartassi, known as a symbolic birthplace of the gods.

A wooden dock had been constructed and Lake Nasser cruise vessels can easily transport their clients to the temple compound. Even Aswan inhabitants can hire a motor boat and make their way there. To enhance the island's attractions and encourage visitors to tour its remarkable monuments a path has been paved with slabs of granite, brought from the Aswan quarries, to connect the Kalabsha and Beit Al-Wali Temples to the Kiosk of Kertassi and the Gerf Hussein Temple.

Mindful of the culture of the country they were occupying, the Ptolemaic and Roman overlords closely mimicked the ancient styles and honored the old gods — with a few improvements.

Greek-trained craftsmen carved the familiar Egyptian deities in the more contemporary bas-relief style with more physical detail, yielding beautiful wall carvings that have now been artfully lit from below.

This is an examples of the distinctive paintings which once adorned Nubian houses, as well as images of Nubia and the projects which have taken place there since the initial threat from the construction of the first barrage at Aswan, the Aswan Dam, and its subsequent heightening, which successively obscured the culture of Nubia even while providing modern technology to feed Egypt's ever-increasing population. In the museum garden, too, are 62 projected slides by the late Abdel-Fattah Eid, and publications by foreign missions which have excavated in Nubia. Also in the garden are graphics covering topics ranging from the now- submerged mines in southern Nubia, through the type of grave known as C-group, the Egyptian fortresses at the Second Cataract and the decline of Egyptian influence in Nubia and Kush (Sudan).

There are several small cruisers operating on Lake Nasser, to the south of the Aswan Dam (if you're booking, one of the best boats is the MS Eugenie). The lake is totally different to the rest of the Nile, and not just in scale either, as you'll be surrounded by the silence of the desert rather than fields and villages.

As for those on Lake Nasser cruises, the High Dam port to the south makes it more convenient for them to visit the saved temple of Kalabsha and the rock tomb of Beit Al-Wali during the single night they spend in Aswan. It's possible to cruise from Aswan to the temple at Abu Simbel, visiting deserted temples such as Kalabsha and Mandoulis along the way.

For More Information Visit: Aswan Tourism and Tourist Information

Last Updated on Sunday 5th December 2010