Kom Ombo Temple

Page update - Sep 7, 2023

The temple at Kom Ombo is considered one of the most interesting in Egypt. Firstly, half of it is dedicated to the god Sobek, god with a crocodile head. Sobek was in charge of fertility and the flooding of the Nile. His shrines are rare in other temples popular with tourists.

Secondly, it is a double temple dedicated to two gods at the same time, the second god is Horus we discussed in detail in the review on the Temple at Edfu. Thirdly, there are crocodile mummies which are the 'hallmark' of the site.

Similar to the temple in the city of Edfu, this complex was built during the last period of Egypt's ancient history while the country was ruled by the pharaohs of Greek descent, descendants of Alexander the Great's companion, Ptolemy. Their dynasty was called so, and all the pharaohs took the name of Ptolemy. We told you about them in detail in the review about the temple at Edfu (find the link in paragraph above).

Construction began under Ptolemy VI and continued right up to the time of the Roman Empire. The last additions were made under the Roman Emperor Trajan, an outer courtyard and walls were added to the temple.

Like Edfu Temple, Kom Ombo one has perfectly preserved inscriptions and wall paintings, which have become invaluable sources of knowledge for Egyptologists. Many of the drawings keep different colors, which is not seen in other temples. We should remind you that originally all the drawings were created in different colors, just in the older temples coloring has disappeared over time.

The temple is completely symmetrical, with the southern part dedicated to the god Sobek and the northern part to the god Horus. Sobek is a very interesting and colorful god. He was depicted as a man with a crocodile's head, or simply as a crocodile.

Sobek (or Sebek) has been worshiped by Egyptians since the Old Kingdom. He is even mentioned in the "songs of the pyramids" that pharaohs are incarnations of Sobek and are similar to him.

Sobek was the god of fertility and the flooding of the Nile, which for the ancient Egyptians was one and the same. But he had other functions in different times. During the Middle Kingdom, he merged with Horus in the form of the god Sobek-Horus, being the patron saint of the Egyptian pharaohs. During the New Kingdom, he gained the greatest popularity, personifying the Sun, in the form of Sobek-Ra.

In addition, at various times he was considered the patron saint of military valor and military prowess. And at all times in Egypt, it was believed that he ruled crocodiles. Praying to him protected from the crocodile attack.

In ancient times, there were many more crocodiles in the Nile than there are today, and attacks on humans were constant. The Egyptians had only two defenses against this reptile, good attention and prayers to gods.

This particular place, a bend in the river near the city of Kom Ombo, was a favorite place for crocodiles. No wonder the temple of Sobek is located there. In ancient times, the Nile valley was richer in fauna, not only crocodiles but also hippos. Legend says a hippopotamus ate a pharaoh called Menes. On the one hand this is nonsense, as hippos are exclusively herbivorous animals. But if you remember the ancient mythology, it becomes clear that this is just a figurative expression, the hippopotamus was an embodiment of the god Seth, associated with evil forces.

Kom Ombo is visited on a Nile cruise tour, 60 kilometers (37 miles) upstream from Edfu and 50 kilometers (31 miles) downstream from Aswan. Most cruises include a visit to the temple in Edfu and Kom Ombo on the same day and one of these temples is visited in the evening, both sites being illuminated at night.

You see the main gate of the temple in the photo above, which is called the Neos Deonis Gate which has nothing to do with the Greek god. Of course, the Greeks promoted their culture and religion during Egyptian rule, but not so much as to name something in an Egyptian temple after a Greek god. Neos Deonis is the name of Ptolemy XII, the ruler of the country, who built the gate.

Note the absence of the traditional large gate, also called the "pylon", which was originally there but has now been destroyed. The temple is located in not the most fortunate way. The water reached there in the years of the highest Nile River flood, and some parts of the temple did not survive the impact of the water.

After passing through the gate, you enter the main column hall. Note that the tops of the columns are in the shape of a lily, the symbol of Upper Egypt. 15 large columns are located there.

The temple is divided into two symmetrical parts. One is dedicated to Sobek and the other to Horus. The drawings on the walls are very similar, many depicting the same scenes but involving these two gods. Horus was depicted with the head of a falcon and Sobek with the head of a crocodile. The photo below depicts a scene involving Horus and his wife, the goddess Tesentefert. A very interesting name, we recommend it to speakers for practice.

After the large and small column hall, you enter some not very large rooms used for religious ceremonies. You can view the paintings, most often depicting various scenes of Ptolemaic pharaohs presenting gifts to the gods and asking for their blessing and help.

To the west of the Great Hall of Columns, there is a room that had a very important function, but not all guides explain its purpose correctly.

On the outside it resembles a well, although it is in fact a well, but its main function was still different. It was a "nilometer", a structure for measuring the height of the Nile River flood level. The priests recorded the height of the water each year.

For a long time, the priests worked to identify patterns in the height of the flood to be able to predict droughts and floods. Many temples, for example the Karnak temple, had a special wall where they also recorded the height of the water.

Many guides tell tourists that crocodiles were bred there thinking that it would be more interesting for tourists. And one can agree with them, as the 'nilometer' is not of great interest to all visitors.

Crocodiles did breed on the temple grounds, but in a slightly different place. The small pond was not far from the shrine of the goddess Hathor, who was the wife of the god Sobek. It was there that you can see the most interesting thing of all, the crocodile mummies.

There are a total of three mummies there, which were found accidentally, during the construction of the highway. There were many more mummies, some 300 in number, but they have now been dispersed to museums and private collections.

The mummies and the well-preserved inscriptions are the main "highlights" in the temple. The inscriptions are not only well preserved but also retain their colors, certainly not as bright as they were during the pharaohs of the Ptolemaic dynasty.

Entry price

If traveling on your own, the ticket price is 240 Egyptian pounds. See our review "Money in Egypt" for the actual pound exchange rates.

Opening hours

7 am to 9 pm (7-00 to 21-00), no days off.

Helpful tips

- If you want to see more crocodile mummies, then go to the nearby Crocodile Museum. There are 22 other mummies there that were found in Aswan. Admission to the museum is included in the price of the main ticket;

- Kom Ombo is a small provincial city. Even an exchange office will be a problem to find there. Change money in advance, read our in-depth review "Money Exchange in Egypt";

- Tourists on a tour along the Nile have the city of Aswan as their next stop.

We wish you a vivid temple experience in Kom Ombo, and read our interesting pages about Egypt (find the pages list below).


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