The Temple of Beit El Wali is one of the remarkable yet less visited temples of ancient Egypt. It is located about 55 kilometers south of Aswan in the lands of Nubia.
The temple was dedicated to the worship of the god Amun and the god Khnum. It was relocated after the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s. The fascinating Temple of Abu Simbel and the Temple of Philae was also relocated along with the Temple of Beit El Wali to another place that is higher than its original location to avoid damage from the water of the Nile. This mission was accomplished by Polish architects with funding from a Swiss institution and another institute in Chicago.
About The Builder Of The Temple Of Beit El Wali, Ramses II
Ramses II was the third king of the 19th dynasty during the New Kingdom in Ancient Egypt. He was the son of king Teti III and is considered to be the greatest Pharaoh that ever ruled over Egypt. He is certainly the best builder that the land of the Nile ever had. Many of the astonishing structures which were constructed in ancient Egypt that tourists view today were ordered by Ramses II and he is credited for establishing, renewing, and restoring a large number of buildings during his time.
The constructions of Ramses II included the Temple of Abu Simbel, his mortuary Temple of the Rammasuem in the West Bank of Luxor, many sections in the Temples of Karnak and Luxor, and this is besides a large collection of huge statues of himself like the one located in the Memphis Open Air Museum, to the South of Saqqara today.
Ramses II who led a lot of successful military campaigns in all directions, especially towards the Nubians in the South and the Hittites in the East signed the first peace treaty in history with the Hittites after the great battle of Qadesh that Ramses has always been boasting about in many temples all around Egypt.
The Construction and the History of the Temple of Beit El Wali
Carved into the rock, the Temple of Beit El Wali was constructed by Ramses II in Nubia as proof of his strong control over the area. Many of the carvings and decorations of the temple are still preserved, however, some of them lost their magnificent colors. Beit El Wali was built by cutting inside the sand rocks of the mountains of Nubia. It follows that style of construction as other examples include the magnificent huge Temple of Abu Simbel, which was also relocated after the building of the High Dam.
The original location of the Temple of Beit El Wali was rather strange as it was constructed in an isolated spot far from any modern or ancient towns. This was why many historians believe that the Temple of Beit El Wali was constructed by Ramses II to show off his power and control in Nubia, rather than building a religious structure for the inhabitants of the area to practice their rituals. A small number of priests were assigned by Ramses II to manage the temple and rituals were never carried out on a regular basis.
Description Of The Temple Of Beit El Wali
The structure of the Temple of Beit El Wali was modified at the beginning of the Christian period and many of its colors and reliefs are still in good shape. Maybe this is why the temple was named "Beit El Wali" or "the Temple of the pious leader" as it served as a house for monks and Christian leaders for a long period when the Copts of Egypt escaped the brutality of the Romans and fled to southern Egypt.
The Temple of Beit El Wali most liked had a large pylon in front of the main courtyard and the entrance inside the temple was in the same style as the Temple of Abu Simbel. Moreover, it was constructed following a regular proportional plan that consisted of a relatively large hall, some chambers, and then the sanctuary at the end. An open courtyard is situated in front of the temple and it was cut out of the rock as well. The main structure that remains from the Temple of Beit El Wali is located just north of the open courtyard that has a private entrance as well.
The main structure of the temple is around thirteen meters long and six meters wide making the whole structure measure around 75 square meters, which is quite small in comparison to other temples of ancient Egypt such as the Karnak, Luxor, or Queen Hatshepsut temples. In the original plan, there was also a corridor that takes visitors inside the temple. It had a ceiling while the rest of the hall was left in the open air.
The Military Achievements Of Ramses II
The wall carvings in the main hall or structure of the Temple of Beit El Wali are considered to be of significant importance as they record and display details of the military achievements of Ramses II. There is evidence proving that king Ramses II built this temple to show off his greatness rather than for any religious reasons and maybe this was why it was constructed in a different and unusual location as well.
The walls to the left of the main structure of the Temple of Beit El Wali display the battles that Ramses II won in Nubia and how he was able to control the tribes living there. The walls to the right represent some details of other victories of Ramses II in the east near the present-day Egyptian-Libyan border and to the west near present-day Syria.
The sons of Ramses II, who officially had eight royal wives and a large number of children, are also included in some of the displays representing the military victories of Ramses II in Nubia. Historians were never able to ascertain if the sons of Ramses II participated in these military campaigns or not. The age of two sons of Ramses during the times when the king fought to gain control over Nubia, was only between five and eight years old. Therefore, it was impossible that they really participated in the battles but maybe they accompanied their father to learn from his exceptional skills on the battlefield at an early age.
Ramses II And Nubia
Not only did he gain control over Nubia, but Ramses II also forced the Nubians to pay him taxes and he never forgot to display this fact in the carvings of the walls of the Temple of Beit El Wali. There are some interesting scenes carved into the rock on the walls of the main hall of the Temple of Beit El Wali. One of them displays several men holding different materials on their shoulders like ebony and taking care of animals including ostrich and gazelles. This portrayal represents the goods that Ramses II brought from Nubia to his homeland in Egypt.
These carvings were made following a rather different style and form from in other temples as they were uncomplicated scenes and some of the portrayals seem almost comic. Furthermore, scholars and Egyptologists have never found the reason behind this uncommon style of recording historical events on the walls of the temples of ancient Egypt.
Unfortunately, the walls situated at the last section of the main hall of the Temple of Beit El Wali were badly damaged. A doorway afterward leads to a wide antechamber with a ceiling that is based on two large columns. The small sanctuary of the Temple of Beit El Wali is reached through the antechamber. Being around three meters wide and not more than three meters and a half long, it is relatively small in comparison to any other sanctuary constructed in Ancient Egypt. The most significant feature of the sanctuary is these three statues displaying king Ramses with the gods.
The Temple of Beit El Wali is considered to be one of the most remarkable surviving temples of ancient Egypt in Nubia. This is in addition to the Temple of Gerf Hussein which was constructed by the same builder of Beit El Wali, the Great Ramses II. However, Beit El Wali was only built a few years before the construction of the Temple of Gerf Hussein. Scholars who have studied the Temple of Beit El Wali over a long period, have noted that there were four stages of the building and the temple and that only three craftsmen worked on the carvings of the wall. Taking into consideration the fact that ancient temples like the Karnak or the Luxor Temple had thousands of workers and artists to build and decorate them, the Temple of Beit El Wali is one of the smallest constructions ever done in ancient Egypt and is highly impressive partly for this reason.
Visiting The Temple Of Beit El Wali
The Temple of Beit El Wali is included in most itineraries for Nile Cruises sailing from Aswan to Lake Nasser or vice versa as it is located near the Temple of Kalabsha. Other nearby ancient historical sites, located close to the Temple of Beit El Wali include the Temple of Kalabsha and the Kiosk of Qertassi. These were established during the Roman rulership of Egypt. All these monuments are usually visited together as part of a Nile Cruise trip from 3 or 4 days from Aswan to Abu Simbel, or vice versa, or through hiring a boat from Aswan to explore these wonderful constructions on a day trip.