The Temple of Kom Ombo
The small town of Kom Ombo is situated on the East side of the Nile, 45 kilometers to the north of the city of Aswan and about 800 kilometers south of Cairo, the capital of Egypt.
Surrounded by fields of sugarcane and corn, Kom Ombo is a pleasant agricultural town that now hosts many Nubians who were displaced when the Nile flooded their hometowns after the construction of the Nasser Lake.
The imposing Greco-Roman Temple of Kom Ombo directly overlooked the Nile. This is why virtually every Nile cruise that sails near the area includes visiting this temple.
The Name Kom Ombo
The word "Kom" in Arabic means the small hill, and the word "Ombo," in the Hieroglyphic ancient Egyptian language, means "the gold." Therefore, the word Kom Ombo means the hill of gold.
The word Ombo originated from the Pharaonic word "Nbty," an adjective derived from the word Nebo, which meant "gold." During the Coptic period, the word was slightly changed to become Enbo, and when the Arabic language became common in Egypt, the word became "Ombo."
History of Kom Ombo
Although Kom Ombo is famous today for being constructed during the Greco-Roman era, the area had been inhabited since the pre-dynastic period of Egyptian history, and many ancient burial sites were discovered in and around Kom Ombo.
The town's name, Kom Ombo (or the hill of the gold), establishes how important it was for the ancient Egyptians economically, even though the town never really flourished except when the Ptolemies took control of Egypt.
The Ptolemies constructed many permanent military bases near the Red Sea. This fostered commercial activities between Nile towns and these bases, especially Kom Ombo, a transit point used by many trading caravans.
Kom Ombo's most glorious days were when the Romans ruled over Egypt. During this time, Kom Ombo became the province's capital and administrative center, a large portion of the Temple of Kom Ombo was constructed, and many other sections were restored and renovated.
The Construction of the Temple
The Temple of Kom Ombo was constructed on the ruins of a much older temple called "Ber Sobek," or the house of the god Sobek.
This older temple was erected by two 18th dynasty rulers, King Tuthmosis III and Queen Hatshepsut, whose marvelous temple still stands in the West Bank of Luxor.
The temple of Kom Ombo was built from 205 to 180 BC in the ruling period of King Ptolemy V. The construction process of the temple went on for many years afterward from 180 to 169 BC, with each king having his addition to the complex.
A large portion of the Temple of Kom Ombo, including the hypostyle hall, was constructed during the reign of Emperor Tiberius from the year 81 to 96 BC. Work on the temple continued for more than 400 years during the ruling period of Emperors Caracalla and Macrinus until the middle of the 3rd century AD.
The Design of the Temple
The Ptolemies constructed the Temple of Kom Ombo to worship two gods, Sobek, the crocodile god, and Horus, the falcon god. This is why the complex mainly consists of two parallel temples that include all the traditional components of such ancient Egyptian religious structures are present in the two temples.
The Temple of Kom Ombo was constructed mainly with limestone in a rectangular shape, with a plan and a design similar to many temples built in the Greco-Roman period. Such examples are the Temples of Dendara and Philae, considered among the most important monuments in Upper Egypt, visited annually by numerous tourists.
The design of the Temple of Kom Ombo starts with a front courtyard and a hypostyle hall following that; afterward, there are three inner halls and then two sanctuaries, one dedicated to Sobek and the other to Horus.
There are seven chambers to the sides of the inner halls; three are in the eastern section of the temple, while the others are in the western part. Moreover, the Temple of Kom Ombo has many antechambers and smaller rooms for different rituals and purposes.
The Description of the Temple
A set of steps leads from the ground to the gate of the Temple, a large structure made of blocks of stones. The facade of the Temple of Kom Ombo has wonderful wall carvings depicting the Ptolemaic kings beating the enemies and presenting offerings to the gods.
Through the Temple, the gate is the hypostyle hall, constructed in the Roman period, which is primarily ruined and damaged from the passage of time.
The courtyard of the Temple consists of a rectangular open space with sixteen columns surrounding the courtyard from three directions. Unfortunately, only the bases of these columns survived today. Interestingly enough, some of the tops of the columns depicted capitals.
Past the courtyard is the first inner hall, constructed during the ruling period of Ptolemy XII. To the East of this hall, there are many portraits of the Ptolemies being purified by the gods Sobek and Horus, in a scene found in other temples like the Edfu and Philae.
The inner hall of the Temple of Kom Ombo has a design similar to the outer hall, but the columns here are much shorter, and the stone capital of these columns has the shape of the lotus flower, one of the most essential and sacred plants in ancient Egypt.
The Temple of Kom Ombo features two sanctuaries dedicated to the two gods of the Temple: Sobek and Horus. They consist of two similar rectangular halls, considered among the most ancient sections built in the Temple, as they were constructed during the reign of Ptolemy VI.
The birthplace of the Temple of Kom Ombo is located in the southeastern section of the complex, and it was constructed during the period of Ptolemy VII. This structure consists of an outer courtyard that leads into a front hypostyle hall that leads to another two halls where rituals of the birth of the son of the gods were carried out.
The Chapel of Hathor:
The Chapel of Hathor is located in the North Eastern section of the Temple of Kom Ombo, and it consists of a rectangle-shaped chapel constructed higher than the ground and reached by climbing some steps. The chapel is 5 meters long and 3 meters wide.
Inside the chapel of Hathor are three glass galleries displaying three mummies of crocodiles representing the god Sobek. The chapel's facade has a portrait depicting Hathor sitting in front of the entrance.
In the northwestern section of the complex is a circular well used on Rhoda Island in Cairo.
This Nilometer was constructed during the Roman period and is connected to a more minor water well. These Nilometers were of particular importance, especially during the season of the flooding of the Nile.
The Chapel of Sobek
Situated in the North Eastern section of the Temple of Kom Ombo is a Roman-style chapel dedicated to the god Sobek and was constructed in the 3rd century AD.
Emperor Caracalla is portrayed on two columns near the chapel entrance that depict the god Sobek, who many Egyptians worshiped during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods.
On the inside of the Temple's back wall is a truly remarkable scene! It shows the first illustration of medical and surgical tools, which are
being presented to a seated god. Here, you will find 2,000-year-old depictions of scalpels, suction caps, bone saws, and dental instruments!
- The entrance fee for the Temple of Kom Ombo is 200 LE.
- The best time to visit the Temple is early morning or after 5 o'clock.