Philae Island

Philae Temple 400
Philae Temple
Photo by: eviljohnius, Creative Commons

Philae is an island in the Nile River with rich vegetation, lovely flowers and magnificent temples. Because of its beauty and abundance, it was rightfully once called the ‘pearl of Egypt’. Philae derived its name from the Egyptian ‘Pi-lak’, which the Greeks later changed to ‘Philai’, while the Arabs called it Bilak.

Indeed, the island was once regarded as one of the most romantic and most beautiful places in Egypt. Yet, due to constant floods of the Nile River, the island lost much of its attraction. The island was in great danger of being submerged due to the floods since the construction of the Aswan High Dam. The flooding situation is so bad that temples are only accessible in the island during late summer and fall. For the rest of the year, the temples are mostly under water. The more important monuments of the island were transported and rebuilt in the adjacent island of Agilkia, which are more highly elevated.

Now, the grey discoloration of the walls and columns are merely a faint reminder of the vibrant colors and detailed ornamentation they once had. Once you arrive at the island, pillars and papyrus capitals, and a pylon with a collection of reliefs of Ptolemy XII smiting his enemies will welcome you. Beyond the gateway, you will find the Mammisi Birth House and the Temple of Isis, where in the middle a golden statue of Isis once stood; and the interiors heavily decorated with images of the goddess. Further on, you will find the Kiosk of Trajan, Philae’s most prominent monument.

The magnificent temples of Philae are open during summers from 7 AM to 5 PM, and in winter from 7 AM to 4 PM. You can reach the island by boat, where they drop the visitors at the Hall of Nectanebo.

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