The site of the Temple of Hatshepsut is a place where colors merge in one of the most graceful views one can ever see over the Nile: the yellow of the desert, the green of the valley and the blue of the Nile all join together in one of the most impressive portrays. With its terraces, the temple itself is one of the most distinctive photos included in many tourist brochures about Egypt. While part of the temple was excavated in the rocks, the other was built in terrace. With the mountain and the temple perfectly united, the latter grants the viewer marvelously charming and harmonic scenes. The temple was almost completely destructed since the reign of Thutmosis III and Akhenaten till the eighteenth century. In 1920, the temple was cleaned. The architect, who designed the temple and was believed to be the beloved confident of Hatshepsut at the same time, is Senenmut. Designing his masterpiece, he preferred not to apply the model of the temples of the Empire, but in fact, he copied and bettered the style of the neighboring temple of the Middle Kingdom, that of the King Montu-Hotep Neb-Hebet-Ra of the Eleventh Dynasty. Senenmut built the temple in the same axial line as the Temple of Amen at Karnak. Probably, it was not a coincidence that the Tomb of Hatshepsut was dug in the Valley of the Kings, almost exactly behind the temple. If her tomb had been dug along a straight axis, as some believe was the original idea, its Burial Chamber could have lain directly beneath the temple. But the poor quality of the bedrock forced workmen to follow a corkscrew-like course in a vain search for better stone, and the burial chamber was finally located deeper and to the southwest. The temple’s name was ‘Djeser-djeseru’ or ‘the Most Holy of Holies’. It had a causeway connecting it with a canal that connected it to the Nile and in front of it there was also a sphinx road with red granite statues of more than 3 meters long each. Before each of twenty-four pillars of each terrace, an Osiride-form statue of Hatshepsut was placed. During the seventh century, a Coptic monastery was built in the upper terrace of the temple and it became one of the largest monasteries in Upper Egypt and survived until the beginning of the 20th century when it was dismantled by the Egyptologists. This is why the temple is called ‘Deir-El-Bahari’ (or ‘North Monastery’) and its upper terrace is completely destroyed.
– The Garden of Amun, Before the Deir Al-Bahari Temple
In the plain, in front of the Deir el Bahari Temple (Temple of Hatshepsut), one can find many holes in order. Just in front of the actual entrance, one can also eye roots of old trees of different species: they were once tamarisk, sycamore fig, and persea trees, as well as rare species brought back from the Land of Punt. During her reign, Queen Hatshepsut organized a trade expedition into the Land of Punt (now Somalia), not only to buy or exchange goods (as other preceding pharaohs might have done) but also to obtain myrrh, incense trees and many other rare plants and birds to put them in the Garden of Amun, in front of her temple.
– The First Colonnades in the Temple of Hatshepsut
The south colonnades before ascending the first ramp, to the middle terrace, have very interesting scenes about the cutting and the transportation of two obelisks brought from Aswan to Thebes and erected in the Temple of Karnak. Although the scenes are considerably damaged, with patience and imagination, you can admire this valuable history of the transportation of more than 6 hundreds tons of granite in two monoliths in ships of 2500 tons weight and of 7300 tons of displacement. On arriving to Karnak, a big ramp was built and the monoliths were dragged up and carefully lowered into a big hole filled with sand. Then, sand was slowly removed until the obelisks gently settled onto stone pedestals. A festival was held and attended by the Queen, priests, nobles and the Luxor mob. Although the north colonnade is badly damaged (like the south one), with patience and imagination, you can appreciate a fantastic scene depicting gods in the Nile Delta pulling a net filled with birds and Hatshepsut represented as a sphinx trampling the enemies of Egypt.
– Birth Colonnade of Queen Hatshepsut in Deir el Bahari Temple
In the middle of ‘the Birth Colonnade’, behind the eleven pillars, the Queen ordered the representation of her divine birth. Like the rest of the temple’s reliefs, the scenes are difficult to see because they were defaced after Hatshepsut’s death. By her divine birth as a daughter of god Amon, Hatshepsut wanted to justify the legitimacy of her ascending to the throne. In this scene, we find some deities presenting Hatshepsut’s mother, Queen Ahmose , to god Amon. Queen Ahmose was impregnated by Amon who gives her the key of life. In another scene, Ahmose appears before the frog-headed goddess, Heket, and the ram-headed god, Khnum– both associated with childbirth. Clearly pregnant, she was led to the birthing chamber where – in the presence of many divine witnesses – she gives birth to Hatshepsut.
– The Anubis Shrine at the Temple of Hatshepsut
To the right of the birth scenes, are some of the best preserved parts of the temple, namely the Anubis Shrine. Figures of Hatshepsut had been defaced; however, other figures of Thutmes III, god Anubis, and the piles of food offerings before him had survived intact. The Queen appears with Anubis, Nekhbet, Re-Horakhty and Osiris (god of the hereafter).
– Depictions of the Expeditions of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahari Temple
It was in the eighth year of her reign that Queen Hatshepsut ordered the organization of an expedition to the Land of Punt (now Somalia) to bring the African products of myrrh, incense and tropical plants for the Garden of Amun in front of her temple. Historians calculate that the boats measured about 25 meters long and 7 meter beam and a 2-meter draft. They were designed to navigate quickly through the waters of the Red Sea. The one-way trip would have probably taken between forty to fifty days or they might have spent three or four months in Punt. The total number of Egyptian men in this expedition was about 250-300. In this journey, the Egyptians gave a detailed description of the Land of punt and described the fauna and flora of the Red Sea: among the saltwater species were turtles, parrot-fish, scorpion-fish, soldier-fish, trigger-fish, wrasse, squid, and spiny lobster and among the freshwater species were tilapia, catfish, and turtles. The reliefs describing the expedition were divided into several sections, each illustrating a different stage of the expedition. The lower registers on the left (south) wall show the landscape of Punt and the reception of the Egyptians by the locals. In these scenes, the houses of Punt appear as grass huts, mounted on stilts to provide protection from floods, wild animals or insects and a ladder to give access to the living platform. Around the houses, exotic plants, birds and animals are in every where. In addition, the Queen’s messenger is pictured presenting jewelry, beads, daggers, and metal axes in exchange for the raw materials of Punt that were to be loaded onto the Egyptian ships. Perehu (the chief of the Puntites) and his obese wife are depicted on the reliefs welcoming the Egyptians. In the upper registers, Egyptian sailors load their ships with incense, heaps of myrrh, resin, and other raw materials. They are also loading fresh myrrh trees, ebony, ivory, monkeys, dogs, and skins of the southern panther. Once the ships have returned to Thebes, their cargo is weighted, measured and recorded by Horus and Thoth. Hatshepsut offers the cargo to god Amun. The incense trees are shown already thriving in the Garden of the Temple of Amen, at Karnak.
– The Hathor Shrine at the Temple of Hatshepsut
To the left of the Punt Colonnade, stands a shrine dedicated to Hathor. The shrine has two halls (now badly destroyed) with pillars, each has a Hathor-headed capital showing the goddess human-headed and bovine-eared with a sistrum on her head. Scenes of cow licking the royal hand are also to be seen in the shrine. In addition, there is a small figure of the Queen’s architect, Senenmut, carved behind the door, and not visible to visitor.
– The Upper Terrace of the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
Almost completely restored by the Polish-Egyptian mission, the Upper Terrace of the Temple of Hatshepsut has twenty-four colossal Osiride statues of the Queen, in front of the pillars that flank a huge granite doorway. The statues were originally painted and would have been visible from a distance. Their long beards would have been blue, and their throats and faces red, with black and white eyes and blue eyebrows. On the right wall and behind the statues, there are scenes of the coronation of Hatshepsut before the gods. Walls are decorated with scenes of the Feast of the Valley and the Opet Festival.