The temple of Isis in Egypt, also known as the temple of Philae, is in my personal opinion one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt. Located on the small island of Philae it’s one of the top things to do when you’re staying in Aswan.
The construction of Philae Temple was completed in around 690 A.D so it is considered to be the last of the ancient temples constructed in the classical Egyptian style. It was built to honor the goddess Isis and serves as an amazing example of the cult that was built around the story of Isis and Osiris.
The temple of Isis is considered to be one of the most sacred ones in entire Egypt. This is because the God Osiris was buried on the island where the temple stood.
Even that Philae islands are one of the smalles islands in Egypt they’re definitely one of the most picturesque ones and they served as the centers of commerce between Meroe and Memphis.
An Awesome Travel Guide to The Temple of Isis in Egypt
Philae is an island in the reservoir of the Aswan Low Dam and was originally located near the expansive First Cataract of the Nile in Upper Egypt. It used to be the site of the temple complex but over the years it got flooded multiple times. In this travel guide I will tell you exactly what you can expect when visiting the temple of Isis, how to get there, where to stay and a little bit about its Egyptian history.
History of Isis and Osiris
Forget Romeo and Juliet, the story of the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris is one of the first tragic lovestory’s ever to exist. Isis and Osiris were actually born as brother and sister and their parents were the Egyptian gods Geb and Nut, who represented the earth and sky.
Although born as brother and sister Isis and Osiris married each other and became husband and wife. They were the king and queen of ancient Egypt and they had two other siblings: Set and Nephthys. Osiris was the first born son and therefore the rightful ruler. His younger brother Set grew more jealous every single day and he wanted the throne for himself. He killed his brother Osiris by chopping him up in 42 different pieces and scattered them all over Egypt.
Set claimed the throne for himself and together with his sister/wife Nephthys wanted to rule over ancient Egypt. Isis was completely distraught and inconsolable after the death of her beloved husband and Nepththys decided to help her find the pieces of Osiris. They searched through the kingdoms and in the end found most of the remaining pieces of her former husband. With the power of magic and her erotic love Isis was able to revive Osiris. She wasn’t able to bring him fully back but he was able to give her a child, Horus.
After engendering the son who would eventually avenge his death, Osiris departed his earthly domain and entered the underworld—where thereafter, he ruled as king of the dead.
Isis is a very important figure in the ancient world. She is associated with funeral rites but as the enchantress who resurrected Osiris and gave birth to Horus she is also the giver of life, a healer and protector of kings
Fun facts about the Temple of Isis
- The temple of Isis was saved from a watery grave by UNESCO’s rescue project during the building of the Aswan High Dam.
- It was transferred block by block from its original place on Philae Island to Agilika Island
- It’s one of the most complete surviving temples of ancient Egypt.
- The temple of Isis is a Greco Roman temple.
- Just like many other temples in Egypt there’s also a sound and light show in the evening.
- In ancient Egyptian times, the temple was the center of worship of the goddess Isis, who was considered one of the greatest Egyptian deities. She was also worshiped by the Romans and Greeks who also built a temple for her in Pompeii.
- The temple is highly important as it is one of the last remaining places where the ancient Egyptian religion survived after the arrival of Christianity until 550 A.D.
How to reach the Temple of Isis
The easiest way to reach the temple of Isis to grab a taxi from the nearby town of Aswan. While exploring this region you’ll most likely stay here and the temple of Philae makes for the perfect day trip from Aswan! It’s only a few km’s away and the drive shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes.
The taxi will drop you of at the Marina of the Philae Temple from where the official boats will transport you to the Agilkia Island. The pricing for transportation there and back, including waiting time will be around 150 EGP for 2 people. I have heard rumors that the “official price” for a return ticket is 10 EGP which is absolutely baffling cause we already brought our price down from 300 EGP :D. It goes to say you always have to haggle like crazy in Egypt or else it’s 💸💸💸💸.
You’ll want at least 1 hour to 1,5 hour to explore the entire complex so make sure to agree on this from before you get into the boat.
Alongside the marina there are a lot of local vendors selling souvenirs and I found them to be less persistent here than at other Egyptian monuments.
Where to stay near Philae
- Budget option – The Pyramisa Isis Island Hotel is located on a separate island. Just make sure that when you confirm your booking the price is not listed as “for Egyptians only”.
- Luxury option – Sofitel Legend Old Cataract. It’s one of the most famous hotels in Egypt together with the Winter Palace in Luxor.
What to expect when visiting the Temple of Isis in Egypt
After a short boat ride you’ll arrive at the temple complex of the Philae temple and the entrance fee is 180 EGP. Make sure to bring this money in cash cause there’s no ATM here and the closest one you’ll find is back in Aswan.
The official opening hours for the Temple of Isis are from 7am until 4pm.
The first part you’ll discover is the First Pylon which leads to the main temple area. Just like about anywhere in Egypt you’ll come across a bunch of cats who are eager to follow you during your visit. The first pylon has two towers and a main doorway which provides a grand 18-meter-high entry that is decorated with reliefs by Nectanebo. In front of it used to be 2 giant obelisks and 2 lion statues of which just a few remnants remain.
The obelisks in front of the temple were removed in 1918 by British Consul Henry Salt and his assistant Giovanni Belzoni, and are now in a garden in Dorset, England.
As you pass through the central doorway you’ll arrive in the Forecourt, the temple’s main courtyard. It’s lined with columns on both sides and on the left you’ll see a small building which was used by the priests.
On the Western side you’ll se the Birth House which is dedicated to the birth of Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris. Inside of the Birth House you can see a lot of interesting reliefs which depict scenes from the childhood of Horus, including Horus as a falcon in the swamps of the Delta and Isis suckling Horus in the swamps.
After the main courtyard comes the Second Pylon which provides a royal entry to the inner sanctuary. The first room you’ll come across inside is the Vestibule. It’s the first room of the inner temple area and was originally separated from the court by screens between the columns on the front.
After passing through a number of antechambers flanked by dark side chambers, you’ll come to the Sanctuary, also known as the House of Isis.
The temple also has chapels for other deities like Osiris, Horus and Hathor, and monuments for the Roman period like the Kiosk of Trajan or small temples like the temple of Augustus.
Once you’re outside of the Temple of Isis make sure to pay a visit to the Kiosk of Trajan. Built by Trajan, one of the truly great Roman emperors, it was one of the very last structures ever built in the Egyptian style and the last to honour the ancient gods Osiris, Horus and Isis.
For me personally, this was my favorite part of the entire temple complex.
💡 TIP – Don’t combine a visit to the Temple of Isis in Egypt with a day trip to Abu Simbel! Some tour operators suggest a tour like this but you’ll be dead tired and won’t be able to fully enjoy both! It’s best to stay 2 nights in Aswan and visit each one in the morning.
What’s the best time to visit the Temple of Philae?
A lot of tourists do combine a visit to the Temple of Philae with a day trip to Abu Simbel.? They leave early in the morning and arrive around 2PM back at the temple complex in Philae. The afternoon is definitely the busiest time here because of that so try to plan your visit in the early morning.
The temple already opens at 7am and I can tell you, there’s nothing more amazing and astounding than walking through these ancient Egyptian temples on your own!
I hope you’ll have the best time when visiting the Temple of Isis in Egypt and I would love to hear your thoughts afterwards!
💡 TIP – There’s a small café near the marina on the Agilika Island where you can drink something refreshing. To my recollection they do not accept payment by card here but I do remember the many many cats surrounding our table, looking for affection. For those of you that don’t know me, I am the biggest cat person so this kinda felt a little bit like heaven 🐱 .
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.