Sunday, 3 March 2013

Dendera: Temple of Hathor

Temple of sensual goddess Hathor
Friday 18 January: Today I'm  taking a 2nd class train (E£18) north from Luxor to Qena (pronounced Kena), the nearest station to Hathor's cult temple, a three-mile taxi ride (E£25) further north, at Dendera. Hathor, the goddess of love and sensual pleasure, has been worshipped here since ancient times but, by Egyptian timescales, her temple is new.
Completed by Roman emperor Tiberius about 2,000 years ago the hyperstyle hall's magnificent 24 stone columns are adorned on all four sides by Hathor's distinctive features, her beauty only slightly defaced by Christian fundamentalists in later times. Out of reach of the Christian's wrath the ceiling retains well preserved scenes from the afterlife: colourful barques, a multitude of gods and cartouches against a powder-blue background. Deeper into the temple in the older inner sanctuary there are more reliefs of Hathor, typically depicted wearing a headdress of cow's horns. She was regarded not only as the goddess of love and pleasure but also the first lady of drunkenness and joyous intoxication - my type of girl!
Outside a deep pit filled with lush palms is all that remains of the once beautiful sacred lake but the temple's stout exterior walls remain decorated with lion-headed gargoyles and at the rear there is a large relief showing Cleopatra VII with, Caesarion, her son by Julius Caesar. Near the exit, next to an undamaged face of Hathor, is a relief of the grotesque dwarf god Bes who frightened away demons thus protecting women during childbirth.
Returning, I flag down a purple & white taxi from the end of the drive for the (E£20) trip back to Qena and a reasonably comfortable 3rd class seat (E£2) for the one hour journey back to Luxor. 
Slideshow of the Temple of Hathor at Dendera.

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