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Luxor West Bank - Trips to Esna (Isnā - ‏إسنا)

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Esna is situated some 55 km south of Luxor on the western bank of the River Nile and connected to the east bank by a causeway. Esna was the starting respectively ending point of camel trains to Kharga and Dush in Kharga Oasis. Nowadays, Esna is a centre of coptic Christians. Its main anttraction is the Ptolemaic temple in the middle of the town, 9 metres beneath the level of the modern streets and houses. It was dedicated to the ram-headed god Khnum.

Temple of Esna

The present structure of the Khnum Temple dates to the Greek and Roman periods and is one of the latest temples to have been built by the ancient Egyptians. It was built on the site of a temple dating to the 18th dynasty.

Khnum Temple at Esna
 Khnum Temple at Esna

Only the pronaos (I), excavated in 1842, remained. The rest of the temple (II - IV) is still buried beneath the surrounding buildings of the modern town. Once, one got through the pronaos (I) to the hypostyle hall (II) and the sanctuary (III) which were surrounded by a gallery wall (IV). Originally, the temple was connected to the River Nile by a ceremonial way.

Temple of Esneh - Illustration of G. Pearson, in: Edwards, Amelia Ann Blanford - A Thousand Miles Up The Nile, 1890Khnum Temple at Esna - Original map
 The buried temple in 1890                             Map of the original temple

The Temple of Esna was mainly dedicated to the ram-headed god Khnum, who was thought to be the creator of the bodies of human children, which he made at a potter's wheel, from clay, and placed in their mothers' wombs. The tutelary deity Neith and the war goddess Menhit were also worshipped in the temple.

Khnum Temple at Esna - Emperor Domitian smiting his enemies in front of Menhit and Khnum
 Emperor Domitian smiting his enemies in front of Menhit and Khnum

The façade of the pronaos is 37 metres in length and 15 metres in height. It consists of 6 columns. Behind it, there is the 16.4 metres deep hypostyle hall with 3 further rows of 6 columns.. The columns, all with differing lotus-leaf capitals, stand 11.3 metres high and have a circumference of 5.4 metres. They keep up the intact ceiling which is decorated with vultures and astronomical scenes.

Khnum Temple at Esna - Columns

Khnum Temple at Esna - ColumnsKhnum Temple at Esna - Column

Khnum Temple at Esna - ColumnKhnum Temple at Esna - Column
Because of the half-light inside the temple the columns appear on the photos as paintings

The temple walls are extensively covered by filigree reliefs which are currently in the process of restoration. The effective work of the egyptologists can be seen on the following photos. On every wall a small unrestored rectangle was taped to tell the difference (March 2011):

Khnum Temple at Esna - Restored temple wall: Domitian kneels in front of 4 depictions of Khnum
 Domitian kneels in front of 4 depictions of Khnum

Khnum Temple at Esna - Restored temple wall: Wadjet, the cobra goddess, and the crocodile god
 Wadjet, the cobra goddess, and the crocodile god

The ceiling of the pronaos shows Roman signs of the zodiac on the southern half and Egyptian astronomical figures with the sky goddess Nut and the tutelary goddess Taweret on the northern half.

Khnum Temple at Esna - Ceiling
 Ceiling of the temple

On the outer walls of the temple are depictions of the Roman emperors accompanied by gods or when smiting enemies.

In the courtyard of the temple, there stand the remains of a Christian basilica. At its south side you can see a statue of the lion-headed goddess Menhit. She is also depicted on the outer walls and inside the temple.

Khnum Temple at Esna - Lion-goddess MenhitKhnum Temple at Esna - Lion-goddess Menhit
 Lion-goddess Menhit

Our Service in Luxor

For your trip starting at Luxor we organise a taxi which takes you to Esna and if you wish as well to the rock-cut tombs and temples of El-Kab. Kindly let us know your wishes, we make you a favourable offer.

By the way: In Esna start our luxury Dahabeya Nile Cruises which take you in 4 or 5 days to Aswan!


Geographical Position

(c)Google - Route from Luxor to El-Kab and Esna
 Route from Luxor (A) to El-Kāb and Esna


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