Temple of Maharraqa

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The Temple of Maharraqa in Nubia

Temple of Al-Maharraqa is an ancient Egyptian Temple dedicated to Isis and Serapis. It was originally located in al-Maharraqa (Arabic: المحرقة, DMG: Al-Maḥarraqa, Greek: Hierasykaminos), Lower Nubia, approximately 140 km (87 mi) south of Aswan on the southern border of the Roman empire.[1] In the 1960s it was relocated as part of the International Campaign to Save the Monuments of Nubia.

Only a few years after the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, the Kushites from the kingdom of Meroë launched a raid on the First Cataract region of Egypt in 23 BC.[2] The Roman prefect of Egypt, Petronius, retaliated and defeated the invading Meroitic army. He then proceeded to station a Roman garrison of 400 troops at the southern outpost of Qasr Ibrim.[3] After some negotiations, a permanent frontier between Meroë and Roman Egypt was established at Maharraqa.[4] Thus, Maharraqa formed the extreme southern frontier of Roman Egypt. After the Christian conversion of Nobatia in the 6th century the temple was turned into a church.

The Serapis Isis Temple of Maharraqa[edit]

The spiral stairwell of Maharraqa temple
The courtyard of Maharraqa temple

The Temple of Maharraqa was originally situated here before it was subsequently relocated in the mid-1960s due to the Aswan Dam project. It was dedicated to the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Serapis.[5] This Roman-built Egyptian temple cannot be securely attributed to any Roman emperor's reign since it was never fully completed nor inscribed.[6] However, since it is known that temple building declined in Nubia after the rule of Augustus, the temple of Maharraqa might be datable to his reign.[7] The only part of the structure that was finished "was a court measuring 13.56 X 15.69 m, which was surrounded on three sides by columns."[8] The actual temple premises containing the sanctuary was never actually built. The temple, as well, lacks a formal pylon.

The Temple of Maharraqa features an architectural curiosity with a winding spiral staircase at a corner of the court, which led to its roof.[9] This is the only Egyptian temple in Nubia with a spiral staircase.


The temple was converted to a church in the 6th century. In the mid-19th century wall paintings of Christian saints were still visible.[10][11] According to the contemporary traveller Edward William Lane the paintings on the interior of the north wall depicted "the history of the fall of man: the groups representing the different events are arranged in one line, like a procession of men and angels." He also noted many Christian inscriptions.[12]

Relocation of the Temple[edit]

Since its former location was threatened by flooding from the Nile due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam, this small temple was dismantled in 1961 by the Egyptian Antiquities Service.[13] It was subsequently rebuilt along with the Temple of Dakka in 1966 at the New Wadi es-Sebua site which lies only 4 km (2.5 mi) west of the original Wadi es-Sebua location.[14] As Christine Hobson notes:

"A little to the north of Amada now stand the temples of Wadi es Sebua (built by Ramesses II), Dakka and Maharraka."[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dieter Arnold, Nigel Strudwick, Sabine Gardiner, The Encyclopaedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture, I.B. Tauris Publishers, 2003. p.85
  2. ^ Stephen Quirke & Jeffrey Spenser (ed.) The British Museum Book of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson 1994. p.212
  3. ^ Quirke & Spenser, p.212
  4. ^ Quirke & Spenser, p.212
  5. ^ Dieter Arnold, Temples of the Last Pharaohs, Oxford University Press, 1999. p.244
  6. ^ Arnold, Temples of the Last Pharaohs, p.244
  7. ^ Arnold, Temples of the Last Pharaohs, p.244
  8. ^ Arnold, Strudwick, Gardiner, p.85
  9. ^ Arnold, Strudwick, Gardiner, p.85
  10. ^ Jean-Jacques Rifaud (1830): "Tableau de l'Egypte, de la Nubie et des lieux circonvoisins", p. 265
  11. ^ Giuseppe Forni 1859: "Viaggio nell'Egitto e nell'Alta Nubia", p. 303
  12. ^ Edward William Lane (2000): "Description of Egypt", p. 481
  13. ^ Arnold, Strudwick, Gardiner, p.86
  14. ^ John Baines & Jaromír Málek, Atlas of Ancient Egypt, Facts on File Publications New York, 1982. p.183
  15. ^ Christine Hobson, Exploring the World of the Pharaohs: A complete guide to Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson 1993 paperback, p.177

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 22°48′2.40″N 32°32′51.35″E / 22.8006667°N 32.5475972°E / 22.8006667; 32.5475972