Esna and the Temple of Khnum – Nile River Cruise

This afternoon we stopped off at Esna on the way to the Esna Lock.  Esna is a small and quiet farming town, best know for its Temple of Khnum.  We walked through the Khnum Bazaar in search of the temple.  Many of cruise passengers who were suffering from shopping deprivation by this time were trapped in the bazaar.  A little further on, we came upon this huge excavated ditch.  There wasn’t any signs to say what it was and so we climbed down the giant steps to explore, hoping that we were not trespassing on private property.  We then realized that what we have tripped upon was the Temple of Khnum.  Repeated flooding of the Nile had caused this Graeco-Roman structure to be buried under layers of silt and mud.  The town of Esna was built over the temple site and excavation works in 1860 only cleared one part of the temple, which was the Roman hypostyle hall.

The roof of the hall is supported by 24 columns which are inscribed with hieroglyphs and text.  Although the bright colors of the astronomical ceiling have faded, you can still see some zodiac signs.  The hypostyle hall is very well preserved and its roof is at the same level as the foundations of the modern town.  The hall was built during the rein of Emperor Claudius, AD 41, and the facade of the hall is inscribed with cartouches of numerous Roman emperors.

As we were beginning to be hassled by the temple ‘guard’ who wanted to point out features of the temple to us, it was time to leave.  As with everywhere else, what they ultimately wanted was to earn some tips, not appreciating that what we wanted was quiet time to enjoy the magnificence of the building and its exquisite engravings.

As we leave Esna, their message board bade us goodbye and looking forward to seeing us again.  We sailed up river and like many other cruise boats we were moored ashore, waiting for our turn to make the crossing.  It was a very interesting exercise, however as our timeslot was 4:00 a.m. it was too much of an effort to go on deck to watch the gates flooding and unflooding.  I did wake at 5:10 a.m. and watched a little of the final process.


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