Egypt Moblog #4 – Temple at Kom Ombo

After we set sail, we stopped at Kom Ombo to see the famous temple there. En route, we saw the lush farms on the banks of the river Nile. It was almost 5pm when we our boat stopped at Kom Ombo and it became
dark pretty quickly after that.

The temple of Kom Ombo is unique because it is a double temple – there are 2 sanctum sanctorums, 2 entrances, 2 hypostyle halls etc one is dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god and the other dedicated to Horus the falcon god.

The temple has artefacts dated to 3000 BC but most of the work has been done during the Greco Roman period. lots of sections were added over time.

Egyptians were the first culture to practice surgery. Here we saw a relief with surgical instruments being offered to Imhotep (remember the architect of Zoser’s pyramid). Imhotep was also a doctor and high priest. Some of the surgical instruments shown here we still use. And this one blew my mind away – there is an inscription that shows how to sterilize your hands before doing surgery. There is also another relief that shows a woman giving birth in a sitting posture – considered today to be the best posture for delivering a baby.

Egyptians were advanced in calendars as well. They had a 360 day year with 30 day months and 3 week months. The year was divided into 3 seasons – flooding, planting and harvesting seasons. The year was marked with the reign of the king – regnal year. So it is N year of King X’s reign, Flood Season, Month N, Day X. We saw a relief that had a list of dates represented as above including some instructions on offerings to gods etc. For the missing 5 days they added them as festival days for the 5 important gods.

They also mummified crocodiles and a few of these mummies are on display here at this temple. Now why worship crocodiles? Our guide told us that people used to live on the west side and the farms were on the east side and when they crossed the river crocodiles would attack them. So they worshipped crocodiles to protect themselves.

Then we see a relief where Bartholomew V the greco-roman king had depicted himself as a god to gain the respect of the people.
Then we saw the Nilometer. Like everything here the brilliant Egyptians devised a novel program to collect taxes. Since their
agriculture was dependent on the Nile floodings, they figured out that the amount of silt you receive during the flooding is directly proportional to the amount of harvest. Now the amount of silt you receive is directly proportional to the amount of flooding you receive. They used this Nilometer placed in various locations – it is like a well with markings inside and the Nile water rises through these. Depending on which markers were reached, the head priest (also the prime minister) collected taxes from everyone on behalf of the king. Ingenious, isn’t it?

Another sacred (only somewhat) animal we saw was the frog. As a part of the blessings, a bunch of reeds with frogs at the bottom are given – frog stands for 10, 000 symbolizing eternity.

Many reliefs show the kings having 2 jars one in each palm offering them to the gods. The 2 offerings are gold and myrrh (the gift of the Magi for the infant Jesus were gold, myrrh and frankincense).

On one of the roofs of the temple we saw the original colors – spectacular looking still.

By the way, this temple has been at its original site – no UNESCO transplants here.

As in India, people lived near the temple – the temple was built using stones but the houses and palaces were built with mud bricks. You can see the ruins of the houses near this temple.

Overall, another great day today. It has been goosebumps galore so far. We are sailing to Edfu tonight.

More to come…


  1. Quote

    Nilometer is absolutely brilliant.

    Using festivals to adjust the calendar happened even in India. Apparently, Navrathri was devised to adjust the 11 day shortfall of lunar calendar (Amavasya and Dashami together makeup 11 days)

  2. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 23, 2007, 3:55 am:

    Thanks Archana. We followed the lunar calendar and if we had only 12 months we should have a short fall of nearly 30 days (taking 28 days per lunar month). How does this 11 day adjustment thing fit in?

    Also using the solar calendar is more accurate and hence more advanced and the Egyptians did that pre-dating other civilizations by a few 1000 years.

  3. Quote

    Regarding the 11 day adjustment, i have written in Symbology. Will send it to you.

    You are right about Solar calendar being advanced and it is indeed amazing that they did 1000s of years back.

  4. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said November 24, 2007, 1:35 am:

    Thanks Archana. I’ll look though that.

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