The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is the focal point of the Deir el-Bahri (“Northern Monastery”) complex of mortuary temples and tombs located on the west bank of the Nile, opposite the city of Luxor (ancient Thebes).
Hatshepsut was a rare female pharoah. Her temple, known as Djeser-Djeseru ("Splendor of Splendors "), was designed and implemented by Senemut, the pharaoh's royal steward, for her posthumous worship.
History of the Temple of Hatshepsut
Maatkare Hatshepsut or Hatchepsut (late 16th century BC – c. 1482 BC) was the fifth Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Ancient Egypt. She is generally regarded by modern Egyptologists as one of the most successful pharaohs, ruling longer than any female ruler of an indigenous dynasty.
Hatshepsut was the daughter of Pharaoh Tuthmosis I and the wife of his successor Tuthmosis II, who died before she bore a son. Rather than step aside for the secondary wife who had borne him an heir, the plucky queen became co-regent of her stepson, the young Tuthmosis III. Soon she assumed absolute power.
To legitmize her powerful position, Hatshepsut had herself depicted with a pharaoh's kilt and beard. She was a prolific builder, commissioning hundreds of construction projects throughout both Upper and Lower Egypt. Under her reign, Egypt's trade networks began to be rebuilt, after their disruption during the Hyksos occupation of Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period.
She is believed to have ruled from 1503 to 1482 BC. Josephus writes that she reigned 21 years and 9 months. Hatshepsut is regarded variously as the earliest known queen regnant in history, as the first known female to take the title Pharaoh, and the first great woman in history, although all of these claims have been contested.
After Hatshepsut's death, Tuthmosis III became pharaoh. Perhaps fearing a challenge to his legitimacy as a successor, he immediately chiseled all images of Hatshepsut off temples, monuments and obelisks, consigning her remarkable reign to oblivion until its rediscovery by modern archaeologists.
In more recent history, tragedy struck in November 1997 when 58 tourists and four guards were killed by terrorists on the Middle Terrace. They hijacked a coach to get away, but the driver deliberately crashed it by the Valley of the Queens and villagers chased them down before the police arrived. All the sites in the area are now heavily guarded with multiple fences, security checkpoints and guards. There have been no attacks on tourists in Egypt since then.
What to See at the Temple of Hatshepsut
A 100-foot causeway leads to the temple, which consists of three terraced courtyards covered in sculptural reliefs. Originally, sphinxes probably lined the path from the Nile to the base of the temple. The terraces have a severe, almost Communist appearance now, but in Hatshepsut's time they were softened and cooled by myrrh trees, green gardens, and fountains. The queen herself acquired the trees on a famous journey to the Land of Punt, which is depicted in one of the colonnades of the Middle Terrace.
Pairs of lions flanked the top and bottom of the ramp to the Middle Terrace; one of each survives today.
The right side of the terrace contains the Birth Colonnade, featuring faded reliefs of Hatshepsut's divine origins. From left: her parents Tuthmosis I and Queen Ahmosis sit with their knees touching; gods lead Ahmosis into the birth chamber; the god Khnum creates Hatshepsut and her ka (both depicted as boys) on a potter's wheel; Bes and Heqet (a frog deity) look on; goddesses nurse her; and Thoth records details of her reign.
At the end of the Birth Colonnade and down some steps is the Chapel of Anubis, with fluted columns and colorful murals. Over the niche on the right, Thutmosis III is shown offering wine to Sokaris (a sun god with a falcon's head). Hathor is on the facing wall. Other walls depict Hatshepsut (defaced after her death) and Tuthmosis making offerings to Anubis (the dog-headed god).
The left side of the terrace is occupied by the Punt Colonnade, whose faint reliefs depict Hatshepsut's journey to the Land of Punt (the birthplace of Amun) to bring back myrrh trees for her temple. The destination is believed to be in modern-day Somalia. From left: Amun commissions the journey; Egyptian boats sail from the Red Sea Coast and are welcomed by the king of Punt and his very fat wife (maybe afflicted by elephantiasis). The Egyptians offer metal axes and other goods and leave with myrrh trees, ebony, ivory, cinnamoon wood and panther skins. The last relief shows the trees being planted at the temple.
At the end of the Punt Colonnade is the Chapel of Hathor, with capitals in the shape of the goddess' face and sacred rattle (sistrum). In the first chamber, Hathor appears in bovine and human forms and suckles Hatshepsut (not defaced here) on the left wall. The next chamber has remarkably colorful reliefs of festival processions.
Inside the gated sanctuary of the Chapel of Hathor are reliefs of Hatshepsut (also preserved from destruction) worshipping the bovine Hathor on the left and a portrait of Senenmut on the right. Senenmut was the queen's favorite courtier, who fell from grace for mysterious reasons after 15 years of closeness with her and her daughter Neferure - whom he may have fathered. When this sanctuary was first discovered, it contained stacks of baskets full of wooden penises, perhaps used in fertility rituals.
On the top terrace is the Djeser-Djeseru ("Splendor of Splendors"), a colonnaded structure built into a cliff face that rises sharply above it. From a distance, the temple looks like the Egyptian hieroglyphic for Nun, a four-step pyramid representing the primordial mound from which Amun was born. The Upper Terrace is reached via a ramp flanked with vultures' heads. This terrace has only recently opened to visitors after years of excavations and restorations by Polish and Egyptian archaeologists. From there is a fine view of the Nile Valley.
The Sanctuary of Hatshepsut is on the left; it bears reliefs of priests and offerings. On the other side is the Sanctuary of the Sun, an open court with a central altar. In the center in the far back is the Sanctuary of Amun, dug into the cliff and aligned so that it points towards Hatshepsut's tomb in the Valley of the Kings. In the time of the Ptolemies, this was extended and dedicated to Imhotep and Amenhotep.
Quick Facts on the Temple of Hatshepsut
|Names:||Deir el-Bahri · Djeser Djeseru · Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut · Temple of Hatshepsut|
|Categories:||temples; graves; World Heritage Sites|
|Dedication:||Amun and Pharaoh Hatshepsut|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||25.737970° N, 32.607440° E|
|Lodging:||View hotels near the Temple of Hatshepsut|
- "Deir el-Bahri," The Rough Guide to Egypt 6 (November 2005).
- Hatshepsut, the Queen who would be King - Bediz.com
- The King Herself - feature article on the queen's mummy in National Geographic April 2009, accompanied by beautiful photos of her temple
- Photos of the Temple of Hatshepsut - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of the Temple of Hatshepsut, Luxor
Below is a location map and aerial view of the Temple of Hatshepsut. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.