Kom Ombo Temple: Facts & History of Ancient Egypt
Sail the Nile and discover the temple of Kom Ombo, where you’ll find crocodile mummies and engravings of the Egyptian god Horus.
When planning a trip to Egypt, it’s not likely you include Kom Ombo on your list of places to visit. Instead, you might book a tour to the Aswan Dam, a camel ride in Nubia, or a visit to the great Sphinx. However, after reading this article, we are sure you won’t want to miss it, since it’s such a unique experience.
“The crocodile and the hawk patiently guard the coming and going of their people, Egypt.”
Kom Ombo is a village located around 800 kilometers away from Cairo. You can get there on one of the cruise ships that sail the Nile. Apart from the landscapes you will see if you choose this option, visiting this destination which is often omitted in travel guides, will offer you the chance to learn a lot about Egypt’s history and cultural wealth.
History of the Village of Kom Ombo
Kom Ombo was known as Nubt, which means “city of gold”. It was named this way after its foundation in the Ptolemaic era, due to the commercial wealth it possessed. The reason of this was that travelers had to cross the village on their way to Nubia and other cities that were part of the Nile Valley.
The construction of the temple of Kom Ombo, which began around 180 BC, turned the city into a must-see destination for travelers. It is dedicated to two deities: Horus and Sobek.
Temple of Horus and Sobek
As we mentioned above, the Temple of Kom Ombo was dedicated to two gods Horus and Sobek. In fact, this was the only temple in ancient Egypt with this characteristic. The left side was dedicated to the god Sobek, and the other one to Horus.
Sobek, the Crocodile God
Sobek, known as the Crocodile God, was worshipped due to the fear these animals instilled in the inhabitants of the Nile riverbank. Many people died as a consequence of these reptiles’ attacks so the temple was at first dedicated only to this god. However, people also believed he was related to evil, given his similarity to the god Seth, who was considered the god of chaos. For this reason, the inhabitants decided to make some changes to the Temple of Kom Ombo.
Horus, God of Protection
The changes included worshipping the god Haroeris, better known as Horus. He was the son of Osiris, and was known as the one who vanquished Seth. The inhabitants decided to divide the temple in half, to dedicate it to both Sobek and Horus. This created an interesting architectural balance you’ll notice when you visit Kom Ombo. You’ll also notice that there’s an equal number of areas dedicated to both Sobek and Horus.
To enjoy your experience even more, DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, invites you to look for the gods’ representations as you walk around the temple. Don’t worry; we’ll tell you how you can identify them.
Egyptian Art and Architecture
First we’d like to tell you about the characteristics of Egyptian art and architecture. The constructions are known for being very large and decorated with many symbolic representations. These portray the history and power of the pharaohs and gods that were worshipped there. The structural designs don’t vary much unless they have influence from other cultures. They are often accompanied by monumental works, such as sphinxes. They were designed to last for centuries, so they are known for being majestic and timeless.
How to Identify the Ancient Egyptian Gods
Look for Sobek and Horus on the walls, pillars and on any other place with engravings. Particularly, pay attention to the heads of the representations:
- To find Sobek, look for a man’s body with the head of a crocodile. This god was considered the protector of the Nile, as well as the god of vegetation and fertility. He was also associated with Seth because they both caused danger and chaos.
- Horus is depicted with the head of a hawk. He’s associated with this bird because he was considered the god of the heavens and the founder of Egyptian civilization.
- On some engravings, Sobek and Horus appear next to other gods such as Hathor. This goddess is represented as a cow with horns, and is commonly found in temples dedicated to Horus. She was the goddess of love, happiness, dance and music. Her name, Hathor, means “Horus’ abode”.
- You’ll also find the god Jonsu, who is represented with a tube-shaped beard and a lunar disc on his head. He was the god of the moon, and was also related to medicine. It was also said to keep the spirits of evil away.
- Sejmet is portrayed as a woman with the head of a lioness. She was known as “the terrible one” or “the most powerful one”. She was the goddess of war and vengeance.
Pharaohs Who Built the Temple of Kom Ombo
Thanks to our guide, you’ll be able to identify some of the gods representations throughout the temple and impress your travel companions with your knowledge of Egyptian art and mythology. Apart from the gods you’ll also find engravings of some of the pharaohs that intervened in the construction of the temple. Look for the pillars of the structure. You’ll notice pharaohs wear a cone-shaped headdress that symbolizes Egypt’s double crown. This double crown represents the higher and lower parts of the Nile. They also appear holding scepters in both hands. The pharaohs portrayed in the temple are those who participated in its construction: Ptolemy IV, Ptolemy VII and Ptolemy XII.
Natural Disasters in Kom Ombo Temple
Kom Ombo has a great architectural importance; however, it has been affected by earthquakes, and by the growth of the Nile river. Moreover, some parts of the structure were stolen to build new constructions. Also, some engravings of the interior were erased when the temple of Kom Ombo was turned into a church by the Copts. Even so, the temple remains well-preserved.
Kom Ombo Crocodile Museum and Mummification
Apart from using it as a temple, the Egyptians also used Kom Ombo as a health care center, as the temple’s engravings reveal. You’ll be able to see some of the medical tools they used for surgeries and other procedures, including tooth interventions, head operations and mummification. In fact, a ritual that was part of the cult of Sobek was the mummification of crocodiles, which you’ll be able to learn more about in the exhibition the temple offers. The crocodiles included in the exhibition are over two thousand years old!
Visit the Crocodile Museum, where you’ll see mummified crocodiles and statues dedicated to the god Sobek. The museum is located right outside the temple.
Nightlife in Kom Ombo, Egypt
End your trip enjoying the illumination of the Temple of Kom Ombo. If you go on a cruise, don’t miss the Chilabas Party. Chilabas are traditional Moroccan tunics that cover the body from neck to toes. You can get it in a local market or, if you don’t want to buy one, you can rent it on the cruise.
Sail the Nile and discover Kom Ombo, the place where the hawk and the crocodile watch patiently over the fate of men.