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A Guide to the Egyptian Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut

A Guide to the Egyptian Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut

The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut lies on the West Bank of the Nile, directly opposite Karnak temple and close to the Valley of the Kings. It is a must-see Egyptian landmark, along with the Luxor temple and Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Built for Queen Hatshepsut, the second female Pharoah of Egypt, this unique funerary temple is unlike any other temple in Egypt.

Carved into the mighty cliffs of Deir el-Bahri, it is a masterpiece of ancient Egyptian architecture with gargantuan dimensions measuring 280 metres in length and 25 metres in height.

You can visit the temple of Hatshepsut alone or as part of a guided tour.

I would lean towards the latter as having a guide will bring the stories of Hatshepsut alive and give you a better understanding of how this powerful female Pharoah reigned over Ancient Egypt, historically becoming one of the country’s most prolific rulers.

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Temple built into the side of cliffs in Luxor

Address of the Temple of Hatshepsut: Kings Valley Road, 1340420, Egypt | Opens daily, 6 am to 5 pm.

Facts about Hatshepsut

Who is Hatshepsut, and what did she do?

The formidable female Pharaoh Hatshepsut reigned over Ancient Egypt for nearly twenty years in the fifteenth century B.C.

She married her half-brother Thutmose ll, who became Pharaoh after the death of their father, making her Queen consort.

During his reign, Thutmose II and Hatshepsut had one daughter together, Neferure. Thutmose II had one son, Thutmose lll, with his second wife, Iset.

After her husband’s death, Hatshepsut dutifully raised her stepson (who was also her nephew), Thutmose III.

The boy was heir to the Egyptian throne; however, before he reached maturity, Hatshepsut announced herself as Pharoah and took her position as ruler of Egypt.

Hatshepsut was fundamental in growing Egypt’s wealth and funded one of the most successful trading expeditions, bringing back gold, ebony, and incense from a place called Punt (probably modern-day Eritrea, a country in Africa).

She built twin hundred-foot-tall obelisks at the great temple complex at Karnak, of which one still towers over Karnak’s ruins. And she created this mortuary temple in Deir el Bahri, with several floors and columns, where she was eventually expected to be buried.

Why was Hathsepsut considered unusual?

She knew as a woman, the royal court and Egyptian society would not accept her as Pharoah, so she ruled Egypt as a man, wearing a wig and a false beard.

Why did Thutmose lll erase Queen Hatshepsut’s name from monuments?

Thutmose III always despised Hatshepsut for taking away his rightful royal position.

After her death, when he became Pharoah, he carried out a sweeping campaign to destroy every image and mention of her in every temple in Egypt.

He eradicated statues and paintings of his stepmother and even removed her name from cartouches (wall name plaques). He wanted her to be completely erased from history.

When you visit this temple in Luxor, you can see evidence of where Hatshepsut’s image once stood proud.

Deep wall scratchings in the shape of a person are the only reminder of her existence. To think how long it must have taken to erase Hatshepsut’s legacy is incomprehensible.

Arriving at the ancient funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut

On arrival at the mortuary temple, you will join a long stream of eager visitors to this iconic Egyptian temple.

At the side of the sloped stairs is a stone sphinx guarding the entrance. This is a reproduction of the original seven-tonne granite sphinx, which is on display in the MET museum in the United States.

You will also see a stone falcon on the balustrade of the walkway to the temple. This statue represents Horus, who is associated with divine and regal power.

Pharaohs believed they were descended from Horus, considered the first divine king of Egypt. Hatshepsut was no exception to the rule.

Queue of people entering Hatshepsut's Mortuary temple

What to see at the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut’s funerary temple consists of three levels, each with a row of columns to the front spanning the temple’s width.

Lower Terrace

Know as the Great Court, the ground level of the mortuary temple was used for religious ceremonies and processions.

Middle Level

On the temple’s second floor are small chapels dedicated to Egyptian Gods, with wall reliefs depicting stories of their power.

You will see colourful wall paintings around the temple depicting battles, funerals and religious festivals honouring Amun-Ra, the sun God. They are quite colourful, considering their age.

These three symbols can also be seen in every Egyptian temple.

They are possibly the most important in Ancient Egypt, and I learned that the Spine-Ankh-Staff symbols mean Stability-Eternity-Prosperity.

Two sacred areas on the middle terrace are dedicated to Hathor, Goddess of beauty and sensuality, and Anubis, God of the Dead. They can be found at either end of the terrace.

You can see the image of Hathor atop the stone columns within the sanctuary.

Upper Terrace

The third level contains a large courtyard for religious rituals and several cult temples. These were to worship Amun Ra, the solar cult court to worship the sun and a mortuary cult temple dedicated to the worship of Hatshepsut and her father, Thutmose l.

Incredible Osirian columns of Hatshepsut stand guard outside and are the image most visitors connect with the Hatshepsut temple. They are a spectacular sight from afar but even more so up close.

The statues portray Hatshepsut as Osiris, God of the underworld and reincarnation, and stand in front of each square pillar. The familiar crossed arms of the Pharoah are shown, as can be seen in all Egyptian temples. In her hands, she holds a crook and whip.

Remember, she lived a life disguised as a man, so the beard and muscular physique are in keeping with how the sculptures of male rulers of Egypt looked.

Where is Hatshepsut buried?

Of course, this funerary complex has a dedicated mortuary area for Hatshepsut, but guess what – she’s not here.

She is down the road in the Valley of the Kings; the Hatshepsut tomb is in the burial complex KV20 of her father and husband. All tombs in the Valley of the Kings have identifying numbers.

When did Hatshepsut die?

Hatshepsut died when she was 50, and Thutmose III finally took his rightful place as Pharoah. He ruled Egypt alone for 33 years.

It was not for another 1,400 years after her death that Egypt would again have a female ruler when Cleopatra came to the throne. One of the fascinating facts about Ancient Egypt is that Cleopatra ruled for another 22 years after Hatshepsut and was Egypt’s last pharaoh.

Wooden door to the mortuary complex in the temple
Entrance to the mortuary complex

Angie’s Final Thoughts

Hatshepsut temple was a complete contrast to Luxor temple and Karnak temple and was an interesting place to visit. The mere fact that Hatshepsut ruled Egypt disguised as a man is a good reason to visit her extraordinary temple and learn more about her life.

My tour of Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple was part of a 2-day Luxor trip from Hurghada with Egypt Key Tours. I paid in full for my tour; it was not a freebie, and I am happy to recommend their services. I was 100% happy with my Luxor tour and knowledgeable guide.

If you plan to travel independently, you can buy skip-the-line tickets for Hatshepsut temple, which is advisable as it can get busy with long queues.

The Hatshepsut mortuary temple is close to the Colossos of Memnon and the Valley of the Kings.

Colossos of Memnon statues in Egypt
Colossi of Memnon

Please Pin for Future Travel to Egypt

Alisha

Wednesday 14th of June 2023

This was such an interesting read, do keep writing more.

WhereAngieWanders

Wednesday 14th of June 2023

Thank you I am glad you found it insightful, Luxor is full of gems like this one, and I will be writing more for you to read. Why not subscribe to my website and then you will get newly published posts straight to your inbox!