Built between the 2nd century BC and 1st century AD, the temple stands on a bend in the Nile. It is especially romantic to behold the temple in the moonlight, if you arrive on a cruise at the right time of the month. Virtually all the remains of the temple date to the Ptolemaic period and later, although evidence of earlier structures has been found, most notably an 18th-Dynasty gateway.
The temple is remarkable for its duality: it has two of almost everything, enabling
its priests to conduct equal services for two deities simultaneously. The southern part of the temple, on the right when you face the entrance, is dedicated to Sobek, the northern part to Haroeris.
Immediately across the courtyard to the right after you enter the compound is a small shrine, dedicated to Hathor, which now houses some mummified crocodiles. Crocodiles, sacred to Sobek, were worshiped at Kom Ombo. The crocodiles were regarded as semidivine, and they were fed the finest foods, provided with golden earrings, and given elaborate manicures, which involved gilding their nails. Areas in the northwestern parts of the enclosure are thought to have been the place where the sacred crocodiles were kept when alive.
The double entrance to the temple proper is from the southwest, leading into a large courtyard—the structure was oriented with its entrance to the river, rather than having a true east–west axis. This courtyard is the only shared space in the temple proper; from here, the building is divided in two. There are two doorways that lead to outer hypostyle halls, inner hypostyle halls, a series of offering halls, and twin sanctuaries. The sanctuaries contain a set of crypts from which priests provided oracular advice and the respective god "spoke" whenever necessary. Behind the sanctuaries is a series of storerooms now inhabited by bats.
The decoration of the walls is the usual type found in temples: pharaohs making offerings to divinities and divinities blessing pharaohs. The different gods being honored show to whom the temple is dedicated. Look for a calendar on the southwest wall of the offering hall, and the depiction of a table laden with surgical implements on the back (northeast) wall of the outer stone enclosure. Surgical implements found at archaeological sites (and used worldwide until quite recently) can clearly be identified on the table as a clear reference to the fact that the temple was a center of healing. A rather charming relief of a pharaoh's pet lion nibbling on the unwillingly proffered hands of the king's enemies is carved on the exterior of the southeastern wall.
A large, deep well and a Nilometer are within the mud-brick enclosure west of the main building. This is also the area where the sacred crocodiles were supposed to have been kept. Fragmentary remains of a birth house stand at the temple's western corner (in front). Behind the temple is a yet-to-be-excavated area that was probably the site of priestly houses and a very modest town, built of mud bricks.
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