New Kalabsha Review
The temples from the sites of Kalabsha and Beit al-Wali were moved to the island of New Kalabsha near Aswan. This rocky island, redolent of fish, is uninhabited save for a few dogs, foxes, and the antiquities guards that care for the temple and monitor the ticket booth. The view of the lake and the dam is very fine from the island, and especially charming from the landing dock.
The largest freestanding Egyptian temple in Nubia, Kalabsha was built by Augustus Caesar (who reigned from 27 BC to AD 14) and dedicated to Osiris, Isis, and Mandulis, the latter a Nubian fertility god with a very elaborate headdress. Although the temple building was almost completed in antiquity, its decoration was never finished. Only three inner rooms, as well as portions of the exterior, are completely decorated with reliefs. Kalabsha's half-finished column capitals and fragments of relief decoration do, however, provide a great deal of information about ancient construction and carving techniques.
The temple complex includes a birth house, in the southwest corner, and a small chapel in the northeast corner, dating to the Ptolemaic period. A large rock stela dating to the reign of Seti I has also been erected at this site. Its original location was Qasr Ibrim.
Several large boulders covered with petroglyphs of uncertain date stand along a walkway on the south side of the temple. The petroglyphs, which resemble those of the southern African San (Bushmen), include carvings of people and animals, such as elephants and antelopes.
Behind the Temple of Kalabsha, a walkway rounds a bend and arrives at the small, rock-cut temple of Beit al-Wali. This diminutive but colorful monument was removed from its cliff-side home—the ancients carved it out of the cliff, like the temples at Abu Simbel—and moved to New Kalabsha in the 1960s. Ramses II commissioned Beit al-Wali and dedicated it to Amun-Ra and other deities.
Originally, the temple was fronted by a mud-brick pylon, which was not moved, and consisted of an entrance hall, a hypostyle hall, and a sanctuary. This small, jewel-like temple is a delight, because its painted decorations—its reds, blues, and greens—still look very fresh. The entrance hall contains scenes of Ramses II quelling various enemies of Egypt, often accompanied by a pet lion. The columned hall shows the pharaoh interacting with different deities, chief among them being Amun-Ra. The sanctuary contains carved seated statues of Ramses II and deities, such as Horus, Isis, and Khnum.
- Address: Egypt
- Phone: /
- Cost: £E35
- Hours: Oct.–May, daily 7–4; June–Sept., daily 7–5
- Location: New Kalabsha