The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (1465–1458 BC), built by the architect Senenmut, is a sublime piece of architecture—some say the finest on the planet for its harmony with its surroundings. It consists of three double colonnades rising on terraces that melt into the foot of towering limestone cliffs.
Hatshepsut (18th Dynasty) was the most important woman ever to rule over Egypt as pharaoh. Instead of waging war to expand Egyptian territory like her predecessors,
she chose to consolidate the country, build monuments, and organize expeditions to the land of Punt to bring myrrh, incense, and offerings for the gods. Prior to acting as pharaoh, she served as regent for her (then-young) successor, Thutmose III. As soon as Thutmose III came of age to rule over Egypt, he began a program of selectively eradicating her names and images from the monuments of Egypt. Curiously, he didn't erase all of her names, and in some cases the defaced and the intact cartouches are quite near each other.
The reliefs inside the first colonnade are damaged. They included a detailed scene of how the queen's granite obelisks were transported on boats from Aswan to Karnak. Take the large ramp that leads to the second court. The chapel on the left is dedicated to the goddess Hathor. The capitals of the columns are carved in the shape of the face of Hathor as a woman, with cow's ears surmounted by a sistrum. To the right of the chapel starts the second colonnade. Its first half is consecrated to the famous expeditions to Punt—modern scholars have yet to determine where Punt actually was—and shows the variety of products brought from Punt. The colonnade on the right of the second ramp is devoted to the divine birth of Hatshepsut, with Hatshepsut's mother seated with the god Amun-Ra, between the first and second columns. By showing that she was of divine origin, Hatshepsut proved she was able to rule over Egypt as pharaoh. The better-preserved chapel to the right is dedicated to Anubis.
The Third—upper—terrace is reached by a ramp flanked by twin representations of Horus. The hypostyle hall on the terrace has carvings depicting two different scenes. On the north side are celebrations for the "Beautiful Feast of the Valley," which observed the connection between the living and the dead. The carvings show priests carrying barques with statues of the gods and the Pharaohs followed by musicians and dancers. On the south side scenes of royal statues carried in barques with their associated coterie—depicting the mortuary cult of ancestor worship—in this instance for Hatshepsut. Beyond the wall and cut into the rock is the sanctuary of Amun, the Holy of Holies where the barque of Amun would rest in preparation for its next day of festivities.
The temple is not included on all guided tours, so be sure to verify its inclusion if you would like to see it. Otherwise, you can easily arrange private transportation.