South of the city of Aswan lies the beautiful temple complex of Philae (pronounced "feel-i"). Its main temple was dedicated to the goddess Isis and its construction was undertaken during the third century B.C. Philae was the last bastion of ancient Egyptian religion and hieroglyphic usage. It is also a superb example of threatened cultural heritage being saved in the face of modern civilization's march to change the environment.
The island of Philae and its temples came under threat at the turn of the century when the British erected the Aswan Dam at the First Cataract. Philae began to spend some of its time beneath the backed-up flood waters of the Nile. The Dam was progressively raised in the following decades, but the final nail in the coffin for the island of Philae came with the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s. The temples were destined to disappear forever beneath the river's waters.
Fortunately, Philae was saved from drowning. In 1977, a coffer dam was constructed around the temples and the water was pumped out. Then the temples were carefully dismantled with every block assigned a number and its position noted. A nearby higher island called Agilkai was modified to resemble Philae and the temples were resembled. In 1980, Philae was once again opened to the public.
Today, Philae is one of the highlights of any visit to Aswan. To reach it, one can take an organised excursion booked through a travel agent or hotel. Alternatively, take a taxi to the boat landing at Shellal on the east side of the old Aswan Dam. From there, a short boat trip can be arranged to the island.
If time permits, a night visit for the Sound and Light Show is very worthwhile as the temples look stunning under floodlights. Shows are presented in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Arabic. The language and time schedule should be checked before going.
Tour Egypt Sphinx Saqqara Luxor Area Valley of the Kings Edfu Temple Kom Ombo Aswan Philae Abu Simbel Cruising The Nile Souvenirs
Copyright © 1997-2000 Mark T. Rigby