Temple of Hatshepsut, Egypt

The temple of Hatshepsut is one of the most magnificent cultural monuments of Egypt. In addition to its unusual architecture, it stands out mainly because its builder was the only female pharaoh of Egypt.

The massive mortuary temple of Hatshepsut is the best preserved limestone temple of the 18th dynasty and belongs to our top 10 sights of Egypt. It is estimated that the colossal temple complex was built around 1500 BC within 15 years by the architect Senenmur.


The master builder was at the same time also the educator of Hatshepsut's daughter and allegedly also Hatshepsut's secret lover. These circumstances could be the reason that Senenmut was allowed to choose his burial place in direct proximity to the temple under the first terrace. However, he was never buried there.

Where is the temple of Hatshepsut?

The temple of Hatshepsut is located in the valley Deir el Bahari (near former Thebes, today Luxor) in the Egyptian desert far open to the Nile and is dedicated primarily to the gods Hathor and Amun-Re. If you climb the cliff in the equally famous Valley of the Kings, you will have an unforgettable bird's eye view of the temple. From Luxor, the drive to Hatshepsut Temple takes about 45 minutes.

From the temple of Hatshepsut a dead straight processional road leads over the Valley Temple of Hatshepsut to the bank of the Nile and further over the river to the Karnak Temple - probably one of the first "highways" in the world.

What is so special about the temple of Hatshepsut?

Bird's eye view of the famous Temple of Hatshepsut and the Valley of the Kings in Egypt behind it - © WitR / Shutterstock
© WitR / Shutterstock

The most important distinctive feature to other temple complexes of Egypt is probably that the temple of Hatshepsut was built on behalf of a woman - by Hatshepsut herself. The only known female pharaoh of Egypt learned the pursuit of power already in her childhood from her father Thutmosis I.

After the marriage with his stepson Thutmosis II and his early death her son, Thutmosis III, with about 4 years was still much too young for the ruler's seat. Temporarily his mother took over this seat until she broke with all known traditions and became ruler herself - for the first and last time in the (known) Egyptian history.

The massive stone legacy of the pharaoh also differs in its architectural appearance from other temples of Egypt. The characteristic courtyards were replaced by terraces connected by ramps. Some experts see the temple as a precursor to the later architecture of the Greeks and Romans, but theoretically the colossal temple could just as easily be a modern fascist palace. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most magnificent monuments of Egyptian culture.

Hatshepsut ruled over Egypt for more than 2 decades. She saw her son Thutmosis III officially as a co-ruler, but undermined his power regularly. Thus, Thutmosis III apparently took revenge after her death by destroying her memory. The 37-meter-long ramp to the portal of the temple of Hatshepsut was originally lined with Sphinx statues which were smashed after Hatshepsut's death. Also some statues and reliefs inside the temple were severely damaged. Whether the devastations actually started by her son or perhaps rather by a jealous priesthood is not clarified without law.


Exploration of the temple of Hatshepsut

The first Europeans saw the temple about 1740 and called the building "Northern Monastery". The first excavations or debris clearing at the temple of Hatshepsut happened at the end of the 19th century on behalf of the British Egypt Exploration Fund. Besides the clearing work of the fallen boulders also the wall paintings in the temple of Deir el Bahari were copied and catalogued. The excavation and restoration work has not been fully completed to this day.

Visit to the temple of Hatshepsut

The interior of the temple of Hatshepsut impresses still today above all by the artistic wall paintings which are to be found everywhere in the temple and were restored in painstaking detail work. Here it becomes also visible that Hatshepsut was represented again and again as a man - the artists of that time were apparently partly overtaxed with a female Pharaoh.

The two chapels in the temple complex are dedicated to the gods Hathor, Amun-Re and Anubis and are also richly decorated. There is also a chapel of Hatshepsut and Thutmosis I, from where one can enter the sanctuary of Thutmosis I. Here, unfortunately, the decorations are almost completely destroyed. In the large courtyard of the sanctuary of the sun an altar of the sun was erected. Except for a representation of the sun's journey across the sky, this sanctuary is not decorated.

In the hills around the temple there are a lot of holes in the rock, the steep slope looks like a Swiss cheese. These are former tombs that grave robbers left open after their looting.

Sad fame: The Temple of Hatshepsut made negative headlines when in 1997 Arab extremists carried out an attack that killed 58 tourists and 4 Egyptians.

Related links:

Description of the murals and rock paintings in the temple of Hatshepsut