Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (2023)

Written byJess Lee
Updated May 20, 2021
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Once the epicenter of the cult of Osiris, Seti I built the glorious temple dedicated to the Egyptian god here.

Abydos was the most important burial center in ancient Egypt. Although the archaeological site here is huge, the main tourist attraction that most people focus on when visiting is the beautiful Temple of Seti I.

Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (1)

Abydos is much less visited than the Luxor Temples and the Nile TemplesEdfujven ombofurther south, but for travelers interested in Pharaonic art, the colorful murals and ceiling paintings, as well as the carved pillar work of the Temple of Seti I are highlights of a trip to the Nile and should not be missed.

Abydos is 162 kilometers north ofLuxorand can easily be visited as a day trip from the city. Our Visitor's Guide to Exploring the Temples of Abydos will help you plan your visit.

This page:

  • Temple of Seti I
  • Prime Terrace
  • second terrace
  • first portico
  • second porch
  • sanctuaries
  • south wing of the temple
  • History of Abydos: the most important necropolis of ancient Egypt
  • Around the Temple of Seti I
  • How to get to the temples of Abydos?

Temple of Seti I

Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (2)

The Temple of Seti I at Abydos is the highlight of a trip here. Built of limestone and spread over three levels, the temple differs from other Egyptian temples in many ways.

There are no less than seven inner temple sanctuaries here, honoring Osiris, Isis, Horus, Ptah, Re-Harakhte, Amun and the deified Pharaoh Seti I.

The front part of the temple is thus divided into seven individual temples, each with its own entrance, and the chambers behind the chapels are not arranged one behind the other as in other temples, but side by side.

Prime Terrace

Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (3)

You enter the gigantic temple complex from the northeast through thefirst pylon,now in ruins leading to the largely destroyed First Court.

The First and Second Courtyard areas were built by Ramses II (son of Seti I), so the embossed decoration here celebrates his reign. On the southeastern wall of the courtyard are scenes from Ramses II's wars and victories in Asia, including the famous Battle of Qadesh (also depicted in the Temples of Ramses II in ).Abu Simbel) against the Hittite armies.

second terrace

Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (4)

ANDPrime Terracetakes you to the second best-preserved inner courtyard. Dedicatory inscriptions in the name of Ramses II can be seen on the right and left. On the other side of the courtyard, a low ramp leads to the temple proper and aHallwith 12 robust columns.

Don't miss:On the wall to the left of the front door is aenrollmenton 95 vertical columns documenting the completion of the temple by Ramses II. The reliefs show Ramses in the presence of various deities.

See the only scene near the entrance that shows him presenting an image of the goddess Maat to the triad of Osiris, Isis and Seti I (here replacing Horus).

first portico

Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (5)

The central entrance takes you into the temple's massive First Hypostyle Hall, whose partially ruined roof is supported by 24 papyrus columns with knob-shaped capitals. Like the courtyards, this room was also completed by Ramses II.

Note how the columns are arranged so that the five central processional naves leading to the chapels are flanked by two pairs of columns, while the two outer aisles are bounded on one side by the walls of the hall.

second portico

Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (6)

Seven doors corresponding to the walled entrance portals give access to the second colonnaded room with 36 columns arranged in three rows that support the architraves and the roof panels above them.

This is by far the most engaging part of the temple and theThe finely detailed reliefs that adorn the walls, all from the reign of Seti I, are among the finest achievements of Egyptian sculpture.. The hall was the last part of the temple built by Seti I.

The layout of the columns flanking the processional naves is similar to that of the previous room.

The 24 columns of the first two rows have closed papyrus capitals. The columns in the third row, resting on a raised platform, are tree trunks with cylindrical stems without capitals, on which stone slabs are placed, forming an abacus to support the architrave.

Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (7)

Don't miss:Of the decor here, note in particular the intricate detail of the reliefs on the back wall, with Hapi, god of the Nile, depicted in the bottom row, while above is Seti I surrounded by gods, with Osiris sitting in his shrine behind.


Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (8)

Next tosecond porch, in a straight line with the seven entrance gates, there are seven sanctuaries.

The middle shrine is dedicated to Amun, the chief god of the New Kingdom; the three on the right for Osiris, Isis and Horus; and the three on the left for Re-Harakhty, Ptah and Pharaoh Seti I.

A sacred boat with the image of each individual deity would originally have been in each shrine.

The ceilings of each chamber are decorated with stars and the names of Seti I, while the walls are covered with colorful reliefs depicting the ceremonies that took place in the chapels.

Don't miss:EmSeti IrefugeLook to the left wall to see some of the best-preserved reliefs. In the bottom row, from left to right, are scenes depicting three falcon-headed gods and three dog-headed gods leading the pharaoh into the chapel, followed by a priest (wearing the hairstyle of youth and a panther skin). offering incense.

The reliefs then show the pharaoh seated on a throne at a feast with his guardian spirit behind him and the ibis-headed god Thoth in front of him.

The reliefs inside theSanctuary of AmonThey are also notable for their well-preserved colors. Here Seti I is depicted offering sacrifices to Amun in his various forms and burning incense in front of the sacred barge of Amun.

south wing of the temple

Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (9)

The south wing contains a slaughterhouse, a well and storerooms, as well as aSanctuary of Ptah-Sokar, the death god of Memphis, who is introduced bysecond porch. The beautiful reliefs here show Seti I worshiping Ptah-Sokar, his son Nefertum and other deities.

Don't miss:By far the most important feature of the south wing is theGallery of the Kings, a long and gradually ascending corridor where thesecond porch.

On the right wall of the Gallery of the Kings is the famousList two pharaohs of Abydos, which provided important information about the succession of Egyptian rulers.

The relief shows Seti I with a censer and the Crown Prince, later Ramses II (with the sidelock of youth), reciting hymns from a papyrus scroll. They worship their royal ancestors, 76 of which are listed in the first two lines. The list starts with Egypt's first pharaoh, Menes, and continues all the way to Seti. The names of minor or illegitimate rulers are omitted.

History of Abydos: the most important necropolis of ancient Egypt

Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (10)

From the first and second dynasties (early third millennium BC), Abydos played an important role as a burial place for pharaohs and high court dignitaries.

It was here that the rituals of the dead king's burial and the ascension of his successor to heaven were celebrated, symbolizing the transience and return of all earthly things.

The cult of Osiris, which originated in the Delta, managed to gain a foothold in Abydos in the Old Kingdom; With the nearby hill of Umm el-Gaab believed to be the tomb of Osiris, it is not surprising that the temples of Abydos became a center of Osiris worship.

Various Pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom, as well as wealthy individuals, erected cenotaphs or stelae here.

There was no greater fortune for the pious ancient Egyptian than to be buried beside the tomb of Osiris or, failing that, to have his mummy temporarily taken to Abydos to receive the desired consecration. At the very least, a prominent ancient Egyptian would commend himself to Osiris, the lord of the underworld, by erecting a cenotaph, or memorial stone.

In the mysteries performed annually in honor of Osiris at Abydos, the eternal earthly cycle of death and rebirth was celebrated. Osiris' sister and wife Isis, their son Horus and under the New Kingdom Ptah, Re-Harakhty and Amun were also worshiped here.

Around the Temple of Seti I


Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (11)

The most important part of ancient Abydos was its extensive necropolis.. Four areas can be distinguished:

In the southernmost part of the necropolis, near El-Araba, are thenew imperial tombs, ANDTemple of Seti IjRamses II.,it's atOsireion. To the north is a mound with tombs from the late Old Kingdom.

Even further north, between the sanctuary of Osiris and the remains of wallsShunet el-Zebib, are the tombs of the Middle Kingdom, many in the form of small brick pyramids; There are also burials here from other eras, mainly from the 18th and 20th dynasties (ca. 1500-1000 BC) and the last dynasty.

finally on the hillUmm al-Gaab, to the west, where the archaeological excavations of Abydos are currently concentrated, are the royal tombs of the first dynasties and the sanctuaryOsiris-Grab. This area is closed to visitors.


Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (13)

Southwest of the Temple of Seti I is the large structure known as the Osireion.

Often mistaken by visitors for the tomb of Osiris, it is actually a cenotaph of Seti I closely associated with the main temple.

It was discovered by Margaret A. Murray in 1903 and explored between 1911 and 1926 by the Egyptian Exploration Society under the direction of E. Naville and Dr. excavated in Frankfurt.

The building, originally covered by an artificial mound and surrounded by trees, was erected by Seti I but was left unfinished.

Later, some rooms were decorated with religious scenes and Merneptah inscriptions. The main structure is made of white limestone and reddish sandstone, with red granite used only for the pillars and ceiling of the main hall and some of the doorways.

Unfortunately it is closed to the public. Go to the back of the Temple of Seti I to get a good view of the building.

Temple of Ramses II

Exploring the Temples of Abydos: A Visitor's Guide (14)

Not far away are the remains of the once greatTemple of Ramses II, also dedicated to Osiris and the cult of the dead pharaoh.

Opposite the current entrance was a large courtyard, of which only a few traces have survived.

The stonework of the temple itself only survives at a height of two meters, but it is still possible to trace the outline of a courtyard surrounded by porticoes with columns and figures of Osiris, similar to those in the Ramesseum at Luxor.

It was built of fine-grained limestone, with red and black granite for the doors, sandstone for the pillars, and alabaster for the inner sanctum.

The wall decorations are in delicate bas-reliefs with some of the best preserved paintings in the first courtyard depicting a sacrificial procession.

The reliefs outside the temple (north and west sides), made of fine white limestone, are among the finest made during the reign of Ramses II and depict scenes from the pharaoh's war against the Hittites.

Shunet el-Zebib

Northwest of the Temple of Ramses II are the ruins ofShunet el-Zebibsurrounded by an outer and inner wall of sun-dried brick. The complex probably dates from the second dynasty and may have been a palace.

Remains of the ancient city

A few hundred meters northeast of Shunet el-Zebib, near the village of El-Khirba, lie the remains of theancient city of Abydosit's atSanctuary of Osiris, dating back to early Egyptian history.

All that remains of the shrine are the brick walls built in the Middle Kingdom and some remnants of the temple.

Tips & Tactics: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to the Temples of Abydos

Temple visit:


  • The sooner you're here, the better. Try it right away during opening hours at 8am. have the temple complex all to yourself.

To spend the night:

  • The modern town of Abydos has a few basic hotels if you really want to extend your time at the temples, but most tourists come here as part of a day trip from Luxor, which has a better choice of accommodation.Arrange a trip herewith a visit to the Dendara Temple in Qena.

How to get to the temples of Abydos?

  • By private taxi:Tours to the temple complex of Abydos can easily be arranged from Luxor. Traveling this way allows you to create your own itinerary, which is useful if you want to explore other attractions north of Luxor.
  • By tourist bus:Most hotels and travel agencies in Luxor offer bus trips to Abydos. Keep in mind that if you decide to travel this way, you will most likely be part of a large group.

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Temples, tombs and views along the Nile:If you are planning a route to Upper Egypt and are following the Nile, read our articles on theTop attractions in LuxorjAswan. For information on Luxor's most important tombs and temples, see our How to Explore articles.The Valley of the Kings,Faculty, ANDTemple of Kom Ombo,jEdfu Temple of Horus.

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