The Temple of Hatshepsut was designed by her steward and architect Senenmut to be a resting place, a memorial temple that worships and honours the Queen. The geographical location on the west bank of the River Nile is significantly important as it is not only facing the city of Luxor but it also marks the entrance to the Valley of the Kings. Consequently, Queen Hatshepsut’s temple is eternally placed in the once ancient capital Thebes which prominently puts her at the forefront of all locals, traders, visitors and most importantly descendent kings or queens – making her an enduring presence of wisdom, power and insight.
Additionally, the location at Deir El Bahri was chosen because the ancient Egyptians considered the valley to be sacred for its association with the funerary goddess Hathor. This temple took 15 years to complete and in accordance to Hatshepsut’s style many statues of herself were erected at the site – can be seen on the third level which is off limit to the public – to impress upon the ancient Egyptian people her standing as a great Pharaoh and ruler.
The temple consists of three levels and leading up to the second and third levels is a 100 foot causeway (make sure you have water to combat the inevitable thirst and heat) that is believed to have been lined with sphinxes during ancient Egyptian times. During this time, it is thought that the first level was decked with trees and shrubbery from Hatshepsut’s trading expeditions to the land of Punt whilst the second level contains the first ever documented record of a said expedition, retelling Hatshepsut’s high official Pa-nahsy’s journey to Punt between the years 1482 – 1479 BC. Also on the second floor is a shrine to the goddess Hathor who is depicted with a woman’s face, cow’s ears and holding a musical instrument and a special chapel dedicated to the Theban Necropolis Anubis who was the god of mummification and afterlife.
However, the second level is also sometimes called the Birth Colonnade as it depicts the birth of Queen Hatshepsut. It validates her rule over Egypt as she claimed to be the divine daughter of Amon Ra who in these reliefs impregnates Queen Ahmose and discloses that Hatshepsut will rule over Egypt. Hatsheptsut can be regarded as the most formidable woman in ancient Egypt – indeed later female Pharaohs aspired to her. Her reign lasted for 22 years and is regarded as one of Egypt’s most prosperous periods.
Despite this, after her husband Thutmose II died she served as co-regent to her nephew and stepson, the infant Thutmose III – who eventually became the 6th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. Consequently, this visual propaganda recounting her birth was essential for Hatshepsut’s rule as she had many obstacles to overcome. She was at a disadvantage from the outset, as a woman she had to fight an army of men who believed her to be weak, feebleminded and inferior. Thus, by declaring herself as the daughter of Amon Ra she elevates herself from the status of a mere mortal by equating herself with the gods.
Additionally, Thutmose III, who many believed to be Egypt’s rightful king, grew into adulthood during her reign, meaning that Hatshepsut should relinquish her claim to the throne. Interestingly enough, after her death Thutmose III, who clearly resented her prolonged reign ordered for Hatshepsut’s name and image to be chiselled from the walls and replaced by his own. Furthermore, he built his own temple directly opposite hers across the River Nile.
When on this level take a moment to turn around and look out into the vista – your added height magnifies the outstandingly beautiful vista – it is enough to transfix you in your place and make you contemplate the wonders of the world. Also this temple is unlike any other you will encounter on your travels as it is dedicated to and celebrates a woman – it tells a part of history that many in this period might want forgotten! It’s breath-taking and unbelievable – the art, statues, grandeur of the temple speaks loudly of the kind of woman, kind of Queen, Hatshepsut was!
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