The Mysteries of Dendera Temple

Margie Jones

Dendera is the BEST PRESERVED Temple in Egypt

Dendera Temple holds a special place in the annals of Egyptian history and archaeology, and for me personally, it remains an enigmatic gem amidst the sands of time.  It is, without a doubt, one of the most intact and complete ancient sites ever unearthed.   It’s said that by the time Napoleon’s expedition arrived, a shroud of sand had gradually amassed around its outer walls, almost as if the desert itself had conspired to protect its secrets.

As you approach the entrance to Dendera Temple you can only see the front of the Temple silhouetted against the backdrop of the (always) blue sky.  The sides are not visible to you.  It seems as if there is nothing there at all—nothing behind the front facade.  Nothing the ancient Egyptians did was an accident; everything created in the Temples had a message, a function, and a meaning.  The questions around Dendera are unending.  However, it is said that this Temple was not finished when the Romans arrived and ordered the priests to hand over all their secrets, teachings and library scrolls.  The priests are alluded to have written the last of their secrets on the walls of Dendera Temple – for those with eyes to see.  And that is why there is so much at Dendera that is nowhere else.

Secret Underground Crypts and Hidden Passages

Undergroun Crypt Dendera

What rituals and ceremonies took place within these sacred precincts?  What secrets lie hidden beneath the inscriptions that adorn the walls?  What was the purpose of its hidden chambers and concealed passages?  Storehouses, they say, but why would you adorn the walls of storerooms with sacred writings?  There are twelve underground crypts at Dendera, but we are allowed access to only one.

The controversial “Dendera Light Bulb”

The Dendera “Lightbulb”

The famous Dendera Light Bulb hieroglyph is a curious carving that suggests the ancient Egyptians may have possessed knowledge of electricity.  Could there be a lost chapter in the history of technology hidden within the temple’s secrets?  Or is it more likely to be a symbol, a metaphorical representation of enlightenment?

Unfinished carvings: by omission or design?

I love this Temple more for its unanswered questions and mysteries than for its completeness.  For example, in a Temple so obviously complete and undamaged, why are some columns left unfinished and unadorned in the Hypostyle Hall?  Could it be to tell us that we never get it all done, we never complete, and we never end?  Could it be to tell us that life is always a work in progress and that the only thing that is certain is uncertainty and change?

And when the carvings are always the same… why does this one in the underground crypt have three different Hathor faces?

The Mysteries of Dendera Temple - MARA HOUSE LUXOR

Perplexing Staircases at Dendera Temple

The Temple’s complex architecture only deepens the puzzle as it is the only Temple in Egypt where you can still climb the staircases to the second floor.  I can’t help but grin when I think about the staircases at Dendera – they remind me of the enchanted moving staircases in the Harry Potter films.  For the longest time, they presented an intriguing puzzle to me.  On every guided tour I’ve led through the temple, we invariably followed the same path.  Yet, I couldn’t fathom why I ascended a circular staircase, only to descend a straight one.  This mystery left me scratching my head each time I attempted to sketch a map of the temple back at Mara House to guide guests who would be going there without me – those were the days before I had guides for my guests and the internet inundated us with visual references.

What truly makes me laugh is the simplicity of the answer, a revelation that seems to elude me every time I step foot in Dendera, which makes me think the temple affects my brain in some way!  The solution to the baffling staircases is astonishingly simple – there are two separate staircases!

The Mysteries of Dendera Temple - MARA HOUSE LUXOR

These ancient steps have weathered the ages and their surfaces are worn smooth by countless feet.  Unless the authorities devise a solution, it may become unsafe for visitors to ascend to the second floor, and that, my friends, would be a sad loss.  The carvings the entire length of both staircases are a wonder to behold.

The Hidden Room Behind the Holy of Holies Sanctuary

At Dendera, as in most other Temples, the Holy of Holies Sanctuary is straight ahead from the entrance door.  However this is not what is of interest to me.  The Holy of Holies Sancturary has a passageway running behind it’s three side walls.

The room directly behind the Holy of Holies is the mystery that draws me to it.  The entrance portal to this room is adorned with intricate decorations reminiscent of the grand temple entrances, hinting to a significance that goes beyond the ordinary.   As we trace our steps down the corridor flanked by unadorned, plain doors, we can’t help but wonder: Why does this room alone receive such ornate treatment? What secrets are locked behind its enigmatic facade?

Yet, it’s not merely this chamber that is unfathomable.  Beyond its imposing entrance lies a second room, once concealed from prying eyes.  Its entrance door, curiously positioned halfway up the wall, raises questions that defy easy answers.  How did one gain access to this inner sanctum in ages past, when no evidence of a ladder or staircase attachment adorns the walls?

Secret Room at Dendera

One tantalizing clue presents itself in the form of a colossal Hathor head protruding from the outer temple wall of this hidden room.  The colossal Hathor head is in the exact centre of the outer wall of this chamber – to what purpose?  There is nothing like this in any other temple or building.

The ceiling of Dendera Temple had been blackened over the years from the soot of burning fires but much of it has not been cleaned and the beautiful colours underneath are perfectly intact – mostly blue.

As we delve deeper into the mysteries of Dendera Temple, we must also ponder the unanswered questions that surround its purpose and the people who built it. What drove them to create such an extraordinary masterpiece, and what legacy did they intend to leave behind? The temple’s walls may be adorned with intricate scenes of daily life and religious rituals, but they reveal only a fraction of the story.  If you look at the ceiling at Dendera you will see all the signs of the zodiac.

Ceiling at Dendera

The elaborate hypostyle hall, with its towering columns and celestial depictions, clearly speaks of a cosmic connection.  Did the ancient priests of Dendera Temple possess knowledge beyond our comprehension?  Were they initiates of esoteric traditions, guardians of cosmic wisdom, or simply architects of celestial wonders?  In contrast, can you believe that the man who took the Zodiac from the upstairs ceiling of Dendera to France actually blasted it off the ceiling with dynamite?


Dendera Temple: an ancient marvel of ACOUSTIC ARCHITECTURE

Dendera, dedicated to Hathor, the goddess of motherhood, birthing, music, and joy, conceals yet another mystery within its sacred confines: impeccable acoustics that resonate with its divine purpose.  It’s a revelation that, once explored, seamlessly intertwines with the temple’s spiritual significance.  Guides don’t have to shout to be heard by their groups at Dendera!  I can only imagine what it would be like to hear a world class singer or choir inside Dendera Temple?

During one of my visits to Dendera, an encounter with a physician added yet another layer to the temple’s mystique.  He asked me if the Hathor heads crowning the columns in the Hypostyle Hall reminded me of anything.  At first, I was perplexed, but then, with a subtle revelation, he unveiled the profound connection: the Hathor heads at Dendera Temple are a precise replica of the intricate female reproductive system.  He was a gynecologist.  What do you think of that?

The 23 CROWNS of Ancient EGYPT

The depiction of the 23 crowns of ancient Egypt on the outside wall of the Dendera Temple is a remarkable and historically significant aspect of Egyptian archaeology and iconography.  While the temple itself is dedicated to Hathor, the goddess of love, music, and joy, it also contains numerous unique inscriptions, carvings, and reliefs that provide insights into various aspects of ancient Egyptian culture and religion.

I really have only scratched the surface of the mysteries of Dendera Temple.  One has to keep visiting this outstanding Egyptian Temple to understand how deep the rabbit hole might be.  But I will write more on this fascinating temple – I just need to find the time.

I’m Mara – from Ireland, the author of all these articles and curator of this website. I invite you to escape the ordinary and explore Egypt with my amazing guides, from Alexandria to Cairo to Luxor to Aswan, we can cater for all your needs. Book now for an unforgettable experience in Egyptian and Irish hospitality. Mara House in Luxor and all your sightseeing needs in Egypt are only an email away, contact me now –

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