A bas relief – the Zodiac of Dendera – that was found in the Temple of Hathor proves this beyond a doubt. This eight feet square sandstone ceiling panel from 50 BC is reputed to be the world’s first horoscope. It charts the movement of the stars and depicts the zodiac constellations quite like we do today! And it comes replete with theories of encoded messages and ‘end of world’ prophecies.
If you want to see it you’ll have to plan a trip to Paris. For it was pried out from inside the Chapel of Osiris in the Temple of Dendera and transported to France in 1821. It now resides in the Louvre. In its place is a plaster cast covered in soot, it’s details indistinguishable.
The Temple of Hathor was originally built in 2250 BC but the present structure belongs to the Ptolemaic or Greco-Roman period. It is one of the best preserved temple complexes in the country. And thankfully, there is a lot more in the temple that could not possibly be carted away.
The 24 finely carved Hathor headed columns in the hypostyle hall and the wonderfully illustrated zodiac panels on the ceiling between them are the most spectacular you’ll see anywhere.
Hidden for years under the soot of ancient lamp black, the fantastic ceiling reliefs depict celestial charts with the signs of the zodiac in sequence and the daily journey of the sun through the body of (sky goddess) Nut. Astronomical precision and mythological imagery at its very best
It is by her mouth that the majesty of this god – that is to say, Ra – enters within the Duat.~ Book of Nut
Look at the picture, the disc which is at her mouth. […]
After in the western horizon his majesty [Ra] sets, they [the stars] enter into her mouth in the place of her head in the west. […]
It is within her that they travel in the day, when they do not shine and are not seen.
It never occurred to me to ask where he parks his barge or the dead souls travelling with him.
ABOUT THE DAY-TRIP TO ABYDOS & DENDERA
Dendera, is 81 km from Luxor and the drive takes an hour and a half.
We clubbed it with Abydos as a long day-trip, starting at the Seti I Temple since it is farther away and then returning via Dendera. The 172 km drive from Luxor to Abydos takes about three hours. Abydos to Dendera (105 km) is about an hour and a half.
You’ll need nine to ten hours for the full day trip with about two hours in each temple complex. A half day trip to Denedera alone can be done in five hours.
GETTING TO DENDERA: The best way to get here is by booking a car and driver through a travel company. Cost for up to two persons in a private car with guide is approximately US$ 130 excluding entrance fees as of this writing. Joining a tour is a slightly cheaper option.
DENDERA FAST FACTS
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Winter months between mid October to mid March.
HOURS: 08:00 – 17:00
ENTRANCE FEES (2019-20) : Adult: EGP 120/ Student: EGP 60
CAMERA FEE: EGP 300. Free with mobile phones.
WHERE TO EAT: You could carry packed lunch or get your driver to stop at a local restaurant on the way.
WHAT TO WEAR: Covering arms, shoulders and knees isn’t mandatory. My advice is to wear whatever you are comfortable in, but carry a light shirt or stole to throw over your shoulders when needed. I would avoid shorts everywhere. Khakis, loose cotton pants or skirts are ideal.
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