The small town of Kom Ombo is situated on the East side of the Nile, 45 kilometers to the north of the city of Aswan and about 800 kilometers to the south of Cairo, the capital of Egypt.
The word “Kom” in Arabic means the small hill and the word “Ombo”, in the Hieroglyphic ancient Egyptian language means “the gold”. Therefore, the word Kom Ombo means the hill of the gold.
It was constructed during the Ptolemaic dynasty. Some additions to it were later made during the Roman period.
The building is unique because its ‘double’ design meant that there were courts, halls, sanctuaries and rooms duplicated for two sets of gods.
The southern part of the temple was dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek, bHathor and Khons. This part of the temple is also called “House of the Crocodile
The northern part of the temple was dedicated to the falcon god Horus, Tasenetnofret, meaning “the good sister,” and a manifestation of Hathor and Panebtaway, meaning “the Lord of two lands” which represented Egyptian kingship. This part of the temple is also called “Castle of the Falcon.”
Sobek’s chief sanctuary was at Kom Ombo, where there were once huge numbers of crocodiles.
The Construction of the Temple
The Temple of Kom Ombo was constructed on the ruins of a much older temple called “Ber Sobek”, or the house of the god Sobek.
This older temple was erected by King Tuthmosis III and Queen Hatshepsut, whose marvelous temple is still standing in the West Bank of Luxor.
The temple of Kom Ombo was built during the ruling period of King Ptolemy VI.
The Coptic Church took over the temple and converted it into their own place of worship. It was at this time that many of the ancient reliefs were defaced and removed.
The Design of the Temple
The Ptolemies have constructed the Temple of Kom Ombo for the worship of two gods, Sobek; the crocodile god, and Horus, the falcon god. This is why the complex mainly consists of two parallel temples that include all the traditional components of such ancient Egyptian religious structures are present in the two temples.
The Temple of Kom Ombo was constructed mainly with limestone in the shape of a rectangle.
Just after crossing the gate inside the temple, there is a small room dedicated to Hathor. Today, it is used to display the many mummified crocodiles that were found in the temple’s vicinity. A well in front of the main entrance was once used as a Nilometer.
It has wonderful wall carvings depicting the Ptolemaic kings beating the enemies and presenting the offerings to the gods.
It consists of a rectangle open space with 16 columns eight on each side of the court. Unfortunately, only the bases of these columns survived today. A granite altar sits in the center of the main court. In the rear wall of the main court are five lotus-shaped columns along with a screen wall. Two entrances, one for each deity, open up here.
The 1st Hypostyle hall:
Through both entrances lies the first Hypostyle hall. There are ten lotus-shaped columns here with the middle two separating the two halves of the hall.
The 2nd Hypostyle hall:
It is known as “The Hall of Offering”. Beyond this Hall of Offering are three antechambers, now all nearly destroyed.
All the walls of the 3 antechambers are covered with fine reliefs. The small rooms on the left-hand side of the Antechambers would have once served as temple store rooms.
The Temple of Kom Ombo features two sanctuaries dedicated to the two gods of the temple; Sobek and Horus. They consist of two similar rectangular halls as they were constructed during the reign of Ptolemy VI.
Around the chapels were a number of smaller rooms with crypts.
To the sides of the inner halls, there are seven chambers; three of them situated in the eastern section of the temple while the others are located in the western part.
The inner hall has a design which is similar to the outer hall but the columns here are quite shorter and the stone capital of these columns have the shape of the lotus flower.
The Mamisi (The Birth Place):
It is located in the South Eastern section of the complex and it was constructed during the period of Ptolemy VII. This structure consists of an outer courtyard that leads into a front hypostyle hall that leads in turn to another two halls where rituals of the birth of the son of the gods were carried out.
In the open space east of the birth house and north of the temple are two large and handsome blocks from an architrave, one of them bearing the name of Neos Dionysos. There are remains of several small structures, including a Roman doorway and a ruined chapel standing on a platform. Also here, are two wells with a water channel leading to a small pool in which young sacred crocodiles may have been kept
The Chapel of Hathor:
To the south of the temple is a small temple dedicated to Hathor, built of red sandstone. In one room of this are the mummies of sacred crocodiles found in the vicinity.
In the North Western section of the complex is a circular well that was used as a Nilometer, a tool that the ancient Egyptians used to measure the level of the water of the Nile, similar to the one located in the Rhoda Island in Cairo.
The Chapel of Sobek:
Situated in the North Eastern section of the temple of Kom Ombo, is a Roman-style chapel dedicated to the god Sobek and was constructed in the 3rd century AD.