Before the Nubian Rescue campaign, the small rock-cut temple of Beit was located in a side valley a short distance to the northwest of the Temple of Kalabsha. It is now at new Kalabsha, where it was reconstructed in a rocky hillside in the same position relative to Kalabsha Temple as it was previously.
The Beit al-Wali Temple of Ramesses II is famous for its historical scenes particularly in the forecourt and for the good quality of its relief with much color preserved in the inner part of the temple, which make it a joy to visit.
It is not immediately clear to whom the temple was dedicated, but Amun-Re is depicted most frequently and so seems to be the most likely candidate. Other gods represented include Khnum, the god of Elephantine, and his two consorts, Satis and Anukis; the goddess Mut, consort of Amun-Re; and Nubian forms of the god Horus.
It like most of the Nubian temples, Beit al-Wali also ended its days as a Christian church, where the forecourt comprised the nave of the church, which was covered with brick-built domes.
The Arabic name for the temple, Beit al-Wali, by which it is now normally known, means “the house of the holy man” so it is possible that this man shrine was in fact a Christian hermit’s dwelling at some stage.
The temple consists of:
1. A stone gateway set in a brick wall
2. A forecourt
3. A vestibule with two columns
4. A sanctuary
On either side of me gateway, Ramesses II is carved in sunk relief as if to welcome visitors. In the forecourt the lower part of the walls cut out of the rock and the court was roofed with a brick barrel-vault over a wooden frame.
Today the lower rock-cut section of the walls is the only part that survives.
It is important to notice that:
Following the usual practice in Egyptian temples of positioning historical scenes according to their geographical orientation, the scenes dealing with the Nubians are on the south wall, and those concerning the Asiatic and Libyans on the north.
The carving on the south wall of the forecourt and the eastern half of the north wall is in sunk relief, and at the western end of the north wall and in the inner part of the temple it is in raised relief. It is strange that the type of relief changes part way along the north wall; it is assumed that the original intention was that all the carving should be in raised relief, and then before the forecourt was completed, the order was changed, possibly so that the decoration could be finished more quickly.
At the west end of the forecourt are 3 doorways to the inner part of the temple, which was cut entirely from the rock.
The rock-cut portion of the temple consists of a vestibule and a sanctuary, where the reliefs and colors are well preserved. In the vestibule are two fluted columns, which are the only examples of this type of column in a Nubian monument.
The relief carvings in this part are in fine-quality raised relief they show:
Smiting scenes on the outer wall; Ramesses II smiting a Nubian on the south side and a Libyan on the north, and the king in the presence of various deities on the other walls.
In the west wall on either side of the central doorway to the sanctuary is an unusual feature, a small niche with statues of Ramesses II and two deities cut from the rock. In the southern niche he appears with Horus of Baki and Isis, and in the northern niche with Khnum, the god of Elephantine, and his consort Anukis. The two side doorways of the entrance may originally have been planned to give access to each of the niches.
The central section of the ceiling between the two columns is painted with a panel of vultures and winged cobras, Nekhbet and Wadjet, the two patron goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt. The cartouches of Ramesses II are painted horizontally between the wings of the two goddesses. The names and titles of the king are inscribed on the columns, and his names with prayers to the gods on the architraves.
The sanctuary is also well preserved, with the exception of the niche in the rear wall, where three seated figures originally carved there are no longer present. They were presumably destroyed when the temple became a church, and none of the texts around the niche give any clue to their identity, although they were almost certainly Ramesses II between two gods, perhaps Amon and Horus. There are no pictures of sacred barks on the sanctuary walls. Which is rather unusual, but the king is shown offering to an assortment of deities, and on the right and left of the doorway on the inside he is shown as a bay being suckled by a goddess, Isis on the right and Anukis on the left.