The Arabic name for the locality where this temple stood, Wadi al-Sebua “Valle of the Lions”, is derived from the avenue of sphinxes that led up to the temple.
The temple dates to the reign of Ramesses II, and was moved to a new site about four kilometers west of its original position by the Egyptian Antiquities Organization between 1961 and 1965.
The temple was built under the supervision of the viceroy of Kush “Setau”, who held this post between Years 35 and 50 of Ramesses II’s reign; he was also in charge of the building of Ramesses’ temple at Gerf Hussein, which had the same plan as Wadi al-Sebua. The forepart of the building is free-standing, while the rear portion is rock-cut, and the temple was dedicated to the cults of Rehorakhty and Amun-Re, as well as the deified pharaoh.
In the early centuries AD the rear part of the temple was converted into a Coptic church, when the reliefs were covered with plaster painted with Christian motifs and the rock-hewn statues in the sanctuary were destroyed.
The temple area is entered by a stone gateway; the gateway is adorned with a colossal standing statue and sphinx of Ramses II on each side.
The gateway leads to the first court, which has an avenue of six human-headed sphinxes wearing the double crown. The front of the base of each statue shows a iunmutef priest before the king’s cartouches, and the sides have bound prisoners. Eleven stelae of Setau that stood against the north and south walls of this court are now in the Cairo Museum.
As substitutes for a sacred lake, there were two rectangular stone ablution basins, one on either side of the court. They have not been replaced in their original positions but are lying together on the sand.
At the west end of the court is another stone gateway, which was set into a brick pylon.
In the second court, beyond the gateway, the sphinx avenue continues, but here the four sphinxes are falcon-headed and represent four forms of Horus, of Maha and Miam on the left, and of Baki and Edfu on the right. There is a statuette of the king between the front paws of each sphinx.
Steps lead up to the raised platform on which the temple itself stands. The entrance of the temple is through traditional stone pylon. On the left of the doorway is a standing colossus of Ramesses II, holding a staff in his left hand, which is adorned with the ram’s head of Amon-Re.
The towers of the pylon; are decorated with the customary reliefs of the kin smiting captives, before Amun-Re on the left and Rehorakhty on the right.
Inside the pylon is the open court of the conventional temple, with a colonnade right and left. The columns are fronted by Osiris statues of the king, his hands crossed on his chest holding the crook and flail scepters, but most of the statues are now headless and all are rather dilapidated.
At the far end of the court, steps with ramps lead up to a narrow terrace with royal titles carved along the edge. Here is the entrance to the pillared hall, with a small damaged sphinx on each side.
The rest of the temple is cut from the rock, and it was this section that was converted into a Christian church. The original entrance was bricked up to create a double doorway with arches, which was still in place before the temple was moved, but was taken down during its dismantling. The hypostyle hall that follows has twelve square pillars.
The doorway at the west end gives access to a transverse vestibule preceding the sanctuary.
To the left and right of the vestibule is a long, narrow side-room probably used as a storeroom. Both these rooms are also decorated with carved scenes in a good state of preservation.
Along the west side of the vestibule are 3 smaller chambers, the sanctuary in the center flanked by 2 side chapels.
The left and right walls of the sanctuary depict the king before the sacred barks of Amun-Re and Rehorakhty. The niche in the west wall was carved with statues of Amun-Re, Rehorakhty, and Ramesses II as a god, but these were destroyed during the Cristian conversion.