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Agilkia Island

Placed amid the reservoir of the old Aswan Dam, the Agilkia Island, 12 km (7.4 miles) from Aswan, stands in the south of Egypt along the Nile River. It is a great tourist attraction owing to the relocation of the restored complex of Philae Temple. The temple was completely flooded after the construction of the old dam and was carefully dismantled under the supervision of UNESCO and relocated in the island. The temple was restored and reestablished in the island prior to the completion of the Aswan High Dam. This was part of the UNESCO Nubia Campaign project.

How did Agilkia Island rise to fame?

After the construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1902, the temple of Philae would be half-submerged in the Nile waters. Travelers would take boat trips for a closer look at the columns and sanctuaries. The temple would have entirely disappeared had UNESCO not taken a restoration mission to relocate these beautiful pieces of unparallel craftsmanship. It was a huge feat of modern engineering combined with the ancient mastery, which the temples could be dismantled in parts and restored to their original grandeur, just as they were. This happened between 1972-1980. A 20m (66 ft.) high pedestrian was built on the Agilkia Island resembling the landscape of its origin, the revered isle of Isis.

Picturesque Agilika Island View

Today, tourists visit this island on boats and the voyage itself is quite enjoyable. As the boats approach the Agilkia Island from the east, you get a  complete view of the temple of Isis, the first pylon, open court, the second pylon, the long covered hypostyle hall and of course the grand sanctuary.

This Ptolemaic era temple has an illustrative west side view and showcases the typical lintel system of architecture. This part offers an expansive vantage view of the temple. Agilkia Island’s hosting the Philae temple changed the island complex and elevated it to one of the most fascinating destinations in Egypt. The temple was originally built by the 30th dynasty Pharaoh, Nectanebo I, and many additions were made to the structure by the Greeks and the Roman-Byzantine.

The Temple History

Formerly located in the cataract of the River Nile, the Philae Island was believed to be the burial ground of the ancient Egyptian God Osiris. The Egyptians and their traditional Nubian neighbors preserved the sanctity of this island. Archaeologists too have found enough evidence that supports the worshipping practices and honor extended to Isis since the 6th century B.C. The temple of Isis stands as the oldest structure that has survived since the times of Nectanebo I (380-362BC), who founded the last native Egyptian dynasty of the Pharaohs.

The Attractions on the Agilkia Island

Tourists arrive on motorboats, to view and pride and the most enchanting temple of this island, the Temple of Isis. The temple and the Kiosk of Nectanebo are the oldest sections of the complex. The First Pylon is 18 meters (59 ft.) in height, and it guards the main entrance. The gateway is embellished with relief work that displays the glory of the Pharaohs and the kings of the Ptolemaic era. Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos slaughtering his enemies while Isis, Edfu, Horus, Hathor and other revered Egyptian Gods are also depicted.

• First Pylon

Crossing over from the First Pylon in the temple, the courtyard which is fringed by arcades allow entry to the other rooms. The Birth House too can be entered from here. This part of the building was dedicated to Isis in celebration of the birth of Horus her son. The relief work exhibits the falcon-headed child god. In the ancient past, the Pharaohs legitimized their existence with a divine link by performing rituals that associated their origin with Horus.

• Second Pylon

Walking into the second Pylon, you will enter a hallway that leads to the inner temple. This is a curious combination that is most enlightening for visitors. Here you will find eight elaborate columns demonstrating Coptic crosses embedded on the walls. The temple went through a transformational influence from the Christian worshippers in the Byzantine period. Again, if you walk across the hallway, you will reach the sanctuary where the gold statue of Isis stood, held by a granite shrine. The statue has been repositioned in the museum in Paris and Florence.

Passing through the central part, you cannot miss the French inscription that writes ("an 7 de la République”) celebrating Napoleon’s conquests and General Desaix’s quest of the Mamelukes in 1799.

• Other Attractions on the Agilikia Island

The other attractions that also command attention in the Agilkia Island are the Temple of Hathor, which parades the Ptolemaic kings, the gateway of Hadrian has some remarkable relief work under the Roman emperors Hadrian, Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius. The Trajan’s Kiosk is an unfinished part of the complex and has allured many Victorian painters to these Christian ruins of a monastery and two Coptic Churches.  

Don’t miss the Light and Sound Show

A popular part of Agilkia Island is the light and sound show in the temple complex. The colored laser lights have a magical effect on the island and its surrounding waters. The commentary that recreates an intriguing past of the Pharaohs and dramatizes with visual delight is a tribute to the ancient glory of Egypt.  Spoken in several languages like English, French, German and Spanish, you can come with a tour operator or venture on your own.

How to Reach?

You need to take a boat ride but negotiate the boat price with the boat taxi. The boat carries eight people in all.
Boat Taxi Price: Approximately 175 EGP (Roundtrip)
Time: 10 minutes

Ticket Price

Climbing to the top fee: 100 EGP (Adults), 50 EGP (Students)
Sound and Light Show: USD 19

Philae originally is an ancient Egyptian name called Pilak. This name was derived from a Greek and Latin confluence. The grey outlines on the Philae Temple in the Agilkia Island still bear traces of its yearly submersion but thanks to the amazing rehabilitation, the temple continues to bring countless tourists to this magnificent destination. They say that the sun in the upper region on Egypt is brutal so make sure that you have your hat on and have liberally dabbed yourself with sunscreen to enjoy the pleasures of this destination.