Nortina’s Egyptian Travel Diaries (#AtoZChallenge): “H” is for Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut. Not sure how to pronounce that? Here’s a quick tip from our tour guide: sound it out like hot chicken soup. Now replace the ken and p sounds with p and t, respectively, and you have the name of one of Egypt’s most famous female pharaohs, who was almost completely erased from history thanks to a family feud.

The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, one of the many stops on a jam-packed Day 3 of our Egyptian tour of Thebes that started at 6AM, is located on the back side of the Valley of the Kings. Yep, you read that correctly. Queen Hatshepsut is buried with the kings of Egypt, not the queens.

And from the way she is depicted in the artwork on the temple walls and in the sphinxes that guard the walkway leading to the temple, you’d think she was a man. Even her statues posted against the columns of the temple assume the identity of Osiris, the male god of the dead.

It turns out that was exactly how she instructed her architect to design her. It was her way of legitimizing herself as the king in a very patriarchal society, not the king’s wife, not the newly ascended boy-king’s co-regent, but the true king, appointed by the god Amun himself—wearing regalia traditionally associated with the title of Pharaoh, such as the headdress, the false beard, and the kilt.

You see, when Hatshepsut’s husband, Thutmose II, died, her nephew/stepson was set to assume the throne.

[Yes, Hatshepsut married her brother—half-brother to be exact. I see you cringing right now. Don’t linger too much on that knowledge. It was very common in ancient Egyptian royalty to marry within the family. It wasn’t so much incest/perversion as it was strategy. What’s the best way to keep the monarchy in the family? Marry your sister.]

Unfortunately, nephew/stepson was only two years old when he became Pharaoh, and because Hatshepsut was not only the wife of the former king but also the daughter of the king before him, she felt that she had a stronger claim to the throne than this child of a lower-status second wife. So she took it.

Ayye, boss moves!

Hatshepsut in the form of the sphinx outside the temple and in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Unfortunately, despite Hatshepsut’s many accomplishments as Pharaoh, including reigning over Egypt during a period of general peace and prosperity, reestablishing trade routes, and constructing vast temple complexes such as this one as well as the temple at Karnak, nephew/stepson allegedly never forgave her for usurping the throne from him, and once he was in power after her death, he began an aggressive campaign to eradicate her from the historical record, including defacing and tearing down her statues, chiseling her cartouches and images from temple walls, and replacing her images with himself.

Gee, he sounds awfully bitter.

Possible evidence of Thutmose III, aka nephew/son, defacing Hatshepsut’s temple?

Artwork showing the expedition to obtain materials used to build the temple

Another interesting fact (or myth) we learned about Hatshepsut is that she allegedly had an affair with her architect (the same guy who designed her as a man in all her royal images). Rumor has it that he started feeling himself after getting in bed with the queen and decided to write his name in a cartouche in the tomb he was building for her, something that was reserved only for Egyptian royalty. So essentially, he was attempting to elevate himself to the same status as Pharaoh just because he was sleeping with the queen. Once Hatshepsut got word of it, off with his head!

I can only dream of being so ruthless to an ex-lover.

Click images for captions


“A” is for Arrival
“B” is for Buyer’s Remorse
“C” is for Cruisin’ the River Nile
“D” is for Delays, Delays, Delays
“E” is for Empty Tombs
“F” is for Fragrance
“G” is for Great Pyramid of Giza

This April for the A to Z Challenge, I’m sharing my experience of traveling to Egypt last month. These posts likely won’t be in chronological order, depending on what memory each letter strikes up, but if you’d like to follow me on this journey, subscribe below.

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26 thoughts on “Nortina’s Egyptian Travel Diaries (#AtoZChallenge): “H” is for Hatshepsut

  1. How juicy! Why can’t those textbook -writing professors write textbooks like this? I had to take world history way back when and I’ve always fallen asleep when the teacher talked Ancient Egypt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! You’re in luck! Originally I wasn’t planning on doing the A to Z Challenge this year, but I saw and learned so much in Egypt, I just had to share!


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