Nortina’s Egyptian Travel Diaries (#AtoZChallenge): “I” is for Island Temple of Philae

Without a doubt, the temple I was most excited to see was Philae. Why? Well, if you didn’t know, I’m a bit of a The Mummy fangirl.

Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy. We don’t speak of that other one.

In the sequel, The Mummy Returns, our heroes, Rick and Evie O’Connell, must prevent the reawakened Imhotep from raising Anubis’ army to conquer the world, as well as rescue their son, Alex, whom Imhotep holds captive, as he wears the Bracelet of Anubis, which contains the map to the Oasis of Ahm Shere, where Imhotep plans to kill the Scorpion King and take over command of Anubis’ army…

Yeah, there’s a lot going on. You really have to watch the movie to understand it all.

Anyway, in the movie, those following the map are guided to various (real) temples along the Nile en route to the (fictional) Oasis. Philae is one of those temples, along with Karnak and Abu Simbel. So I was very excited to see the real Philae after watching it on TV hundreds of times (because that’s about how many times I’ve seen this movie).

Obviously, there are going to be some inconsistencies between the film and real life. For one, I’m pretty sure they didn’t shoot either movie on location (if I’m not mistaken, they filmed in Morocco). So how does the designed set compare to the actual temple? Well, it’s only about a one-second shot in the movie clip above, but it looks pretty darn close to the original.

However, the movie does have one major blunder regarding Philae. At the time this movie takes place, in 1933, Philae would have been completely submerged underwater. You see, after the Aswan Low Dam was built in the early 1900s, the island of Philae was constantly being flooded by the Nile, and once construction of the more functional Aswan High Dam began in the ’60s and ’70s, Philae was at risk of becoming the new Atlantis, if you catch my drift. So the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) worked together with the Egyptian government to dismantle the temple brick by brick (about 50,000 stones in total) and reassemble it at its current location on Agilkia Island.

Of course, I was in disbelief when our tour guide said this. How were they able to move it and still keep the integrity of its original architecture? I mean, to your average simple-minded American, this temple looks like it’s always been here. This is incredible!

By the way, Philae isn’t the only ancient Egyptian temple that has been relocated. According to our tour guide, 18 temples have been moved—most to other locations within Egypt and a few offered as gifts to other countries, including Spain, the Netherlands, and the US. Imagine that!

Browsing the photos in the gallery above, do you think the temple in the film resembles the actual temple?

The only way to get to Philae is by boat (or felucca).

Evidence of Christian worship in Philae; many images depicting the Egyptian gods were badly defaced by the early Christians (see examples in the gallery below).

Hieroglyphs on the inner temple walls; the top three depict baby god Horus breastfeeding from mother Isis.

Family portraits (Brother’s a model).

The only temple shown in the movie that I didn’t see in person was Abu Simbel, which, ironically, was also moved due to rising flood waters. If we had chosen the two-week tour of Egypt, Abu Simbel likely would have been on the itinerary.

I guess, that just means I’ll have to go back. Whenever that will be…


“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
“H” is for Hatshepsut

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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