As part of a plan by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to preserve the Dendera Temple complex in Upper Egypt’s Qena and develop the area around it into an open-air museum, the second phase of restoration and development has been completed.
The work includes the restoration and cleaning of the great hall, the entrance façade, and the birth kiosk.
In 2020, three crypts and the rooftop of the temple were opened to the public after restoration.
The Temple of Hathor at Dendera contains a number of small crypts on its eastern, southern, and western sides. These are thought to have served as warehouses or treasuries for ritual furnishings, sacred and ceremonial equipment, and the divine images used in celebrating various feasts and holidays.
The crypts are small, however, and they likely did not serve as the sites of formal rituals.
Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), has said that three of the 12 crypts found beneath the temple have been opened.
The crypts can only be accessed through small openings and have low ceilings and walls decorated with ancient Egyptian scenes. Only one of the crypts was previously open to the public.
The rooftop of the temple was also not previously accessible to visitors, but after restoration, visitors can enjoy the panoramic view of Qena from the top of the building for the first time.
Abdel-Hakim Al-Sagheer, head of the Dendara Temple said that the temple conservation project had originally started in 2005, but had stopped in 2011 and then resumed in 2017.
In 2019, in collaboration with a French archaeological mission, blocks, stelae and statues that were uncovered in the area and left in situ since their initial discovery were restored and put on newly fabricated mounts in the open-air area of the temple. The displays include artefacts from the area’s store galleries.
Newly fabricated blocks have been placed in the open courtyard at the entrance of the temple, where a collection of statues of ancient Egyptian deities has been installed. Among these are statues of the goddess Hathor, the god Bes, and the falcon god Nekhbet Waawet.
The Dendera Temple, one of the best-preserved ancient Egyptian temples, was built mainly of sandstone, and was uncovered in the mid-19th century by French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette.
In its present form, the Temple of Dendera is largely Ptolemaic and Roman, its reconstruction having taken place under the Greek Ptolemies, the last dynasty of ancient Egypt (305-30 BCE), and completed some 185 years later under the Roman emperor Tiberius.
In dedicating a temple to Hathor, the Ptolemies honoured one of Egypt’s most popular deities.
Under Greek and Roman rule, Egyptian temples continued to have mammisi (birth houses), and the surviving mammisi at Dendera was reconstructed by the Roman Emperor Augustus near the ruins of the one built by the Pharaoh Nectanebo and is adorned with reliefs added by the Roman Emperor Trajan relating to the birth of the god Horus.
It was converted into a church in the fifth century CE, and a Christian basilica was built in the area between it and the original birth house of Nectanebo.