Not only is Philae one of the headlining sites in Egypt’s collection of ancient temples, it also represents one of the more astounding architectural feats you’ll come across while traveling the country. The Philae Temple, also referred to as the Temple of Isis, is certainly impressive, but it’s made all the more remarkable because it no longer stands on the island of Philae Egypt.
The explanation is simple and yet mind-boggling: Following the completion of the initial Aswan Dam in 1902, the Philae Temple was submerged underwater for ten out of twelve months every year, which ultimately meant that it had to be moved if it were to be saved, as water and sandstone brick don’t traditionally mix well together. Thus, UNESCO launched a huge project to save the Philae Temple, exporting it brick by brick to the island of Agilkai, which is just over 500 meters from Philae.
The project took eight years to complete; thankfully, when it finally came to an end in 1980, it was declared a comprehensive success. Today, then, a visit to Philae actually entails a visit to the island of Agilkai. But no matter: This is still a stupendously awesome archaeological site, and visitors will find its general levels of preservation more than make up for its lack of geographical authenticity.
The Temple of Isis was built in dedication to the goddess Isis, a magical, matriarchal figure in ancient Egyptian worship. It’s a huge construct, notable for its great, flat-front façade and the enchanting, mystical hieroglyphics that line its walls. Visitors can have a memorable time exploring these attractions, which inevitably herald a multitude of photo-taking opportunities.
While at the Philae Temple, many make a point to seek out Trajan’s Kiosk, an imposing square structure whose each wall features imaginatively carved columns. Trajan was a Roman Emperor in the region around the time of 100 AD; illustrations on the kiosk depict him making offerings to various Egyptian gods, including Isis herself, as well as Horus and Osiris. While it’s not quite as awe-inspiringly grand as the Temple of Isis, Trajan’s Kiosk lacks nothing when it comes to sheer beauty.
Thanks to its location at the northern head of the massive Aswan Lake, Philae is pretty simple to reach, with regular tours operating by boat from the nearby city of Aswan. Aswan itself is one of Egypt's most popular travel destinations, with vacations often ending there after having traveled down the Nile, stopping off at Cairo and Luxor on the way. Such vacations are basically what dreams are made of, taking in as they do massive Egyptian attractions such as the Giza Pyramids, the Citadel of Saladin, and the Khan El Khalili (all in Cairo), and the Valley of the Kings and the Luxor Museum (in Luxor).
If the Philae Temple leaves you intrigued and hoping to see more ancient temples, there are plenty at various sites a short journey north of Aswan. These include the Temple of Seti at Abydos, the Temple of Horus at Edfu, and the temple at Kom Ombo.