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Elephantine Island Elephantine Island
Photo by Raymon Kondos © 2009 Your Egypt

Elephantine is Aswan's largest island. It used to have an important role back since the Old Kingdom. Being a capital of the province, the island became a big trade center.
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Pharaohs built temples and made the island center of the cult of KhnumWho is this deity?, the god-creator. And even during the Persian era, Jews built their own temple in the island that was later destroyed by pagan priests.
The island is said to gain its name from the shape of its bulbous rocks that resemble elephants. The island is also believed to have had elephants or it was a center of ivory trading.
It is big enough to include many activities. There are three inhabited NubianWhat does it mean? villages, a museum, a modern hotel and several monuments in Elephantine. The island, which is about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) long, is also known as Aswan Island.

Northern tip:
In the northern tip of the island there is the Oberoi hotel, which runs its own ferry to the eastern riverbank of the Nile. The hotel is separated from the rest of the island by a fence, so it's not possible to access the rest of the island from the hotel.

Nubian villages:
Those are three inhabited villages that are located to the west of the island. The people are friendly and the villages themselves are interesting. You can freely roam its alleys and chitchat with the people. (See Image 15)

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Island's center:
The center of the island is actually occupied by spacious lavish greenery.

Southern tip:
There is the landing stage where the ferry taken from Aswan disembarks. This is the starting point where you can visit the monuments and tour the whole island if you wish.

The NilometerWhat does it mean? is just beside the landing stage. It probably dates to the New Kingdom. It was later rebuilt by the Romans and restored for the last time in 1870 by KhediveWhat does it mean? Ismail, the then ruler of Egypt. On the eastern wall of the descending stairway, French and Arabic inscriptions records the restoration process. (See Image 14)

Elephantine museum:
To the right-hand side of the landing stage is the antiquities museum. It houses the antiquities found in the island including an interesting mummy of a sacred ram found in early last century. Also on display are statues found in Hekayeb's sanctuary including a recumbent statue of Sarenput II, a 12th dynasty governor of the island (He also has a tomb on the other side of the river). Other artifacts from other places are on exhibition in the museum.

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Temple of SatisWho is this deity?:
West of the landing stage is the temple of Satis, goddess of fertility and inundation of the Nile. The current building dates to the Greco-Roman era. The temple is recently restored (See Image 4).

Shrine of Hekayib:
Northwest is a sanctuary dedicated to Pepynakht Hekayib who was a governor in the 6th dynasty. He was honored after his death and a cult was founded after him. (See Image 5, 6)
Although Hekayib was buried in his tomb at the west bank in Qubbet Al-Hawa, it was here that he was honored by his sons who built this shrine and by his descendents several hundred years later who added their own shrines also in dedication to Hekayib.
Several antiquities were discovered in the sanctuary and were all moved to the nearby museum on the island.

Step pyramid:
Further northwest a step pyramid can be seen. It is a solid granite structure that dates back to the 3rd dynasty of the Old Kingdom.

Temple of Khnum:
The temple was probably built in the Late Pharaonic Period but was later restored and enlarged by the Romans.

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It is dedicated to the ram-headed Khnum, the god-creator. After the end of paganism, the temple was made a church and was later used for inhabitance, marking its destruction at the end.

What remains now from the temple is few, but evidences refer to a big role it used to play that is compared to that of the Amun-ReWho is this deity? temple at Karnak.
Ruins of an ancient settlement are located at the rear side of the temple.
The temple itself is fronted by a platform that was used to bear statue of the god amid the rituals held occasionally. Beside the platform lies another square Nilometer.

Kalabsha monuments:
Further southwest to the Khnum temple are the monuments taken from Kalabsha temple. Those are Ptolemaic shrines that were placed here after the dismantling of Kalabsha temple in the saving process of the Nubian monuments done in the 1960s. (See Image 9)

You can also see here a statue of an Elephant that was found elsewhere but decision was made to put it here as an ideal place for the island that bears its name.

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