Exactly two months after my first blog complaint about this unbelievably wet winter, rain continues to fall and much of the USA is experiencing a renewed cold snap. Thus I am moved to wistfully feature another drier and warmer place: the 4500 year-old Sun Temple of Niuserrē in Egypt.
Several of the Fifth Dynasty (c. 2500-2345 BC) rulers of Old Kingdom Egypt had pyramid tombs constructed at Abu Sir, 11 km southeast of Giza where the more famous Fourth Dynasty pyramids are found. The Fifth Dynasty was dominated by the solar cult of the sun god Rē, and two of the kings built “sun temples” northwest of Abu Sir. The better preserved—and, naturally, harder to get to—is that of Niuserrē (“Delight of Re”). It is 1.6 km from Abu Sir, across the dry dry desert sands at Abu Ghurob. You don’t get this on the bus tour.
The sun temple complex featured a platform rather like a truncated pyramid surmounted by an enormous obelisk, the symbol of Rē. A hieroglyph in the pic above gives an impression of the now-ruined obelisk. The monument is surrounded by a courtyard with various cult buildings and a well-preserved altar. The altar does not get much attention but is cleverly formed by four limestone blocks with upper surfaces carved in the shape of the hieroglyph for “altar.” The Egyptians were great at word/picture play!
From the top of the ruins there is a great view of the altar, the Abu Sir pyramids to the southeast, the Giza pyramids in the distance to the northwest, and the very first Egyptian pyramid—built for Djoser in the Third Dynasty—which peeks over the horizon from Saqqara to the south.
It was well over 100° F at the site when these pics were taken and I recall running out of water quickly. Still, it looks pretty good from where I sit now.
Thanks for looking!