Hatshepsut is the only woman ruling Egypt as a
pharaoh, but this only happened through clever use
of coalitions and marriage. She was the daughter
of Tuthmosis 2, married to Tuthmosis 3 and after
his death she claimed effective power by marrying
infant Tuthmosis 4.
Her temple here at the foot of the Theban hills is
among the most effectively designed structures of
all of Egypt. While employing most of the grand
effects of common temples, this temple makes use
of open space and contrasts with nature. Most of
the area is based upon the experience of the
arrival. Wide columned halls are put on top of
each others, with two ramps bringing you up to the
2nd floor, which is deliberately dwarfed by the
huge hills in the back. But the temple almost
continues into the hills, and the hills are not
just any hills. It is the other side of the Valley
of Kings, the place where kings built tombs in the
form of shafts connecting to the underworld.
In modern times enough of the temple remains to
impress visitors and help even the most insecure
photographer to make fine shots. But there are two
important parts gone, and you should allow
yourself a moment or two to try to imagine how
things may have looked.
The 1st Terrace was planted with myrrh trees,
imported by Hatshepsut herself from Punt (probably
modern Somalia). The myrrh trees looks really like
a huge bush, and is not visually impressive, but
the smell is unrivalled. Myrrh was compulsory in
the religious rituals performed in any temple in
Egypt, but here the temple employees could extract
their own and even splurge in its delicate smell.
Leading from the lower ramp, there used to be
sphinxes leading all the way down to the Nile,
corresponding exactly with the axis of the Temple
of Amun at Karnak across the river. Processional
boats would connect the two sides of the Nile,
allowing splendid all encompassing rituals.
Several of these sphinxes are now in the
Metropolitan Museum in New York, USA.
Hatshepsut called her temple Djeser Djeseru, "Splendour
of Splendours". Today it is often called "Deir el-Bahri",
a strange name, considering that it is neither the
original name nor have any meaning for our modern
times, rather referring to a Coptic monastery of
the 7th century.
The temple was completely excavated in 1896 by
Auguste Mariette, the founder of the National
Museum. But there are still parts under