Sinai adventure: The temple of Turquoise lady

Sinai is recently one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world and hugely popular with foreign tourists as a major beach destination of the Egypt. But if you think  that fantastic beaches, year-round sunshine and beautiful clear blue waters are all you can find here, you are wrong :)

Legend says that long long time ago, in ancient Egypt, there was a goddess of sun, music, arts, sky and activities. Her name was Hathour. Sinai was thought to be the place where Hathour put the seeds of her beauty to grow up into unlimited glorious beauty among the high mountains and throughout the narrow valleies.
Pharao Sneferu of the 4th dynasty was the first to make expeditions to the Sinai and they found turquoise. By 3500 bc, the great turquoise veins of Serabit el Khadem had been discovered. 
The first proper temple at this location, used by the miners, was built during the Middle Kingdom. In the new kingdom, the facility was enlarged. Hathour was also called the "Lady of the turquoise" and she became the patron goddess of miners.

The Egyptian largely depended on inspiration to find gems and metals as there was little technology. And the inspiration  was coming from the dreams in "Sleep chambers" at the temples of the Sinai. 
The miner leaders would pray for signs and wait for a dream to tell them where to dig next. As the revenues from the Sinai miners were considerable, the cult of Hathour quickly spread to the banks of the Nile upon the triumphant return of the miners.
The barren top of Jebel Serabit el Khadim…
The pharaonic mining complex of Serabit el Khadem lies into a deepest Sinai, on a small plateau, not far from modern El Tor, the capital of Sinai, which  is about three hours drive from Dahab. 
Today, it is not difficult to reach the ancient turquoise mines, off course with a jeep and a knowledgeable guide. 
Where there are several turquoise mines
Look inside
But the temple of Hathor is situated at the top of a mountain range and one must climb up a long series of steps to the top and then trek back along mountain ridges.
The path up to the top passes several Pharaonic inscriptions

It takes about two hours for the average person to reach the temple, and finally you can't stop asking yourself: how they managed to build a temple at the top of a mountain?!
Temple of Hathor, Serabit el Khadim
The temple at Serabit el Khadem is one of the few pharaonic monuments of the Sinai, and the only temple we know of built outside mainland Egypt.Although many of the hyrogliphics were destroyed by a British attempt to reopen the mines in the mid 19th century, along the path to the temple are a number of engravings that were written by the ancient minors. 
Hieroglyphic tablet of the reigning Pharaoh above the mine
Some of the most interesting portray the ships that would carry the turquoise to Egypt. In the 1905, Flinders Petrie ("Researches In The Sinai") investigated the site, and found the famous proto - Sinaitic script, which is believed to be an early precursor of the alphabet.
Temple of Hathor
The surrpunding area of Serabit el Khadem is more than intersting and had a rugged beauty. The local tribes are responsible for protecting the site from looting and are open to assisting tourists. 
As a touristic destination, Serabit el Khadem trip is more a trek adventure than a pure pharaonic sightseeing tour. What you will need is a lots of water - as there is none to be found along the road and Indiana Jones' hat ;)

References: The temple and mines at Serabit el Khadem in the Sinai by Jimmy Dunn,
            The complete temples of Ancient Egypt by Richard H. Wilkinson.


No comments: