The remains of the Temple of Sobek and Haroesis are situated atop the ancient city of Pa-Sabek, which literally means “the domain of Sobek.” The house of worship is unique because it honors two separate families of gods, the family of Haroesis, or Horus the Elder, and the family of the crocodile-headed god Sabek. The two sides of the temple are perfectly symmetrical and house two courts, two colonnades, two hypostyle halls, and two sanctuaries. In ancient Egypt, the temple grounds and neighboring riversides were infested with floats of crocodiles.
The pairing of the two major gods is unusual as Sobek, god of fertility and protection from the dangers of the Nile, was often associated with the evil god Set, enemy of Horus, whose allies turned themselves into crocodiles to escape vengeance. The temple seemingly mixed local and universalist liturgies to create its own theology.
The main draw of the temple is the impressive outer hypostyle hall, which consists of fifteen thick columns topped with floral designs and winged sun discs. Other peculiarities include carvings of ritual and surgical tools used at the site to heal the sick. Haroesis was also known as a god of healing. It is thought that visitors waited for care by playing board games etched into the temple’s hallways. Much of the temple’s remains have given away to age, the bending of the Nile, and builders looking for stone.
The pharaoh Ptolemy VI began the construction of the sandstone edifice in around 180-145 BC and it continued to be worked on into the reign of Ptolemy XIII in 47-44 BC. However, there is evidence that the site is much older, with shards from the First Intermediate Period, which spanned from 2181-2055 BC, found on the grounds. Roman influence is also seen, with a forecourt built by emperor Augustus and preserved images depicting the emperor Tiberius. In modern times, a museum was built nearby displaying a vast array of giant mummified crocodiles found in the area.
Although major finds have been reported around the temple, excavation of the once-mighty city of Pa-Sabek remains to be done and more archaeological artifacts waiting to be found surely lie just below the surface.