Temple of Maharraqa

Temple of Maharraqa

The Temple of Al-Maharraqa is an ancient Egyptian temple dedicated to Isis and Serapis. The Temple of Maharraqa, the smallest of the three at Wadi As Sebua, originally stood 40km north at the ancient site of Ofendina. Dedicated to Isis and Serapis, the Alexandrian god, its decorations were never finished and all that remains is a small hypostyle hall, wherein the northeast corner a spiral staircase of masonry leads up to the roof.

Location of the Temple of Maharraqa

It is located in al-Maharraqa, Lower Nubia, approximately 140 km (87 mi) south of Aswan on the southern border of the Roman empire.


Only a few years after the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, the Kushites from the kingdom of Meroë launched a raid on the First Cataract region of Egypt in 23 BC. The Roman prefect of Egypt, Petronius, retaliated and defeated the invading Meroitic army. He then proceeded to station a Roman garrison of 400 troops at the southern outpost of Qasr Ibrim. After some negotiations, a permanent frontier between Meroë and Roman Egypt was established at Maharraqa. Thus, Maharraqa formed the extreme southern boundary of Roman Egypt.

The Serapis Isis Temple of Maharraqa

The Temple of Maharraqa was initially situated here before being relocated in the mid-1960s due to the Aswan Dam project. It was dedicated to the ancient Egyptian gods, Isis and Serapis. This Roman-built Egyptian temple cannot be securely attributed to any Roman emperor’s reign since it was never fully completed nor inscribed. However, since it is known that temple building declined in Nubia after the rule of Augustus, the temple of Maharraqa might be datable to his reign. The only part of the finished structure “was a court measuring 13.56 X 15.69 m, surrounded on three sides by columns.” The actual temple premises containing the sanctuary was never actually built. The temple, as well, lacks a formal pylon.

The Temple of Maharraqa features an architectural curiosity with a winding spiral staircase at a corner of the court, which leads to its roof. It is the only Egyptian temple in Nubia with a spiral staircase.

Relocation of the Temple

Since its former location was threatened by flooding from the Nile due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam, this small temple was dismantled in 1961 by the Egyptian Antiquities Service. It was subsequently rebuilt along with the Temple of Dakka in 1966 at the New Wadi es-Sebua site, only 4 km (2.5 mi) west of the original Wadi es-Sebua location. As Christine Hobson notes:

“A little to the north of Amada now stand the temples of Wadi es Sebua (built by Ramesses II), Dakka and Maharraqa.