In a country that’s home to some of the most ancient structures on earth, the city of Abydos is a standout destination for lovers of history, hieroglyphs and architecture. That’s because this city is one of the nation’s most historic—and home to perhaps the most well-preserved temple in the country.
Travelers to this Middle Egypt destination can examine the exquisite reliefs of King List at the Temple of Seti. These finely-detailed carvings are some of the best kept in all of Egypt and the temple’s off-the-beaten-path vibe means it’s easy to explore without bumping into tons of other tourists.
Archeologists say the carvings on the temple’s exterior are worth checking out, but it’s the interior reliefs that really showcase the craftsmanship of early artists. Seti temple, which is dedicated to the god of the underworld and afterlife, is an essential stop for anyone traveling to Luxor.
At an undetermined date, a great clearance of temple offerings had been made and a modern discovery of a chamber into which they were gathered has yielded the fine ivory carvings and the glazed figures and tiles that show the splendid work of the first dynasty. A vase of Menes with purple hieroglyphs inlaid into a green glaze and tiles with relief figures are the most important pieces found. The noble statuette of Cheops in ivory, found in the stone chamber of the temple, gives the only portrait of this great pharaoh.
The temple was rebuilt entirely on a larger scale by Pepi I in the sixth dynasty. He placed a great stone gateway to the temenos, an outer temenos wall and gateway, with a colonnade between the gates. His temple was about 40 × 50 ft (12 x 15 m) inside, with stone gateways front and back, showing that it was of the processional type. In the eleventh dynasty Mentuhotep I added a colonnade and altars. Soon after, Mentuhotep II, who unified the two lands of Egypt, entirely rebuilt the temple, laying a stone pavement over the area, about 45 ft (14 m) square and added subsidiary chambers. Soon thereafter in the twelfth dynasty, Senusret I laid massive foundations of stone over the pavement of his predecessor. A great temenos was laid out enclosing a much larger area and the new temple itself was about three times the earlier size.