From Luxor there are a couple day-trip options—one is to Edfu Temple which is about 71 miles south and the other is Dendara Temple which is about 37 miles north. It was a toss-up for us since both temples were built about the same time, but because Dendara was closer we decided to visit it.
We went “local” and took a train from Luxor to Qena, the closest town and train stop to Dendara. I think if we had tried to go by taxi the police might not have let us go, since Dendara is in a travel-restricted area, or they would have at least required a police convoy, thus limiting our flexibility on timing. However, we had no problem buying train tickets and we were the only Caucasians on the train – the first class section (such as it was) was almost empty.
The friendly locals helped us to be sure we didn’t miss our stop. From the tiny train station (I wish I had a picture – there was a pile of rubble in the middle of the “terminal”) we got a couple taxis to the temple site about 3 miles away.
The temple was begun at the end of the 30th dynasty, at the very end of Egypt’s Pharaonic period (about 300 BC) and construction continued into Roman times (Egypt became a Roman province in 30 BC).
Dendara was buried under the sand until the 19th century, and therefore is nearly intact from 2000 years ago. It is dedicated to the goddess Hathor, the goddess of pleasure and love.
There are halls, storerooms, chapels and crypts. One of the things I enjoyed was crawling through the tight spaces in the crypt to get to some of the rooms underneath the main structure – this was a blast.
There were almost no tourists except for a few local school students.
There was a small visitor shop on the site, and a few people selling trinkets. My type of place – very quiet!