Temple of Isis in Madrid

The Ptolemic pharaohs of Egypt walked under the two arches that you see in the featured photo and into the temple of Isis (photo below). So did the Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius. Legend had that the goddess Isis gave birth to the god Horus in this temple. This structure was originally built over the site of a thousand year older temple dedicated to the god Amon. For over two thousand years, until 1968 this temple stood near the first cataract of the Nile. Now you can see it in Madrid, but the story is not the usual one of colonial plunder.

In 1960 when the Aswan high dam was being built in Egypt, the UNESCO made an international call to save many temples and cultural artifacts which would have drowned under the new reservoir. Spain was one of the countries which responded and lent a hand in saving the temples of Abu Simbel. As a sign of gratitude, the government of Egypt presented the temple of Debod, which was one of the smaller temples in this region, to Spain. It now stands in the Parc del Oeste near the royal palace in Madrid.

Reading that it would close at sunset, we reached the park early on a hot evening. For some reason the temple was closed. The guards could only speak Spanish, so we never understood why it was not open. Ancient and recent historical graffiti inside the temple has been studied extensively in recent years, and there are apparently augmented reality tools available to tourists who are interested in learning about them. Since the temple was closed, we could not take a look at these. We walked around the temple, took photos, and then went and sat in the shade along with the many Madrilenos who were trying to cool down.

This was our first afternoon in Spain and our Indian instincts were totally wrong. On a very hot day in India you would spend the afternoon indoors and venture out after five or so, when the sun begins to dip towards the horizon and the air begins to cool. Not so in Spain, as we discovered. It is so far to the north that the sun sets after nine. Five or six in the evening could well be the hottest part of the day!

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Author: I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

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