Pharaonic Temple of el-Kanais

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The Temple of el-Kanais (الكنيس) is an ancient Egyptian religious structure built by Sety I during his reign and dedicated to Amun-re. The name el-Kanais (from Arabic) literally means "the chapel". Also known as the temple of Sety at Kanais it is located in the Wadi Abbad on the Eastern Desert road between Edfu and the Red Sea.

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The Edfu to Red Sea route was used by gold miners from the earliest time and ancient miners travelled to this remote place looking for gold extensively. This ancient route was once a main artery from the classical town of Contra Apollinopolis (modern Edfu) to the important Graeco-Roman emporium of Berenike (near modern Marsa Alam).

The king (Pharaoh Seti I circa 1294–1279 BCE) came to inspect the mines here and ordered that a well be dug for miners and passing travellers, and a temple set up for them to worship in at the "the mouth of the wilderness". These mines are said to be one of the major sources of wealth for Egyptian rulers since the Early Dynastic Period just as gold continued to be highly prized by their successors. The temple and the accompanying watering hole was built along the weathered route that facilitated the transportation of mined resources, such as stone, gold, and semiprecious gems, north and west through the Egyptian eastern desert.

First mentioned by Cailliaud, an explorer who visited the area in 1816 CE. It is the site of a rock-cut speos built by Seti I that was cut into the high cliff-face. It is also the site of an old watering station and a small well-preserved Roman fort.

Alexander’s conquest of the region and through periods of Ptolemaic rule, did a more extensive infrastructure develop to facilitate regional trade from Cyrenaica and the Levant. A fortified Roman-era camp nearby features basins in which tiny amounts of gold could be separated from the rocks in which the Egyptians’ favourite substance could be separated.


circa 1310 BCE

The temple is fronted by a small potico, built against the cliff face, which offers access to the speos. The open potico has six columns, four round column in the center and two square ones at the sides. Two niches, one at either side of the entrance, contain engaged Osiride statues of the king.

The main inner hall has four square pillars, and contains three shrines set against the back wall and two niches set into the side walls at the back.


circa 1310 BCE

Exterior and Facade
The four round columns of the portico at the center are decorated with lotus bud capitals that support the architraves and the roof of stone slabs that was also decorated. Another square pillar was added in Graeco-Roman times to hold up a broken architrave. The reliefs (inspect) in the portico show Seti I before Amun-re and before Horus of Edfu. The King can be seen in a smiting pose in a large relief on the east wall, holding the hair of his Nubian captives while Amun-re holds out a sceptre before him and the scene is repeated with Horus on the west wall. In other scenes Seti is making offerings to Amun-re and the falcon-headed Horus. The walls and architraves are covered in hieroglyphs and cartouches of the King and there is still some good colour remaining on some of the painted reliefs.

circa 1310 BCE

The main inner hall has four square pillars, and contains three shrines set against the back wall and two niches set into the side walls at the back. At the entrance Seti’s long inscription tells the story of the building of his monument. A text dated to Year 9 of Seti’s reign reveals how the king stopped here while making an inspection of his gold mines, from where the gold to furnish his Abydos temple was acquired. His journey had been long and arduous in the heat of the desert and the king decreed that a well be dug to quench the thirst of all desert travellers and for the gold-miners who must pass this way and a shrine that they may praise the gods and the king.

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