Abydos, Sacred City

Abydos was known as Abedju in ancient times when it became the cult centre of Osiris. Abydos has been a place of pilgrimage since pre-dynastic times, when worshippers came from all over the Egyptian empire to honour the resurrection god and to take part in the sacred Mystery Plays. The Mysteries of Osiris re-enacted the life, death and resurrection of Osiris and were connected with the Inundation and the subsequent renewal of life. The festival was a great time of celebration, bringing the temple priests and local people together, with everyone dancing, singing and enjoying a communal feast in the name of Osiris. Through this divine connection, they too would travel to the Afterlife and live as one of the Eternal Beings.

Isis was also worshipped in Abydos as the goddess of wisdom and healing. The temple has many murals depicting her beauty, wisdom and nurturing qualities. Isis was a key figure in the resurrection story as she restored Osiris to life and used her magic to conceive a child, who became the Mighty Horus, the benevolent ruler of Egypt. The priestesses of Isis were renowned for their wisdom, artistic and healing skills, providing both spiritual and medical advice to the local women.

Today Abydos is most famously associated with the Temple of Sety I, believed to be the most beautiful temple in all of Egypt. The temple certainly has the finest and most elegant murals, with breath-taking bas reliefs of King Sety worshipping the gods, particularly the divine family, Osiris and Isis and their son Horus. It is hard to believe such extraordinary sculptures were created in 1300 BC.   

The Osirion is one of the most mysterious sites in Egypt; located behind Sety’s Temple, it is believed to be the burial place of Osiris. The massive pillars and intricate water channels represent the mound of creation emerging from the primeval flood, reminding us of the beginning of time and the promise of eternal life.

One of the most illustrious residents of Abydos was Dorothy Eady, whom the locals affectionately called Omm Sety. Thanks to Omm Sety’s tireless work, the Temple of Sety I was restored to its former glory. This remarkable lady dedicated 25 years of her life to this monumental task and was buried in the desert in 1981.