A Little Bit of Egypt in the Heart of Madrid

The plan was to enjoy the afternoon sun in one of Madrid’s most stunning parks, Parque de la Montaña. We arrived in the late afternoon and strolled through the dappled shade, amongst other park-goers who were indulging in lazy picnics, drinking small cans of cerveza that were being sold from plastic carrier bags, and even one couple who were trying out some tightrope walking between two solid trees.

Temple Debod - Mamiya rz67 + Ektar 100

As the path opened out into a clearing, we were greeted with a building that looked particularly out of place. The 4th Century BC Egyptian temple reared up out of nowhere, dominating the horizon and casting a different kind of shadow across the park. The previously dense mass of trees had suddenly disappeared, and we were faced with a large space centred around a rectangular shaped pool of water and two Egyptian archways that led up to the Temple of Debod.

It seemed strange to be staring at an obviously Egyptian sculpture that was nestled in the heart of the hustle and bustle of Madrid. But, the temple was there for a reason. The construction of the Aswan Dam in Egypt in 1960 meant numerous important monuments and historic sites were in grave danger of being destroyed or sentenced to an eternity swathed in water.

Le temple de Debod (Madrid)

UNESCO, concerned about the future of these monuments, appealed to numerous other countries to help save them and retain Egypt’s history. Spain hurried to the rescue and was rewarded with the Temple of Debod in 1968 by the Egyptian government.

Originally the temple took pride of place in Debod in the Nile Valley, near the city of Aswan, before it was dismantled and transported to its current home. In 1969, it was taken apart stone by stone and shipped to Valencia before it embarked on the final leg of its journey to Madrid by train. Carefully, the temple was put back together and finally opened to the public in 1972.

Making our way around the inviting pool of water, we neared the magnificent entrance to the edifice. We had arrived just as it was opening for the evening and entry was free so, without a backwards glance, we walked through the stone doors and were instantly propelled south to Egypt.

At first, it took a while to adjust to the dark, cool atmosphere that completely juxtaposed the outside world we had entered from. Inside, hieroglyphics and photos lined the walls which documented the temple’s history, including its recent reconstruction in Madrid. Moving from one small, compact room to the next allowed visitors the chance to immerse themselves in a completely different time and place; the centuries old etchings are beautiful and fascinating, whilst the upstairs room is home to an abundance of scaled down models, visuals, and audiovisual exhibits that explain the meaning of the temple’s current, confusing location, the motivations behind its displays, and its history from its reign in Egypt.

Stepping back outside, it was hard to comprehend that so much history was contained in such a small space, and in such a bizarre location. If we hadn’t taken a stroll through the park that afternoon, we never would have stumbled across this embodiment of Egyptian history that had found a new home in the safe arms of Madrid.

Author's Bio: Since a young age, Beth has been interested in travel and, after being bitten by the travel bug, has been to numerous countries spanning three continents. When she is travelling, Beth likes to immerse herself in local culture and explore the arts and crafts that are unique to each location. You can read more of her stories on her blog World Art & Travel Blog and follow her on Twitter.