Some 12.5mi/20km north of Kom Ombo the hills come close to the river in Gebel Silsila ("chain of hills"), forming a defile with many eddies and shallows, long a place of worship of the god of the Nile.
Useful tips: ACCESS. Road from Kom Ombo (12.5mi/20km south) or rail to Kagug Station.
On the east bank of the river, 4mi/6km below the narrowest point, are the large Silsila quarries, worked particularly under the New Kingdom. In the reign of Ramesses II some 3,000 workers were employed here in quarrying stone for the Ramesseum alone; and an inscription of Amenophis III records the transport of stone on the Nile for a Temple of Ptah. At the north end of Gebel Silsila are the scanty remains of the ancient town of Khenit and its temple (fragments of inscriptions in the name of Ramesses II). Near the river are the ruins of modern quarry workers' houses. To the east, high up on the north side of the rock, is a Stela of Amenophis IV (numbered 37) recording that he had caused an obelisk for the Temple of the Sun at Karnak to be quarried here. To the right, lower down, are prehistoric rock engravings, and at the foot of the hill are a number of small rock cut tombs.Following the hills south, we come first to a large cave facing west formed by quarrying, with pillars left to support the roof. Beyond this are a small empty quarry and, higher up, a huge unfinished Sphinx (no. 40). Then comes a larger quarry, on the north facing wall of which are incised pylons, indicating that stone for a temple pylon was quarried here. A modern inscription records that stone from this quarry was used in the construction of the Esna Dam in 1906-09. At the entrances to other quarries are inscriptions in the name of Sethos I. The largest of the quarries, to the S, is now closed by a railing. On the north side of its narrow entrance is an engraving of an obelisk.
To see the more important monuments, which are on the west bank of the Nile, take the ferry across the river and turn north. The well beaten track runs along the Nile, past tomb recesses and memorial inscriptions and through quarries, to a Rock Chapel, built during the reign of Horemheb (18th Dynasty) and adorned in subsequent centuries with reliefs and inscriptions, some of them of high artistic quality and great historical interest, in honor of kings and high dignitaries. The facade, with five doorways separated by pillars of varying width, is topped by a torus and cavetto cornice. On the lintel of the central doorway, now the only entrance to the chapel, are a winged solar disc and the names of Horemheb. The interior consists of a wide but shallow vaulted hall, to the rear of which is a smaller oblong chamber. All the walls are covered with reliefs and inscriptions.
On the left hand end wall is a fine relief of a goddess offering the breast to King Horemheb. Behind her is the god Khnum, behind the King Amun-Re.On the rear wall is Horemheb's triumphal procession after his Nubian campaign. The Pharaoh, seated on his throne, is borne by 12 soldiers adorned with feathers. He is preceded and followed by a soldier with a long handled fan. In front is a priest, offering incense, with a train of captured Nubians and three rows of soldiers, including a trumpeter. To the left are the King and Amun, standing on prostrate Negroes (Kushites). Under the main scene is a niche, to the left of which are Negro prisoners, to the right Egyptian soldiers marching off fettered captives. The "barbarians" are depicted in a free style, without the usual stiffness of Egyptian drawing. Poetic inscriptions above both reliefs extol the King as victor over the people of Kush: "Hail to thee, king of Egypt: thy name is great in the land of the Nubians......"To the right is a niche with the full-face figure, in high relief, of Khai, an official under Ramesses II. Above is an inscription with a representation of King Siptah bringing flowersto Amun, while an official named Bai stands behind him with a flabellum (fan); below, Horemheb shooting arrows at an enemy. Then follows a stela dated in the second year of King Merneptah depicting the King presenting an image of the goddess Maat to Amun-Re and Mut; behind him are Queen Astnefert with the sistrum and his Vizier Penehsi with a flabellum. In the next niche is a high-relief figure of a man holding his left hand in front of his breast. Then a stela commemorating Ramesses II's fourth Jubilee, set up by his son Khamweset. To the right of the doorway into the rear chamber is a similar inscription by Khamweset. Small relief figure of a man named Moi praying. Niche with a large figure of Khamweset in high relief. Badly damaged figure of Khamweset receiving votive offerings. Stele commemorating Ramesses II's Jubilee, set up by his Fan-bearer Moi, who is depicted kneeling on the left; above, Ramesses II presenting an image of Justice to Amun, Harakhty, Maat, Ptah and Sobek, the local god of Silsila. Relief of a Vizier; below, a representation of a column with a palm capital. Stela dedicated in the 45th year of Ramesses II's reign by a high official, who is depicted kneeling below, with a flabellum; above, the King offering an image of Justice to Amun, Mut, Khons, Harakhty and Sobek (head destroyed). At the end of the wall, three men praying.In the right hand end wall is a niche with six figures in high relief. There are also many memorial inscriptions at the north end of the entrance wall and on the pillars between the doorways. On the left hand wall of the doorway into the inner chamber Horemheb is depicted making offerings to the sun god Harakhty and the goddess Eusos of Heliopolis; on the right hand wall he is in the presence of Amun and Mut. On the side walls of the inner chamber are representations of various deities. In the rear wall is a niche containing seven badly damaged seated figures of gods (in the middle Amun).
The road continues south from the Rock Chapel along the banks of the Nile, passing old quarries which were probably worked in Roman times, rock inscriptions and funerary niches. On the next rock, on the side facing the river, are three inscriptions: to the left Ramesses III before Amun, Mut and Khons; in the middle Sheshonq I is conducted by the goddess Mut into the presence of Amun, Harakhty and Ptah, with his son Yewpet, High Priest of Amun-Re and General in Chief, behind him; to the right Ramesses IX praying before Amun, Mut, Khons and Sobek.Beyond this is a niche with a painted ceiling, on the left hand side of which, praying, is a clerk of the treasury named Tuthmosis. Another niche with a ceiling finely painted in spiral patterns bears the names of Tuthmosis III and Hatshepsut (destroyed) on the lintel.Farther on, close to the river, are three other niches. The one farthest to the right (north) has a fine relief on the left hand wall depicting the dead man, Nekhetmin, Royal Scribe and Overseer of the Granaries of the South and the North, seated at a table with another man; on the right hand wall are three seated figures. The niche next to this has fine reliefs with well preserved colors: rear wall, Amenemhet, Priest of Amun, with servants bringing in food and drink; side walls, Amenemhet and his wife Mimi, etc.
Southern Group of Monuments
Continuing along the river from the Funerary Niches for another 15 minutes, we come to the southern group of monuments, of which there is a picturesque view from the bank of the river. The main feature is two large funerary niches (cenotaphs), some 6ft/2m deep, lying close together. The entrances are flanked by cluster columns supporting an architrave with a cavetto cornice and royal cobras. The one on the right dates from the lst year of Merneptah's reign, the other from the first year of Ramesses II. The reliefs are well preserved only on the rear walls of these niches; they depict the King making offerings to Harakhty, Ptah and the god of the Nile (on the right) and to Amun, Mut and Khons (on the left); below are a long hymn to the Nile and lists of offerings to be made to the river god. Between the two niches is a door shaped stela dedicated by the Vizier Penehsi to Merneptah and depicting the King presenting an image of the goddess Maat to Amun. Farther south is a similar inscription dedicated to Merneptah by Roi, a Priest of Amun.On a curiously shaped sandstone rock to the right is a stela of the sixth year of Ramesses III's reign depicting the King making offerings to Amun, Harakhty and the god of the Nile. On the same rock, to the left, is the figure of a priest adoring the names of Sethos I. A few paces farther south, lower down, is a third niche, badly damaged, dating from the reign of Sethos I. On the river bank are the remains of ancient steps leading down to the river.