Temple of Debod: Egypt’s Gift to Spain

Unveiling the Temple's Egyptian Origins

The Egyptian temple dedicated to Debod dates back to the 2nd century BC. It was taken apart in pieces and then reassembled in Madrid, Spain. The temple was originally built some 15 kilometers south of Aswan in upper Egypt, not far from the Nile’s first cataract or the religious center in Philae dedicated to the great goddess Isis.

From the dock, visitors may follow the lengthy path that leads to the walled enclosure made of stone. Behind the sopranos was a shrine dedicated to Amun; its four columns with extremely complex capitals fell in 1868.

In 1960, when the enormous dam of Aswan was being built and threatened several archaeological sites and monuments, UNESCO took action to protect this jewel. This temple was given to Spain as a thank-you for their efforts to preserve the temples at Abu Simbel.

Few would expect to see an Egyptian temple dating back 2200 years in the heart of Madrid, but there it is. Although it may look like a Las Vegas copy of an Egyptian temple, the Templo de Debod really has roots in the 2nd century BCE in the east bank city of Mero.

Temple of Debod
Temple of Debod

Some mythologists and tale keepers think that the Egyptian goddess Isis gave birth to the sky deity Horus at this temple dedicated to the god Amun of Thebes.

In appreciation for Spain’s help in repairing the Abu Simbel temples in Upper Egypt, the Egyptian authorities presented the latter with the Temple of Debod. Stone by stone, it was moved from its original location along the Nile and reassembled at Madrid’s Cuartel de la Montaa Park, which is located to the north of Plaza Espaa and close to both Parque del Oeste and Casa de Campo.

It’s a must-see if you’re in Madrid because it’s one of the few ancient Egyptian structures that has survived outside of Egypt.

Temple of Debod, Madrid
Temple of Debod, Madrid

A brief history of the Temple of Debod

The original site of the temple was in Nubia, south of Aswan, in ancient Egypt. It overlooked the Nile’s First Cataract. The Mero king Adijalamani ordered its construction to begin around 2200 BCE, and it was finished many centuries later.

Successive Ptolemaic rulers expanded the modest shrine to Amun and Isis that had been built in their honor. Augustus, Tiberius, and Hadrian, three Roman emperors who ruled after Egypt was captured by Rome, oversaw the project’s completion. After the Christianization of Nubia, the city was left uninhabited for the next 12 centuries.

In the 1960s, when the Aswan High Dam was being built, a section of the Nile flooded, nearly drowning the ancient temples of Nubia. Spain and three other nations (the United States, Italy, and the Netherlands) responded to Unesco’s request for governments to help safeguard this priceless cultural treasure.

In gratitude to the Spanish archaeologists who struggled to preserve these Nubian temples, the Spanish government was given the Temple of Debod. (The three other countries who came to the monuments’ rescue were granted temples as well).

Temple of Debod, Madrid, Spain
Temple of Debod, Madrid, Spain

Stone by stone, the Temple of Debod was relocated to Madrid’s Cuartel de la Parque de Montaa (Mountain Barracks) and reconstructed there over the course of two years, with its east-to-west orientation preserved. In 1972, it had its grand opening for the general public.

The park’s name alludes to the violent past of the land where the temple presently sits. Napoleon’s army used this mountaintop to kill hundreds of captives during the Peninsular War. The prisoners had been kidnapped during the Dos de Mayo insurrection of 1808. Francisco de Goya immortalized this momentous day in his artwork “El 3 de mayo en Madrid” (1808).

The peaceful, magical atmosphere of the Temple of Debod today more than makes up for that awful day. It is a popular place for locals of Madrid to gather for weekend picnics, yoga lessons, or to watch the sun go down.

View of Temple of Debod
View of Temple of Debod

What to expect from a visit to the Temple of Debod

There are a number of chambers in the temple, including the Vestbulo de Augusto, the Capilla de Adijalamani, and the Vestbulo de Naos. The Adijalamani Chapel, located in the center of the temple complex, is the oldest section of Debod and was originally constructed by the Mero regent. The walls are covered with reliefs depicting the monarch presenting gifts to various Egyptian gods.

There are some of the most sweeping vistas of western Madrid from the temple complex. Take a stroll from the neighboring Plaza de Espaa to see this monument at sunset, when the lighting temple walls are reflected off the ponds and create a stunning effect.

Many different kinds of trees, plants, and grass surround the temple. In the spring, summer, fall, and winter, folks come here to practice yoga, have picnics, and socialize while taking in the scenery. If you want to see Debod Temple in all its glory with a gorgeously lighted sky as a backdrop, the ideal time to go is right before sunset. It is very interesting to observe the monument after dark if you have time to remain.

View of Temple of Debod, Madird
View of Temple of Debod, Madird

The inside of the shrine is open to visitors without charge. Its walls are adorned with hieroglyphics and sculptures, and it provides valuable information about Egypt’s mythology and civilization, although it hasn’t been preserved as well as other Egyptian temples. In addition, there’s a fascinating model of several of Nubia’s temples up on the second floor.


Many stories, both ancient and modern, are contained inside the walls of this Egyptian temple dedicated to the goddess Debod. Its walls are covered with artwork and historical artifacts that reveal stories that many visitors hope to decipher. Gather your belongings and plan your vacation to Spain now to visit the fascinating Temple of Debod.

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