Temple of Taffeh – Leiden, Netherlands - Atlas Obscura

Temple of Taffeh

An ancient Egyptian temple sits within a modern European museum.  


From the outside, the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (Royal Museum of Antiquities) in Leiden, Netherlands, has a subdued, distinctly European look. So coming across a complete Egyptian structure inside can be an unexpected experience.

The temple itself was originally built from sandstone blocks between 25 BCE and 25 CE, standing near a fortress called Taphis, hence the name. Fast forward to the 1960s, when the Egyptian government, along with UNESCO, worked with a coalition of nations to save hundreds of sites in danger of being destroyed by the building of the Aswan Dam.

In recognition of their assistance, participating countries were given whole temples. The Temple of Debod went to Spain; the Temple of Ellesyia was moved to Italy; the Temple of Dendur was installed at the Met in New York; and the Temple of Taffeh, well, it went to Leiden.

When the temple was reassembled in its new Dutch home, it was pieced back together within a new wing of the museum specifically built to protect the old structure from the European climate. The bright, airy space lets natural light highlight the restored temple.

Once visitors are over the slight surprise of seeing an ancient building within a modern museum, they can see the temple up close and view little details that speak to the structure’s age and fascinating history, such as Roman writing on the walls, as well as a drawing of a cow and a Christian cross.

Know Before You Go

It is located in the entrance hall of the Museum and does not require a ticket to visit. (The rest of the museum does.)

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