There’s a complicated history with the pillaging and plundering of different areas of the world by the major colonial powers. You hear these stories with some regularity across various media, but what about the times when these artifacts are not stolen, but rather, gifted? As a sign of gratitude for the nation’s assistance in cultural preservation? Well, sit back and hear a short tale about an Egyptian temple in the heart of Spain!
Egypt’s Gift to Spain
We met our friend, Borja, that evening and asked him if there was anywhere in Madrid he would recommend we see. We walking around the palace a bit when inspiration struck our friend: We headed over the Temple of Debod, where Borja gave us a quick rundown of the importance of this structure.
The story from this temple is pretty great, but a bit sad. Spain was doing a lot of work to help preserve historical sites in Egypt, particularly with their efforts saving the Abu Simbel temples on Egypt’s border with Sudan. The situation with Debod came up because Egypt was building the Aswan High Dam, which, upon completion, threatened to flood many important and historic archaeological sites in the region. UNESCO put out a call for any and all nations who could assist with the relocation of these sites to step forward and assist. Spain did, Egypt accepted, and in 1968, the temple was donated by Egypt to Spain. It transported to near the Royal Palace of Madrid in Parque de Oeste and opened to public viewing in 1972.
Fun fact: three other temples were saved similarly to Debod and have been donated to other foreign countries. Those include the Temple of Dendur, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, USA, the Temple of Taffeh, now at Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, the Netherlands, and the Temple of Ellesyia, now at Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy. The Temple of Debod is the only temple in its kind in all of Spain, making it a truly unique experience to see!
Attempting to Get Inside
With all that wonderful history relayed to us by our good friend Borja, we gazed upon the illuminated temple, shadows of locals and visitors darting across the park. There was quite a line to sneak in this late at night, stretching a ways back from the entrance in the park. After a moment, we saw a few people up front begin to leave the queue and head elsewhere. The woman in front of us said that they closed for the night, so we stretched our legs and went back to town. It was a bit of a late decision to head there, so we understood the risk of it closing when we went. The photos I’ve seen on the inside look pretty much how you would imagine: It looks eerily like the outside, except from a new angle. Instead of thinking of it as a missed opportunity, I like to think of it as another reason to go back to Madrid and visit!
Regardless, I’m happy I was able to share that experience and story with Borja, waiting in the cool air of Madrid that winter evening. It’s little experiences like these with those familiar with the area that make travel so rewarding!