Here’s a sight I never thought I’d see: An Egyptian temple in the middle of Madrid, Spain. Not in a museum, just sitting on a hilltop in Parque del Oeste. How did an Egyptian temple come to be here? As is often the case in these situations, it was a gift from Egypt to Spain. Spain apparently helped Egypt in saving the temples of Abu Simbel in the 1960s, and in gratitude, Egypt gifted Spain with Templo de Debod, which had been a temple to the goddess Isis in Aswan, Egypt. The temple had to be carefully deconstructed in Egypt and reconstructed in Spain. It was open to the public in Spain in the early 1970s.
As a huge fan of pretty much everything Egyptian, naturally, I had to see it. It’s within walking distance of the Palacio Real, so I was able to see it on the same day as the Royal Palace. I didn’t strictly know where I was going (what else is new?), beyond knowing I had to walk past Plaza de Espana and veer left. But it became apparent I was on the right track when I saw a line of tour buses along a road in a park-like area. I followed that road myself on foot–happily, as it was shady and cool on a very warm, sunny day–and eventually found the stairs leading up to the hilltop and the temple.
The idea of exploring an Egyptian temple is a bit different from actually doing so. I didn’t realize just how small this structure would be, or how narrow the passageways. I’m nightblind, and the chambers were very dark. And of course, it was crowded with other tourists, making the small chambers and passageways more than a little claustrophobic for me. I stayed as long as I could stand it, but eventually, I just had to get out of there.
As I mentioned above, the Temple is located in a city park–yet another of Madrid’s fine public green spaces (see Retiro Park)–with a fantastic view of Madrid. Aside from the tourists, who were mainly interested in the temple and the view, I saw quite a few people just sunbathing on the hilltop and enjoying the beautiful day. And why not?
This is a very worthwhile excursion for your time in Madrid, even if you have no interest in Egypt, archaeology, or old structures. If for no other reason, go for the views of Madrid.