Madrid: A Sunset Sanctuary

The short walk from my apartment to Madrid‘s Puerta del Sol is filled with authentic and locally-owned tapas bars, cervecerias and famous historical landmarks.

Photo by Barrie Cohen

Photo by Barrie Cohen

Here, not far from the very center of the city, a peculiar site — much different than Plaza Mayor or Palacio Real —  transports tourists to the farthest reaches of the Middle Eastern world.

Climbing the steep muddy steps to Parque del Cuartel de la Montaña, I notice the trees thinning and a wide, dusty space emerges, trampled with footprints. Just beyond the twisted tree limbs, a structure rises from the sandy gravel floor.

Temple De Debod presents itself in the form of two massive stone arches that lead to an even larger Egyptian temple.

A most unlikely piece of Spanish history, this sacred space is situated at the highest point of a city overlook surrounded by modest apartment buildings and nearby Plaza de España.

A long rectangular pool of water acts as a moat for the large structures.
Originally constructed and housed near the banks of the Nile River, this monument dates back to 2000 B.C. when the cult of Ammon and Isis ruled the Egyptian desert.

Built with the intention of god/goddess worship, Temple De Debod’s centerpiece, appropriately named the “Chapel of Reliefs,” depicts intricate ritual sketches dedicated to the Egyptian gods.

It was transferred stone by stone to Spain, and a debate still rages about whether it was gifted or stolen. The most credible explanation is that it was moved to preserve it during the building of the Aswan High Dam.

Although the structures themselves draw thousands to the site throughout the day, it is at sunset that the real fun begins. Backed by Palacio Real, electrifying bands of orange and yellow fill the sky illuminating the Madrid skyline. As the sun descends, sharp rays of red blend with the mellowed citrus hues, warming the stark white buildings in the distance.

The only way to describe it: breathtaking. I have spent many evenings pressed against the wrought-iron railings, craning my neck to get the full panoramic view of the city. And I know I’ll spend many more doing so.