This temple cut into the rock was commissioned by the great 19th Dynasty king Rameses II (c. 1279–1213 BC). Its ancient Egyptian name was ‘The Temple of Rameses the Beloved of Amun in the Domain of Ra’. Essentially consisting of two pillared halls and terminating in a sanctuary, it has several interesting similarities with the most famous of Rameses II’s rock-cut temples, the Great Temple of Abu Simbel. Here too in the temple of al-Derr, the figures of the same four gods can be seen in the sanctuary, cut into the rock: Ptah, Ra-Horakhty, the deified Rameses II, and Amun-Ra.
Although some scenes in the first pillared hall depict some of Rameses II’s military campaigns, most of the temple’s wall decoration shows him in the company of the gods, performing temple rituals. The colours of the reliefs in the second pillared hall are very well preserved.
Later in its history, the temple of al-Derr was transformed into a church and, much later, in 1964, it was dismantled and moved from its original location in al-Derr on the other side of the Nile. Today, it stands near the relocated temple of Amada in New Amada. This operation was undertaken to rescue the temple from being permanently underwater as a result of the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s.