There are some things in life that are hard to believe to be from this world or even exist in our realms like the legendary Abu Simbel temples; which stand as a holy guardian and a living proof of the marvelous glory and pride of the ancient Egyptians. Abu Simbel temples are located in the Nubian village in southern Egypt; about 230 km southwest of Aswan near the borders of Sudan. They carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century B.C during the reign of the Pharaoh Ramesses II; taking 20 full years from1264 BC till 1244 BC. They created to celebrate Ramesses’ victory at the Battle of Kadesh and as a show of Egyptian power.
This site is the most famous in all of Egypt after the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Today they are a UNESCO World Heritage site; along with a number of other UNESCO sites in Nubia from Abu Simbel Temples to Philae Temple near Aswan. The Swiss explorer John Lewis Burckhardt, who led to the site by an Egyptian Nubian boy called Abu Simbel, rediscovered the temple after it buried under the sand for a long time in 1813. Four years later in 1817, Giovanni Battista Belzoni managed to remove some of the sand and find the entrance into the temple. The sand was entirely removed from the temple in 1909 to become one of Egypt’s most incredible attractions.
Who is Ramses II?
Ramses II was the son of Seti I and Queen Tuya. He was born around 1303 BC in Ancient Egypt. Ramses II was also the great ruler of Egypt from 1279 until 1213 B.C. He called also Ramses the great as he was the most powerful pharaoh in the Egypt New Kingdom. Ramses II has built a lot of mesmerizing constructions all through Egypt and Nubia. His most mesmerizing temples are the Ramesseum in Karnak temple and the temples of Abu Simbel. He even established a capital city in Delta called Pi-Ramses. He died at the age of ninety-six. And through his lifetime, he had over 200 wives, ninety-three sons, and sixty daughters, most of whom he outlived. There is no ancient site in Egypt, which does not make mention of Ramses the Great because of his great accomplishments.
The Great Temple of Ramses II
The great Temple was built by King Ramses II. It is dedicated to the Gods Re-Hor-Akhty, Amon, Ptah, and King Ramses II as a deified King. The temple facade is 35m long and 30m high, with four 20m tall seated colossi of the King seated on his throne wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, accompanied by 3 small figures of his wives, daughters, and sons around his legs.
Inside the temple, there are three consecutive halls reaching up to 56m till the end of the temple. The hypostyle hall is 16.7 m wide, 18 m tall, and supported by eight massive Osiris pillars which cut into the rock, with walls decorated by battle and offering scenes. There are some side rooms leading from the hall, which also decorated with various scenes. At the far end of the Temple is the sanctuary, which contains four statues: Re-Hor-Akhty, Amon-Re, Ptah, and the deified Ramses II.
The Small Temple of Queen Nefertari
King Ramses II built the Small Temple at Abu Simbel as a monument to his beautiful and much-loved queen Nefertari. It dedicated also to the goddess Hathor. It is located just north of the main temple and it is smaller in size. This was only the second time in history that an ancient Egyptian temple built in honor of a queen; the first was when Akhenaten dedicated a temple to his great royal wife, Nefertiti.
On the front of the temple, there are six colossal statues about 10 meters high. Four of them represent Ramses II and the other two represent Queen Nefertari, each is accompanied by two smaller figures of their children. The entrance leads to a square hall, which supported by six Hathor-headed pillars decorated with depictions of the King and the Queen making offerings to different deities.
The Relocation of Abu Simbel Temples
Not only are the two temples at Abu Simbel among the most magnificent monuments in the world but their removal and reconstruction was a historic event in itself. When the temples were threatened by submersion in Lake Nasser, due to the construction of the High Dam, the Egyptian Government secured the support of UNESCO and launched a worldwide appeal.
During the operation which began in 1964 by the most skilled archeologists and engineers and continued until 1968, the two temples cut into many pieces and taken to a site 65M higher from their original location. Also, they took great care to make sure that they reassembled in the same original orientation to each other and to the sun. Even a man-made mountain constructed, to make it look like they cut into the rock cliff. At the time, the project cost a total of $40 million – which is a considerable amount in the 1960s.
Abu Simbel Sun Festival
When the Great Temple was constructed, it was built precisely with the position of the sun in mind. The sun festival happens when the sun rays illuminate the central chamber with its hunting architecture. And the light perfectly cast on the four seated statues of Ramses II, Ptah “God of Creation“, Amun “The God of Gods”, and Ra “Sun God“. This solar phenomenon created to celebrate February 22nd, the anniversary of Ramses II’s ascension on the throne; and October 22nd, his birthday. Hundreds of people from all over the world gather at the temple before dawn to witness the spectacle of the rays of light filtering through the stones of the temple and illuminate the statues of Ramses and the gods. It is an extraordinary demonstration of the skill and deep knowledge of the ancient Egyptians in the astronomical field.
Abu Simbel temple is one of the most historical attractions around the world where many tourists dream of exploring, so if you want to visit this magnificent monument and the other archaeological sites, then you can visit our breathtaking Aswan tours or Nile cruises and choose your most suitable journey.