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Sightseein - Abu Simbel Temples

Abu Simbel Temples
Open: daily 6 am - 5 pm

Abu Simbel Temples are situated 280 km to the south of Aswan and close to the Sudanese border. The two temple were built more than 3250 years ago by one of the greatest and most famous Pharaoh Ramses II, who reigned for 67 years during the 13th century BC (19th Dynasty). The temples were built at a site on the west bank of the Nile south of Aswan in the land of Nubia, known today as Abu Simbel. Because of their remote location near the Sudanese border in southern Egypt, the temples were unknown until their rediscovery in 1813. They were first explored in 1817 by the Egyptologist Giovanni Battista Belzoni.

The great temple of Ra-Horakhate was originally dedicated to the sun gods Amon-Ra and Ra-Horakhate but its main purpose was to glorify the Great Ramses II and impress and scare off raiding Nubians from the South. It is also here that the "miracle of the sun" took place twice a year. At exactly 5:58 am on 21st of February and 21 of October, the first rays of the morning sun penetrate the
entire length of the temple-cave to illuminate the back wall of the innermost shrine and the statues of Amon-Ra, Ramses II and Ra-Horakhate, never striking Ptah, the god of darkness.

The building of this awe-inspiring and most beautiful temple didn't only pose a challenge to Ramses' engineers, who carved it from a single piece of rock in the middle of the Nubian desert, but later it challenged the engineers of the world community as well. In 1965, UNESCO undertook the fascinating salvage operations of this temple. The two temples were completely dug inside the rocky mountain.



The salvage actually took place in 6 phases: Removing 300000 tons of rocks surrounding the temples, cutting the temple into 1036 blocks, and enumerating each one of them, transferring the 1050 tons of enumerated blocks to another site, 90 metres above the original level, reconstruction of the temples, and finally reconstruction of the mountain surrounding the temples. The reconstruction is nearly perfect, and every year on 22 February and 22 October , a day later than originally planned , the sun rays reach the sanctuary to revive the "miracle of the sun".

The great temple of Ra-Horakhate was cut into the face of the cliff, before which is a rock-cut terrace. The temple is approached across this terrace up a flight of steps with an inclined plane in the middle, and enclosed on either side by a balustrade behind which stood a row of hawks and statues of Ramses in various forms.

The rock-cut fašade of the temple represents the front of a pylon in front of which are four colossal seated figures of Ramses 20m high. This facade is 38 metres wide, and 65 metres high. Below the seat of one of the colossal statues of Ramses II, is the sunk relief of the god Hapy, the personification of the Nile flood. At the top of the pylon, above the cornice, is a row of baboons, who, as Watchers of the Dawn, are shown with their hands raised in adoration of the rising sun. The actual interior of the temple is inside the cliff in the form of a man-made cave cut out of the living rock. Inside is the hypostyle hall, leading to the sanctuary, flanked with 10 metre high Osirid Statues of Ramses. The walls of the temple are decorated with fine reliefs of Ramses' campaigns in Syria and Nubia, played up for propaganda purposes.

The smaller temple of Hathor at Abu Simbel was built by Ramses II as well, to honor both Hathor as the goddess of love and music and his wife Nefertari as the deified queen. Never before on Egypt had the wife of a pharaoh been depicted on the fašade of a temple. The fašade, resembling a pylon, has six standing colossal, 10 metre high statues. On each side of the entrance, two statues of Ramses flank one of Nefertari dressed as Hathor. The colossal statues are, in turn, flanked by smaller statues of their children. The hypostyle hall contains reliefs of the beautiful Nefertari watching Ramses conquering his enemies, and of the royal couple in front of the gods. The sanctuary contains a ruined cow statue of Hathor and is decorated with reliefs of Nefertari offering incense to Mut and Hathor, and of Ramses adoring himself and his wife.

The temples can be reached by road, air or boat. Arrival by boat is achieved by cruising from the Aswan High Dam on a beautiful 3-day Lake Nasser cruise.





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