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Abu Simbel Temples in Egypt

The most astonishing temple of ancient Egypt,the Temples of Abu Simbel, constructed by Ramses II in the 13th century BC is considered by many travellers spending their vacation in Egypt to be a breathtaking historical site.

Due to its huge size, marvelous architectural elements being all cut out of the rocks of Southern Egypt, the interesting story of its relocation after the construction of The High Dam in the 1970s, the Temple of Abu Simbel is quite an amazing ancient Egyptian temple that is included in many Egypt tours.

The Discovery of the Temple of Abu Simbel

The discovery of the Temple of Abu Simbel has a funny story behind and fate played a major role in the unearthing of this marvelous ancient Egyptian monument. The story goes back to the beginning of the 19th century when a Swiss orientalist went to visit the temples of Nubia. On the 22nd of March 1813, he went to visit the Temple of Queen Nefertari, the smaller temple at the Abu Simbel Complex.

After he finished his visit to the temple, he couldn’t find the people who accompanied him in his trip so he had to climb the sand dunes located nearby to look for them. Suddenly he found himself in front of the heads of the four statues of Ramses II that ornament the facade of the bigger temple at the Abu Simbel Complex.

Afterwards, in 1816, the famous Italian archeologist, Giovanni Belzoni, visited Abu Simbel with a group of workers and technicians who were able in 1817 to discover the magnificent temple of Abu Simbel. Belzoni liked the looks of the six baboons located at the facade of the temple and this was why he climbed until the top of the complex.

The temple was buried deep inside the sand to the extent that the gate of the complex was more than 35 feet below the ground. It took Belzoni and his team a huge effort to reveal this distinctive ancient Egyptian construction.

Abu Simbel Temples Location

When Ramses II was carrying out his military campaigns in the land of Nubia, especially in the area from the first to the second cataract to the South of the city of Aswan, he chose this huge plane piece of land situated around 166 miles to the South of the Aswan Dam today to construct this marvelous temple.

Ramses II also chose a plateau that was about 100 meters higher than the sea level in an example that is quite hard to be found in the deserts of Nubia. This was the original location of the temple before being relocated in the 1970s after the construction of the High Dam.

After the relocation of the Temples of Abu Simbel, the complex is situated today 230 kilometers to the South of Aswan on a high cliff that is similar to its original location.

This means that Abu Simbel is situated more than 1100 kilometers to the south of Cairo, the Egyptian capital, around 450 kilometers to the south of Luxor, and around 750 kilometers to the south west of Hurghada.

However, there is an airport in Abu Simbel where many flights coming from Luxor, Aswan, Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, and Alexandria arrive. Moreover, many buses and private cars can reach Abu Simbel from Aswan in a two hours and a half drive.

This is besides the new Nile Cruise rout that takes the tourists who visit Egypt from Aswan to Abu Simbel in a marvelous trip that includes the visit to the Temple of Abu Simbel and some other great ancient Egyptian monuments like the Temple of  Kalabsha and the Temple of Amada.

The Rescue and the Relocation of the Temple of the Abu Simbel

After the construction of the High Dam and the establishment of the Nasser Lake, an international campaign started in 1959 to collect funds to rescue the temple. The real actual process began in 1964 by the UNESCO with the cope ration of the Egyptian government.

The process of the rescue and the relocation of the Temple of Abu Simbel consisted of a number of stages. The first stage was to cut the temple into large pieces with each being from one to two tons.

The second stage was to document each piece and take photographs of each of the pieces. Afterwards, these pieces were taken to the new location 230 kilometers to the South of Aswan where they were repaired and assembled back again in one of the most important projects of the UNESCO in the 20th century.

The History and the Construction of the Temple of Abu Simbel

The construction work of the Temples of Abu Simbel started in 1244 by Ramses II, the most famous ancient Egyptian builder. Many reasons were behind the construction of the Temple of Ramses II and the smaller Temple of the king’s wife, Queen Nefertari in that place in particular.

The first reason was to commemorate the victory of Ramses II over the Hittites in the famous Battle of Kadesh, to show the power of the king to the inhabitants of Nubia at that time, and to enable the Egyptians in the southern section of Upper Egypt to have a marvelous temple for their own.

It took the builders more than 20 years to finish this magnificent piece of architectural art, as the temple was completely finished in 1265 BC. The Temple of Abu Simbel was one of the six ancient Egyptian temples that were constructed hewn out of rock in Nubia in ancient Egypt.

The Description of the Temple of Abu Simbel

The Facade of the Temple of Abu Simbel is perhaps one of the most remarkable features of the construction. It consists of four huge statues of Ramses II with each of them being 20 meters high. Ramses II is presented wearing the double crown of Northern and Southern Egypt and sitting on the throne of Egypt.

Beside the four statues of Ramses II, there are some much smaller statues of his favorite wife, Queen Nefertari and some of this sons and daughters.

The Temple from inside has the typical layout of ancient Egyptian temples. The hypostyle hall consists of a rectangle that is 18 meters in length and 17 meters in width. The hall is supported with eight huge pillars representing Ramses II as the god Osiris. The walls of the temple, the same as many other temples constructed by Ramses II, are featured with scenes from the battle of Kadesh.

The sun rays reach the inner section of the temple to shed light on the statue of Ramses II twice per year; on the 21st of October and the 21st of February; dates that were claimed to be the birthday and the day he was crowned with the throne of Egypt. This phenomenon is considered to be among the most brilliant achievements of the architects of ancient Egypt.

The smaller temple of Nefertari is located around 100 meters to the North East of the larger temple and it was dedicated for the worship of the goddess Hathor. The facade of the temple is also cut out of rocks and it represents some statues of Ramses II and some others of his wife Nefertari.

All the statues have the same height that is around 10 meters. This is actually the first time in the ancient Egyptian history where the statue of the king has the same size of the statue of the Queen a fact that reflects how Ramses II loved and respected his beautiful wife, Queen Nefertari.

The inner section of the Temple of Queen Nefertari in the Abu Simble Complex has a hypostyle hall that is supported on six large pillars and it is featured with scenes of the queen together with some ancient Egyptian gods like Hathor, Isis, Anubis, and Khunum.

If you are spending your vacation in Egypt, never miss the chance to explore the Temples of Abu Simbel, as it is simply one of the most astonishing buildings of ancient Egypt.

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