Why Travel to Egypt
If you’re a fan of African travel, Egypt probably needs no introduction. This North African country has a rich, mystical and well-known history dating back to the old testament days of the Christian Bible. Today, many historical artifacts from these ancient days still stand in Egypt attracting millions of visitors each year. The ancient temples at Abu Simbel are a great example.
Abu Simbel: Background Information
Consisting of two holy temples carved into a mountainside, Abu Simbel is today the second largest ancient man-made tourist attraction in Egypt after the great pyramids. The Abu Simbel temples are part of the Nubian monuments in Egypt that have been collectively declared UNESCO world heritage sites. You should visit Abu Simbel at least once, appreciate the beauty of the temples and learn about its mystical history as thousands of local and foreign tourists do.
The temples at Abu Simbel are currently located on top of an artificial cliff on the western shore of Lake Nasser, about 300 km southwest of the Aswan High Dam. However, this was not their original site. Originally, these ancient temples were about 200 meters below the current location. They were placed after the construction of the Aswan high dam in the 1960s to prevent them from sinking into Lake Nasser. The relocation and reconstruction of the temple is considered one of the greatest engineering feats of the modern world.
Relocation of Temples
A joint effort of the Egyptian Government and UNESCO, the relocation of Abu Simbel cost over US$60 million and took four years. The temples were cut in their original place into huge slabs, each weighing over 3000 kilograms. The plates were then moved to higher ground very carefully to avoid damage. The new in situ pieces were carefully reassembled, taking into account all the elements found in the original location, including accurate construction measurements and the position of the sun. Outside of Abu Simbel there is a small museum where you can get step-by-step documentation on the relocation and reunification of the two temples. The museum also has lots of other information such as the history of Abu Simbel and the ancient kingdoms that worshiped in it.
Abu Simbel History
The two temples are rumored to be built by Pharaoh II to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. It was built during the reign of Ramses.
Touring Abu Simbel
Four colossal statues of Pharaoh Ramses sit in front of Abu Simbel. This is the fascinating sight that meets your eyes as you approach the temple. You’ll be both dwarf and amazed by its sheer size. However, one of the statues in the middle was destroyed from head to waist in an earthquake in the past. At the feet of these massive statues are much smaller statues, possibly belonging to members of the then royal family.
When you tour Abu Simbel, you’ll likely be accompanied by travel guides who will captivate you with tales of the rise and fall of ancient kingdoms and the fire-breathing gods who can turn day into night. Once you pass the first entrance of Abu Simbel, you may be so frightened that you won’t want to fall even one step behind the tour group. The first entrance leads to a corridor lined with more sculptures, wall engravings and cave paintings.
Much of the history associated with the temples is inferred from the paintings carved on these walls. However, some of these images were never fully interpreted. The deeper you go inside the temples, the more beautiful, interesting and almost disturbing it becomes. If you like mysteries and scary stories, you are sure to have an unforgettable experience here.
In the innermost temple inside the temple, you will find four statues of the main deities seated on a high platform. The most remarkable thing about this shrine is that it was built twice a year, in late February and late October, when the first rays of the sun hit directly on the back wall of the temple, illuminating the deities and illuminating the gods. The shrine is an eerie yet powerful presence. This phenomenon points to the extraordinary understanding of design and planning that the ancient Egyptians had, especially when it comes to the sun and other celestial bodies.
Temples are still considered sacred by some Egyptians, and don’t be surprised if you see a group of people praying to the sun outside the temple. Most people who believe in the holiness of Abu Simbel like to visit the site in February and October, when the sun’s rays illuminate the innermost glow and “revive” the statues of the gods.
To travel to Abu Simbel, you can fly or bus from Cairo or Aswan to the airstrip behind Abu Simbel. The temples are located in a very remote environment where very few people live in the area. The area is largely desert terrain, and temperatures can rise to uncomfortably high during the day and then drop to skin-penetrating cold during the night.