This site, Abu Simbel Temples, south of Aswan along Lake Nasser’s shore is the most famous in all of Egypt after the Giza Pyramids. Built by the greatest of the pharaohs, Ramesses II, which made it also known as the Temple of Ramses II or Ramesses II, these huge rock-cut temples marked the southern boundary of the Egyptian Empire with Nubia at the peak of its power during the New Kingdom.
They were meant to convey the power of Egypt’s rulers to anyone who laid eyes upon them. The four statues guarding the doorway to the larger of these temples are the largest sculptures that survive from the ancient Pharaonic era.
Where are the Abu Simbel Temples located?
The Abu Simbel Temples are located at Abu Simbel, a small village of Aswan in Upper Egypt near the border with Sudan on the western bank of Lake Nasser.
Why were the Abu Simbel Temples built?
The twin temples were built to serve as a lasting monument to the king and his queen Nefertari, and commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh.
The Rediscovery of the Abu Simbel Temples
After being lost form civilization for a while, the Abu Simbel Temples was rediscovered in 1813 by Swiss explorer John Lewis Burckhardt. The temples had long been forgotten and the sands of the desert had covered all but the tops of the heads of the huge statues in front of their entrances.
Since 1909 when the sand was finally cleared away, these twin temples have become the most famous site in Egypt’s south.
Relocation of the Abu Simbel Temples
As a result of the rising waters of the Nile River that were about to result from the construction of the Aswan High Dam, the twin temples of Abu Simbel were under a threat. The Temples of Abu Simbel were relocated in order to rescue the ancient temples from the waters of the Nile.
The Abu Simbel Temples were dismantled and relocated in 1968 on the desert plateau 64 meters above and 180 meters west of their original built site. Moving the temples was not a job; it was massive work. It included cutting the temples into pieces between 3 to 20 tons in weight and reassembling them precisely as they were at the new site. It took almost five years to finish the relocation.
What is the Abu Simbel Sun Festival?
Twice a year, people from around the world gather at the Temples of Abu Simbel to celebrate the ancient Egyptians and all that they accomplished. Aptly named Sun Festival, the central chamber of the temple is illuminated by the sun.
When is the Abu Simbel Sun Festival?
The Abu Simbel Sun Festival takes place on February 22nd and October 22nd of every year to much fanfare with several thousand people gathering early in the morning to see this testament to the knowledge and skill that the ancient Egyptians possess in order to align the temple so perfectly.
How to get to the Abu Simbel Temples?
The temples are located several hours drive, south of Aswan, but most tourists actually arrive at Abu Simbel by plane. The flight from Aswan is only 30 minutes and there are two flights a day, timed so that tourists will have about two hours to spend at the temples.
It is also possible to visit Abu Simbel by joining a Lake Nasser cruise. These ships moor just in front of the temples so that passengers have a chance to see the temples by moonlight and in the early morning light.
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