Why travel to Egypt
If you are a travel enthusiast in Africa, Egypt needs no introduction. This North African country has a rich, mysterious and well-known history dating back to the Christian Bibles Old Testament days. Today, many historical monuments from these ancient days still exist in Egypt and attract millions of visitors each year. The ancient temples of Abu Simbel are a good example.
Abu Simbel: Background information
Abu Simbel consists of two sacred temples carved out of a mountain side, and is the second great ancient artificial tourist attraction in Egypt, after the great pyramids. Abu Simbel Temple is part of the Nubian monuments of Egypt, which have been declared collectively on the UNESCO World Heritage Site. You should visit Abu Simbel at least once to appreciate the beauty of the temple and learn about its mysterious history as thousands of other local and foreign tourists do.
The temples at Abu Simbel are currently on top of an artificial rock on the western shores of Lake Nasser, about 300 km southwest of the Aswan High Dam. However, this was not their original site. Originally, these ancient temples were located about 200 meters below the current location. They were moved in the 1960s to prevent them from being subdued in Lake Nasser, after the construction of the Aswan High Dam. The relocation and reconstruction temple is considered to be one of the major technological achievements in the modern world.
The relocation of the temple
Made by the Egyptian government and UNESCOs combined effort, the relocation of Abu Simbel cost over 60 million US dollars and lasted four years. The temples are cut into large plates in their original location, each plate weighing over 3000 kilos. The plates were then moved to higher ground very gingerly to avoid damage. On the new site, the parts were carefully assembled again, taking into account all the elements that had been in the original location, including precise building measurements and the suns position. There is a small museum outside Abu Simbel where you can get a step-by-step documentation for relocation and reassembly of the two temples. The museum also has a lot of other information such as the history of Abu Simbel and the ancient Kingdom that was in it.
Abu Simbel History
The two temples were built under the Pharaoh Ramesses II government, which was clarified to celebrate his victory in Kadeshs battle.
Touring Abu Simbel
Four giant statues of Pharaoh Ramesses sit on the front of Abu Simbel. This is the fascinating sight that greets your eyes as you approach the temple. You will feel both dwarf and astonished by its sheer size. However, one of the statues in the middle has been destroyed from the head to the waist of a previous earthquake. At the foot of these giant statues are much smaller statues, probably of members of the then royal family.
As you travel Abu Simbel, you are most likely to be with tour guides who will warn you about the origins and fall of the ancient kingdoms, and of gods that can spit fire and turn day to night. When you reach Abu Simbels first entrance, you can be so ghosted that you will not even fall behind the tour group. The first entrance leads to a corridor lined with more statues, wall graves and cave paintings.
Most of the history of the temples has been the conclusion of the illustrations cut out on these walls. However, some of these illustrations have never been fully interpreted. As you go deeper inside the temples, it becomes more beautiful, interesting and almost worrying. If you love mysteries and scary stories, youre sure to have an unforgettable experience here.
At the innermost sanctuary inside the temple you will find four statues of the main gods sitting on a high platform. The most remarkable thing about this sanctuary is that it was designed so that twice the year, at the end of February and the end of October, the suns first rays shine directly onto the backdrop of the sanctuary shining the gods and giving the sanctuary a weird but powerful presence. This phenomenon points to the extraordinary sense of design and planning that ancient Egyptians had, especially when it came to the sun and other celestial bodies.
Traveling to Abu Simbel, you can take a flight from Cairo or Aswan to the plane behind Abu Simbel, or you can go by bus. The temples are located in a very remote environment with very few inhabitants in the area. The area is largely deserted land and temperatures can float to uncomfortable heights during the day and then release to the skin crows cold during the night.