A trip to Egypt would not be complete without a visit to Abu Simbel, one of the most famous monuments in the world. Abu Simbel sits in Lower Nubia in southern Egypt near the Nile River. It’s the home of two massive rock-cut temples carved out of the mountainside during the reign of the deified Pharaoh Ramses II in the 13th century BC. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ramses II ordered the construction of the two temples just after his fifth year as pharaoh. They were completed in the 35th year of his reign.
The larger of the two temples is dedicated to Ramses II and to the two sun gods, Re-Harakhte and Amon-Re. Four statues of the pharaoh guard the entrance to the temple. The statues are about 70 feet tall, each one seated on a throne, each one wearing the double Atef crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. You can tour the interior of the temple that is situated inside the cliff in the form of a man-made cave cut out of the rock. The interior consists of a series of decorated halls and rooms. Legend has it that the temple is oriented so that twice every year on February 22 and October 22, the first rays of the morning sun shine down the entire length of the temple-cave to illuminate the back wall of the innermost shrine and the statues of the four gods seated there.
The smaller temple, built about one hundred meters northeast of the temple of Ramses II, is dedicated to Ramses’ chief wife, Nefertari and to Hathor the goddess of queens, music, dance and the arts. The rock-cut facade is decorated with 32 feet high statues of the king and his queen equal in size–a phenomenon in Egyptian art as the statues of the queens were never taller than the king’s knees. Clearly Ramses adored Nefertari. Ramses also demonstrated his love of family by erecting small statues of his children next to their parents on both temples.
In 1968 the temples were relocated, brick by brick, to avoid their being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the reservoir formed by the building of the Aswan Dam on the Nile.
We traveled to Abu Simbel on one of EgyptAir’s daily flights from Aswan. There are other modes of transportation, but we found this the quickest and most efficient.
History and beauty have made Abu Simbel one of the most famous monuments in the world. A visit to Abu Simbel will remain in your memory forever.