EgyptTravelPlanner.com Logo   Abu Simbel, Egypt Guide 
 

 

The two colossal temples at Abu Simbel loom above Egypt's Lake Nasser, on the border with Sudan some 290 km (180 miles) south of Aswan and nearly a thousand kilometers (600 miles) south of Cairo (map).

Most visitors come from Aswan on half-day excursions by plane or full-day excursions by bus or car, or as a stop on a Lake Nasser cruise boat, but the village of Abu Simbel has two hotels, so it is possible—and quite a different experience—to spend the night here.

The story of the Abu Simbel temples could be straight out of a movie script:

Finished about 1224 BCE as an assertion of power to impress travelers coming from Africa into Egypt down the Nile, the temples were literally buried by the sands of time until, in 1813, Swiss archeologist Jacob Burckhardt discovered the very top of the temple above the sands.

(Local legend has it that a boy named Abu Simbel had noticed bits of the temple as the sands shifted, and it was he who guided Europeans to the site.)

Burckhardt discussed his findings with Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni, who succeeded in excavating to the main temple entrance in 1817.

There are two temples here: the Great Temple of Ramses II dedicated to the pharaoh and the gods Amon, Ra-Horakhty and Ptah, and the smaller Temple of Hathor, dedicated to that goddess and to Ramses II's queen Nefertari.

In the 1960s, construction of the Aswan High Dam and the filling of Lake Nasser threatened to inundate both temples. An international rescue mission was organized under the auspices of UNESCO, and both temples were disassembled and re-erected in artificial mountains well above the shoreline. The rescue was an impressie engineering operation worthy of these great works of art.


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Temple of Ramses II, Abu Simbel, Egypt

Great Temple of Ramses II, Abu Simbel, Egypt.