2020 . Mar . 28

Abu Simbel

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Going to the deep south of Egypt, you can find Abu Simbel village. Which has a wide reputation around the world as it contains two unique Egyptian Temples, about 230 km (140 mi) southwest of Aswan, which is the Abu Simbel located behind Aswan High Dam.

From Aswan, a day trip to Abu Simbel could be made driving that could take several hours or flying to Abu Simbel Airport just 30 minutes away.

abu simbel temples

Why Is Abu Simbel Famous?

The reputation of such a village earned from the twin temples standing there from a long time ago.

The biggest one dedicated to King Ramses II, one of the most potent and famous Pharaohs of the new kingdom, and the small one but still huge is for Ramses II wife's "Nefertari," his favorite wife.

The name Abu Simbel's definition could be explained as a derived name from an old place called Ipsambul, which had been heard by the Arabs as Abu Simbel, Abu meaning the father, so they had pronounced it as similar as they heard it.

The Great Builder

Asking about who built Abu Simbel? It is not that hard to answer, King Ramses the second ordered to engrave these temples in the rock, to honor the gods, and to be worshiped himself.

He had selected such a far location from Thebes his capital, to be a declaration of power and control.

As it's near the Nubian borders, it's like he wanted to tell the Nubians who were his enemies that he's the one who controls and dominates.

During his reign, Ramses II had a vast empire under his control. He was always expanding and fighting to protect and increase his territory.

Still, one of the main reasons for his fame is the peace treaty that was held with the Hittite after years of war to be the first peace treaty ever known.

Although he was a war master and had been through many wars, Ramses II died peacefully at the age of 90 after more than 66 years on the top of Egypt's throne.

Walking in the Valley of the Kings, you can find Ramses II tomb numbered as KV7. He was resting peacefully there after a prosperous reign period, building and leaving his print on a lot of great Egyptian monuments.

Nefertari Temple Abu Simbel

Ramses II had a lot of wives during his long life, but one was so unique that he had built a Temple for her; she is Nefertari.

Queen Nefertari was a well-educated woman who could read and write hieroglyphs– the sacred writing - which was a rare skill at that time, and she had a diplomatic role for the empire, unlike the other wives.

Abu Simbel History & Dimensions

The great temple of Abu Simbel was built in 1264 BC approximately. In the 24th year of Pharaoh Ramses II reign, to be aging more than 3000 years old, it took around 20 years to be fully constructed.

Abu Simbel temples look like huge twin buildings aside from each other. The bigger one is 30 meters high (98 feet), 35 meters long (115 feet).

It has four huge statues at its entrance of the King sitting on his throne. Each one is 20 meters (65 feet) tall. Beneath these statues, smaller figures are taking place, depicting his enemies, Nubians, Libyans, and Hittites, placed beneath his feet to show them crushed by the King.

This temple was dedicated to Amun, Ptah, and Re-Harakhti, while Nefertiti temple was dedicated to goddess Hathor, also decorated by some colossi across the front facade of the King and his wife.

When we call it the small temple, we mean that it's the smallest temple at Abu Simbel, but it's still huge. It's 12 meters high (40 feet) and 28 meters long (92 feet).

No wonder that these temples are the most popular between all the Egyptian monuments after the Great Pyramids of Giza.

Why Were The Abu Simbel Temples in Egypt Relocated in Late 1960? And Who Moved It?

Abu Simbel's original location was 65 lower and 200 closer to the river, but in 1960 Egypt intended to build Aswan High Dam, which would produce a large artificial lake behind it.

Abu Simbel almost gets destroyed as it was into this lake area. Abu Simbel's relocation had taken place between 1964 and 1968. It was carefully cut into pieces and reassembled again in its new location.

These temples were carved into the mountain, so to be relocated in the same condition and shape, two domes should have been built to carry an artificial mountain containing the temples.

These domes are considered engineering miracles, to be carrying layers and layers of rocks and rubble, with a reinforced concrete thickness up to 2.1 m and 60 meters in diameter, to make it look like the same as before.

Cutting traces had been hidden professionally so that the temple appears in its original condition as if nothing happened.

A multinational team of archaeologists and engineers were working together under the authority of UNESCO to save one of the best Egyptian monuments.

Abu Simbel Facts, The Sun Festival

King Ramses was considering himself a god, and that's obvious in how he was linking himself to other gods, such as some sculptures depict him as similar to Osiris god, in the mummy form statues.

Twice a year, a special event takes place at Abu Simbel Egypt. On October 22 and February 22, early sun rays of the morning would penetrate the sanctuary to illuminate the sculptures on the back wall. Except the one of Ptah, the god of darkness and underworld.

While the King's statue stays illuminated during all the event to prove his intention to be worshipped in this temple as an everlasting god.

It's believed that this phenomenon happens to celebrate the King's birthday and coronation day.

These two events catch the interest of the world that a lot of special Abu Simbel tours and day trips are organized every year to attend this phenomenon.

Is It Safe To Visit Abu Simbel? And Best Tips

Abu Simbel village is considered safe and secure. It's full of facilities, and the people there are so friendly, you will find a lot of security patrols around the touristic area, there is no real threat that can ruin your visit, except some vendors hassling you to buy souvenirs.

However, the real challenge is how to get there, it is 3 hours driving far away from the nearest city, Aswan, and maybe it's going be a little bit exhausting to go on a day trip driving for some people.

You can still visit it as a day trip by plane, through Abu Simbel Airport, or spend the night in one of Abu Simbel hotels and hostels, which is easy to find and book.

A Lake Nasser cruise is another option, by which you can hop off-board, complete your visit, and hop on again to proceed with your journey.

A lot of Abu Simbel tours are organized daily from Aswan, Luxor, and even from Cairo.

Knowing that distance from Cairo to Abu Simbel is more than 1000 km, 12 hours driving at least, so it's highly recommended to take a flight to get there.

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Abu Simbel, Egypt?

You can visit Abu Simbel anytime you want; it's always available.

But for the best experience, it's recommended to visit it between November and March, to avoid the high temperature, as in summer the temperature could reach some unbearable levels, especially during August.

Abu Simbel Egypt is one of the best destinations that's worth a visit at least once in a lifetime, where you can witness the greatness of Egyptian history in such massive monuments.

No wonder it's considered a UNESCO world heritage.


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