Explore The Temples Of Abu Simbel, Egypt
Explore The Temples Of Abu Simbel, Egypt
We’ve all heard the saying, “Getting there is half the fun”. But where exactly is “there”? Our Explore series tells you where to go, how to get there, and what to do when you arrive. Happy travelling!
Abu Simbel Temples
Centuries before when the mighty Egyptian pharaohs ruled, Ramesses II built two grand temples on the west bank of Lake Nasser, in the land of Nubia. Built on the land that Ramesses II conquered, these temples were carved out of a single solid rock cliff. If historians are to be believed the temples were built in the 13thcentury BC and took nearly 20 years to fit the pharaoh’s description of ‘perfect’. The grandeur and architecture of the temples was such that it sent the message of the strength and power of the great Ramesses II to enemies, beyond the borders of Egypt.
The passing years, however, proved to be harsh and the once glorious complex got buried under sand. Many believe that the site was named Abu Simbel by the pharaoh himself, but that may not be the truth. The site is named after the boy who led Swiss explorer, Burckhardt to the buried temples in 1813. After many unsuccessful attempts, the entrance of the temple was finally uncovered by Giovanni Belzoni in 1817. The Abu Simbel Temples today stand as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
What To See:
The temple complex is made up of two temples, the Great Temple (dedicated to the gods Ra-Horakty, Ptah, and the deified Ramesses II), and the Small Temple (dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Queen Nefertari, Ramesses’ favourite wife).
Starting with the Great Temple, the entrance to this temple is guarded by four life sized statues (65 feet) of Ramesses II sitting on his throne looming over the tourists who enter his shrine. If you are already amazed by the splendid details, wait until you step inside! The temple narrates an account of Ramesses’s life; his conquered enemies, battles, family members and his beloved wife Nefertari via intricate carvings and detailed statues. You will also witness statues that represent various protecting gods and symbols of power.
The front facade of the Small Temple is adorned with the statues of Ramesses and his queen Nefertari (four statues of the king and two of the queen). The interiors of this temple are dedicated to images of Ramesses and Nefertari making offerings to the gods and to depictions of the goddess Hathor.
Perhaps the best feature of these temples is the alignment. The Great Temple was constructed in such a fashion that twice a year, the first rays of the sun would seep into the shrine and illuminate the statues of Ramesses and Amun (firstborn son of the Pharaoh and Queen Nefertari). Steps were also taken to ensure that the statue of Ptah, the god connected with the Underworld always remained in the dark.
PS: Photography is prohibited inside the temple, so capturing the colossal statues at the entrance is the only option.
If not for the beauty and grandeur of this temple complex, you must visit Abu Simbel to witness one of mankind’s greatest feats. For the uninitiated, the temple complex does not stand in its original location. The complex was lifted and reassembled besides an artificial hill after it faced the threat of flooding from Lake Nasser. The project was undertaken by UNESCO in 1964, and was completed over a course of four years. Great care was taken to orient both temples in exactly the same direction as before to keep the phenomena intact.
How To Get There:
To make it easier to explore these temples, Abu Simbel is equipped with its very own airport, which is just 6 kms away from the complex. Tourists from Cairo, can catch a connecting flight to Abu Simbel. Upon reaching the airport, you will be transported to the temple site by the Egypt Air Bus. Tourists visiting from Aswan can catch a direct flight to Abu Simbel, or they can embark a road trip to this UNESCO site. Don’t forget to do all necessary bookings a day before. You can also opt for the Nile Cruise for an even more exciting journey. The cruise will take you to Abu Simbel from Aswan and back again.
Best Time To Visit:
21st October and 21st February are probably the best days to visit Abu Simbel. This is because the temple is aligned with the east only twice a year on these days, which means the sun shines directly into the sanctuary, as mentioned earlier. Don’t be bummed out if you can’t make it to the temples on the specified dates, as the temple can be visited anytime throughout the year. However, the ideal time to visit Egypt is in the winter months (October to February). September, March and April make for a pleasant season as well.