Abu Simbel

Useful Information

Location: Abu Simbel
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:  
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1979 inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


Abu Simbel is probably the most famous egyptian temple in the world. And although it is of great beauty and really impressive, the true reason is the construction of the Nasser dam, a huge project during the science centric mid 20th century. Funds of development assistance by so-called western countries was used to build dams, actually by western companies, to create industry for western markets. This dam was constructed to produce electricity for an aluminium smelter, which was built nearby. Among numerous negative consequences was the destruction of Abu Simble, or better its flooding by Lake Nasser.

Some say, how good for the temple, out of reach of modern tourists. But at this time it was regarded a great threat to the artwork. And so there were initiatives, funds were raised, and the complete temple (or at least its front facade) was relocated, the temple became world famous. Obviously a great technical masterpiece, but as a result the new temple is a sort of fake.

The temple has an impressive and world famous facade, four huge sculptures of a sitting man, actually all of them are Pharaoh Ramses II, who lived around 1300 BC. He was definitely fond of having images made of himself in stone. There are many more inside, and of course some murals depicting him The 22 m high statues were carved into a solid cliff face above a sweeping bend of the Nile. Today the statues are relocated just a little bit higher up the hill, facing into the same direction. This is important, as twice a year the rays of the rising sun shine deep into the full depth of the temple and illuminate the inner sanctum.

Ramses had his temple aligned so that this happened twice a year, on 22-FEP and 22-OCT. Both days became local festivals to celebrates this. The first day is his birthday, the second is the day of his ascension to the throne. Actually the people were reminded of this dates by the sun personally. Unfortunately the relocation was not that good, the modern-day builders made a mistake, and the lightshow is now one day later.

Just for completeness sake: there is a second similar temple. Much smaller, less sculptures, all of his favourite wife Nefertari who this lesser temple was dedicated to. And no lightshow.