5 Interesting Facts About Abu Simbel Temples

The Temple of Ramesses- beloved by Amun is a two ancient massive rock temples built during the reign of Ramses II in approximately 1264 BC and its construction lasted for about 20 years. Abu Simbel Temples are considered the second largest man-made tourist attraction in Egypt (30 metres high, 35 metres long) following the Great Pyramids of Giza.

1. Discovery

Over time, the temples were covered in sand and even became forgotten until 1813 when the temple was first discovered by Swiss orientalist Jean-Louis Burckhardt, but all that was visible was the top frieze of the main temple. Then 4 years later, in 1817, the Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni returned to the site and succeeded to enter the temples. According to the temples’ guides, ‘Abu Simbel’ is named after the boy who led the exhibition to the site back in 1813.

2.Purpose of Abu Simbel

The construction of such a great monument served many purposes. First, the Great Temples were built to memorise Ramses II victory at the battle of Kadesh. Second, the Temples were also dedicated to serve the gods Ra- Horakty and Ptah. While the Small Temple was constructed for the goddess Hathor and Queen Nefertari, Ramesses’ favourite wife. This is considered the second time in Egyptian history that a temple was dedicated to a queen.

3. Abu Simbel Relocation

Relocating the Temple was managed by the UNESCO back in 1964 and it is considered one of the greatest challenges of archaeological engineering in History.
Originally, the temples were located 200 feet
below its current location which is at the apex of the artificial cliff on Lake Nasser’s Western banks, but the temples had to be moved or they would’ve been drawn by the High Dam water.

4. Abu Simbel Solar Alignment

The archaeological mystery in Abu Simbel temples is considered one of Ancient Egypt’s greatest phenomenons. The sun penetrates the Temples only twice a year celebrating cultivation and flooding seasons, which also reflect Ramses II birth and coronation respectively. Also, the location of the 4 statues was measured carefully so that Plah, god of darkness, would remain in the dark.

5. Inside Abu Simbel Temples

The great Temple begins with four seated colossi flanking the entrance, two on each side, depicting Ramesses II on his throne. Beneath these giant figures are smaller statues representing Ramesses’ conquered enemies; the Nubians, Libyans, and Hittites. More statues exist inside the temple representing family members surrounded by various protecting gods. Similarly, the walls of the Small Temple are carved with images of Ramesses and Nefertari making offerings to the gods and the goddess Hathor.

Today, Abu Simbel is the second most visited ancient site in Egypt after the Pyramids and even has its own airport to accommodate the thousands of tourists who arrive at the site each year. Pro tip: don’t forget to take a quick tour through Lake Nasser which is only few meters away from the temples.


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