The plight of the huge temple complex of Abu Simbel focused the attention of the world on southern Egypt and its’ controversial construction of the High Dam. As one of the many temples put in jeopardy by the dam, and by far, the largest, Abu Simbel became a symbol of world solidarity in an area of the world marked by struggle and war. A number of plans were proposed to save the temple. One team of experts wanted to put a large glass shield around it, so that is could be visited in it’s original location, which, when the dam was completed, would be under Lake Nasser. The plan that was finally adopted was to move the temples to higher ground, on a cliff molded to match the original. The giant statues and cave temples were separated from the mountain from which they had been carved, and then were cut into blocks of movable size. Slowly, they were transported to their new site, and reassembled. The entire project took nine years and millions of dollars. In the end, a priceless monument was saved.
THE ONLY WAY TO REACH ABU SIMBEL IS TO FLY
Most tourists fly in from Aswan, land at Abu Simbel, where a waiting bus takes them to the temple. Then, one has about two hours to explore…take the bus back to the airport, and return either to Aswan or to Cairo. Be prepared for crowds, and possibly, long waits at the Aswan airport. In addition, you have no choice but to fly Egypt Air. But a visit to this site is worth it.
TEMPLE OF RAMSES II:
Located on the front hill of the mountaintop. At the entrance are four immense statues of Ramses seated on his throne. He wears the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. Each of the statues is about 65 feet high. On each side of the statues, between their legs, stand statues of Ramses’ wife, Nefertari with members of the royal family. They are dwarfed by Ramses calf. One of the giant statues was left with portions on the ground…just as it was in its original location. Above the entrance to the temple is a high relief carving of the falcon god Horus. He is flanked by two low-relief carvings of Ramses worshipping him. The temple is dedicated to Amon-Ra, Horus, Ptah, and the deified Ramses II. The first room you enter is a large hall with 8 columns showing Ramses as Osiris. There is also a wonderful relief showing Ramses going to battle in his chariot. At the back of the temple are two small halls leading to the temple sanctuary. Here, there are four statues of the gods to whom the temple is dedicated. A short distance away from this main temple is the TEMPLE TO HATHOR, where the royal wife Nefertari is represented in the facade’s colossi on the same scale as her husband. There are 6 statues in all, each about 32 feet high. Each statue of Nefertari is flanked by two of Ramses…each wearing different crowns. The interiors you will see were carved/cut away from the original temples. A hollow mountain made of plastic materials was constructed, and the original interiors attached to this shell.
PHOTOGRAPHING ABU SIMBEL:
Try to sit on the left side of the plane. You’ll have outstanding aerial views. The morning sun is best for photographing the temples. The afternoon sun is behind the temples…shinning into your camera. It is now possible to spend the night at Abu Simbel, but there are no 1st Class Hotels.