Astonishing Abu Simbel, from Ramsis II to UNESCO


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Africa » Egypt » Upper Egypt » Abu Simbel
November 20th 2017
Published: November 27th 2017
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The Abu Simbel monuments were rescued from the rising waters when the Aswan High Dam was being builtThe Abu Simbel monuments were rescued from the rising waters when the Aswan High Dam was being builtThe Abu Simbel monuments were rescued from the rising waters when the Aswan High Dam was being built

The Temples were moved to higher ground just above where they were built.
The Ramsis and Hathor Temples at Abu Simbel.

Abu Simbel is a Nubian town in Southern Egypt near the Sudan.
There is no way to avoid one simple fact - Abu Simbel is all about Pharaoh Ramsis II. Born 1303 BC died 1213 BC at the age of 91. He ruled for 69 years. His colossal figures tower above his wife in the temple he built to honour her, even over the God Horus of whom he was the living representation. The Temples took 20 years to be carved into the sandstone cliffs on the banks of the Nile. That was 3,300 years ago. Today they are a UNESCO World Heritage SITE.

RAMSIS II carved two Temples in the cliff face. The Great Temple of Ramsis II and the lesser Temple of Hathor to his wife Nefertari. The location and immensity of the monuments may have been intended to serve as a terrifying deterrent to enemies from the south, a warning of the awesome power they would meet if they dared attack. Indeed the images engraved at the base of the statues tell the story of Nubians and Syrians being conquered and taken captive. "Don't even think about
In the far distance are the two colossal Temples now set in a duplicated cliff face at Abu SimbelIn the far distance are the two colossal Temples now set in a duplicated cliff face at Abu SimbelIn the far distance are the two colossal Temples now set in a duplicated cliff face at Abu Simbel

The remoteness of the original location has been retained. RAMSIS Temple is on the left close to the front while HATHOR's temple is far away on the right
it" in other words.
The Great Ramsis Temple monuments are dedicated to the gods Re-Horakhty, Amun and Ptah. And the divine Ramsis of course. Flanking the entrance, carved live into the cliff are four gigantic seated figures of himself, two on either side, each 20 metres high (approx 66 feet, like a 5 story building). Each figure shows him at a different age. At his legs are his favoured wife Nefertari, and his mother Tuya, with a favoured child prince between his legs (offspring are always located there). Their figures are small in comparison but are also larger than life.

Over the entrance is a niche carving - the falcon-headed sun god Re-Horakhty - being worshipped by two relief figures of the Pharaoh. Above that a row of 22 baboons are greeting the sun God. Baboons were associated with wisdom, science and measurement, they are often present at the scales of judgement when the heart of the deceased is being weighed. They had funerary roles, guarding the first gate of the underworld. The focus at this Ramsis II Temple is clearly the After life.



Enter the Temple (carved into the cliff to a depth of 61 metres). The first of several halls. Here are eight giant pillars 10 meters high portraying Ramsis as Osiris (God of the next life, the passage of the dead, departed ancestors and resurrection.) The statues are in two columns of four lined up facing each other. The pharaoh figures on the left wear the White crown of Upper Egypt (where Abu Simbel is located) those on the right wear the Double crown of the Two Lands (showing dominion over both Upper and Lower Egypt). Their hands are folded over the chest holding the crook and flail. Overhead the ceiling is covered with paintings of the spreading wings of Isis (the wife of Osiris) protecting him in the after life.



All halls lead directly to the final sacred place, the Sanctuary, the Holy of Holies which is visible from the entrance. There are four seated figures in the Sanctuary.

Re Horakhty the Sun god, Ramsis as a deity, Amun Re the Creator god and Ptah the god of the Underworld.

The Sanctuary is a truly astonishing place for two reasons. Hewn live out of the cliff, the Temple was precisely positioned and constructed so as to
Nearby is the lesser Hathor Temple dedicated to his favorite wife Nefertari by Ramsis IINearby is the lesser Hathor Temple dedicated to his favorite wife Nefertari by Ramsis IINearby is the lesser Hathor Temple dedicated to his favorite wife Nefertari by Ramsis II

There are however 4 Ramsis statues and only two of Nefertari.
allow the sun to penetrate its length, flooding the Sanctuary with sunlight, on TWO SPECIFIC DATES each year. October 22nd and February 22nd. PLUS of the four seated figures only three could be sunlit. PTAH god of the Underworld must never be in the sunlight. And so it has happened, since its construction 3,200 years ago, until today sunlight floods the Sanctuary on those two days and on those three figures alone. Take that you modern builders and scientists! Why those dates? They are believed to be the Pharaohs birth and coronation dates.

Across the way 100 metres to the right is the second smaller rock hewn Abu Simbel Temple. The Hathor Temple was dedicated to his favorite wife, Nefertari... meaning... . Nefer= the most beautiful woman + Tari = has arrived. She bore him 12 children. His own children totalled 100 plus another 100 were adopted! But she remained his favorite Nefer Tari forever and is a prominent part of the monumental Abu Simbel temples.

Some say the Pharaoh was a narcissist. The rock face carvings at the front of the Hathor Temple dedicated to his wife depict six giant standing figures 10 meters tall. Four are
The imposing facade and entrance to Ramsis Temple is over 65 ft or 20 metres tallThe imposing facade and entrance to Ramsis Temple is over 65 ft or 20 metres tallThe imposing facade and entrance to Ramsis Temple is over 65 ft or 20 metres tall

The Temple rescue required the rocks be cut into 20 ton blocks for moving then rebuilt in such precise way the cuts are never noticed.
of Himself and two of her. It is he who flanks the entrance. However she is depicted the same size as he is which was unusual. In fact she was only the 2nd queen to be honored with a Temple. The first was Nefertiti at a temple dedicated by her husband pharaoh Akhenaton. As before, there are smaller figures at her feet who represent her royal children.

Long before Ramsis the people of this region worshiped Hathor, which may be why this place was chosen to build the Temple, to strengthen his status among the population there. Images on the interior walls depict Nefertari as Hathor, the divine queen, the sacred nurturing cow goddess and the royal couple making offerings to the gods. And there are scenes of Ramsis as conquering warrior.

The setting of the Temples here is quite isolated, there's nothing else around except the waters of the High Dam. So the UNESCO rescue mission achieved its objective to exactly replicate the original setting of the monuments on the banks of the Nile as it was when built thousands of years ago. For removal the two Temples were sawn into giant blocks.... Over 2,000 of them
At the very top of the Temple Facade is a row of Baboons At the very top of the Temple Facade is a row of Baboons At the very top of the Temple Facade is a row of Baboons

Below it, immediately over the entrance gate is a niche carving of Horus the falcon headed god. He is being worshiped by two relief carvings of Ramsis II. Four seated colossal figures of Ramsis dominate the facade.
each weighing 20 to 30 tons.... Which were then re constructed on a plateau 65 metres higher than before and 210 metres to the north west. Great pains were taken to precisely orientate the Temples exactly as before so that the annual sunlight phenomenon continued. An artificial structure was erected behind the Temples to reproduce its exact setting in the rock cliff. Today they are held together by reinforced concrete, and concrete mixed with desert sand.
Thank you to the UNESCO member countries and archeologists who achieved this massive rescue. For $40 million in 1968, fourteen temples were saved. Some were relocated at museums of major donors.

Here is a link to a short You Tube video on the Nubian temples and the UNESCO rescue.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur-H7dP8FNc&feature=player_embedded
Here is Wikipedia's data on the Nubian Temples at Abu Simbel
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Simbel_temples


Additional photos below
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Ramsis wife mother children Horus and cartoucheRamsis wife mother children Horus and cartouche
Ramsis wife mother children Horus and cartouche

Although small in comparison with his figure the minor figures are largest than life size.
Inside the Temple entrance hall with 8 Ramsis Osirid statues.Inside the Temple entrance hall with 8 Ramsis Osirid statues.
Inside the Temple entrance hall with 8 Ramsis Osirid statues.

There is a clear view from the entrance directly to the Sanctuary wall at the innermost Temple. Here on two days each year the rising dawn sunlight floods the Sanctuary, illuminating three of the four god figures seated there. Only one, Ptah of the Underworld, must never be illuminated. This has happened for over 3200 years.


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