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Published: March 2nd 2020
I can't believe how incredible the Abu Simbel Temple is. Before I get to that I want to include a few details.
I am traveling with GAdventures for the "Best of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel". I have taken many GAdventures trips before and I've been pleased with all of them. Our group consist of mostly Australians, 1 Brit, 1 Columbian, 2 Canadians, and 3 Americans (14 in all). Our guide is Khaled - has great stories, very knowledable, very funny, and very talented (he is a musician and has an Egyptian cooking show). The group is compatible and fun.
Also, I haven't labeled the pictures for 3 days because I'm using someone's hotspot and I have limited time. Tomorrow we get on a Felucca and do an overnight to Luxor - so I won't have wifi for 2 days and I will have alot of catching up to do.
Today we drove over 3 hours south towards Sudan from Aswan to get to the Abu Simbel Temple. We left at 4:30 a.m. Khaled said we needed to do that because the road gets busy with trucks later because this is the main road to Sudan, and it's better
to avoid the busy part of the day. We had a rest stop on the way, and arrived about 8:30 a.m.
There are 2 dams on the Nile. The first dam was built by the British to try to control the Nile flooding and generate hydropower. The Nile River floods every year and for thousands of years the Egyptians depended on the flooding for agriculture. By controlling the flooding the silt doesn't come and the farmers are now using fertilizers.
The Aswan Dam (the British one) didn't control the flooding sufficiently so Nassar had the High Dam built (with the help of the Russians). The temple we went to yesterday, Philae Temple, was flooded by the Aswan Dam. The temple we went to today, Abu Simbel, would have been flooded by the High Dam, and the whole temple was moved.
The Abu Simbel temples
are two massive rock temples
at Abu Simbel
: أبو سمبل), a village in Aswan Governorate
, Upper Egypt
, near the border with Sudan
. They are situated on the western bank of Lake Nasser
, about 230 km (140 mi) southwest of Aswan
(about 300 km (190 mi) by road). The complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site
as the "Nubian Monuments",
which run from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae
). The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century BC, during the 19th dynasty
reign of the Pharaoh Ramesses II
. They serve as a lasting monument to the king and his queen Nefertari
, and commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh
. Their huge external rock relief
figures have become iconic.
The complex was relocated
in its entirety in 1968 under the supervision of a Polish archaeologist, Kazimierz Michałowski
, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam
reservoir. The relocation of the temples was necessary or they would have been submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser
, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam on the River Nile
During his reign, Ramesses II
embarked on an extensive building program throughout Egypt and Nubia
, which Egypt controlled. Nubia was very important to the Egyptians because it was a source of gold and many other precious trade goods. He, therefore, built several grand temples there in order to impress upon the Nubians Egypt's might and Egyptianize the people of Nubia.
famous temples are the rock-cut temples near the modern village of Abu Simbel
, at the Second Nile Cataract, the border between Lower Nubia and Upper Nubia.
There are two temples, the Great Temple, dedicated to Ramesses II himself, and the Small Temple, dedicated to his chief wife Queen Nefertari
Construction of the temple complex started in approximately 1264 BC and lasted for about 20 years, until 1244 BC. It was known as the "Temple of Ramesses, beloved by Amun
The single entrance is flanked by four colossal, 20 m (66 ft) statues, each representing Ramesses II seated on a throne and wearing the double crown
of Upper and Lower Egypt
. The statue to the immediate left of the entrance was damaged in an earthquake, causing the head and torso to fall away; these fallen pieces were not restored to the statue during the relocation but placed at the statue's feet in the positions originally found. Next to Ramesses's legs are a number of other, smaller statues, none higher than the knees of the pharaoh, depicting: his chief wife, Nefertari Meritmut
; his queen mother Mut-Tuy
; his first two sons, Amun-her-khepeshef
and Ramesses B
; and his first six daughters: Bintanath
, Baketmut, Nefertari
The inner part of the temple has the same triangular layout that most ancient Egyptian temples follow, with rooms decreasing in size from the entrance to the sanctuary. The temple is complex in structure and quite unusual because of its many side chambers. The hypostyle
hall (sometimes also called a pronaos) is 18 m (59 ft) long and 16.7 m (55 ft) wide and is supported by eight huge Osirid pillars depicting the deified Ramesses linked to the god Osiris
, the god of the Underworld, to indicate the everlasting nature of the pharaoh. The colossal statues along the left-hand wall bear the white crown of Upper Egypt
, while those on the opposite side are wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt
The bas-reliefs on the walls of the pronaos depict battle scenes in the military campaigns that Ramesses waged. Much of the sculpture is given to the Battle of Kadesh
, on the Orontes river in present-day Syria
, in which the Egyptian king fought against the Hittites
The most famous relief shows the king on his chariot shooting arrows against his fleeing enemies, who are being taken prisoner.
Other scenes show Egyptian victories in Libya
From the hypostyle hall, one enters the second pillared hall, which has four pillars decorated with beautiful scenes of offerings to the gods. There are depictions of Ramesses and Nefertari with the sacred boats of Amun and Ra-Horakhty. This hall gives access to a transverse vestibule, in the middle of which is the entrance to the sanctuary. Here, on a black wall, are rock cut sculptures of four seated figures: Ra-Horakhty
, the deified king Ramesses, and the gods Amun Ra
, Amun Ra
were the main divinities in that period and their cult centers were at Heliopolis
These dates are allegedly
the king's birthday and coronation day, respectively. There is no direct evidence to support this. It is logical to assume, however, that these dates had some relation to a great event, such as the jubilee celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the pharaoh
's rule. In fact, according to calculations made on the basis of the heliacal rising
of the star Sirius
(Sothis) and inscriptions found by archaeologists, this date must have been October 22. This image of the king was enhanced and revitalized by the energy of the solar star, and the deified Ramesses the Great could take his place next to Amun-Ra and Ra-Horakhty.
Because of the accumulated drift of the Tropic of Cancer
due to Earth
's axial precession
over the past 3 millennia, the event's date must have been different when the temple was built
. This is compounded by the fact that the temple was relocated from its original setting, so the current alignment may not be as precise as the original one.
, also known as the Small Temple, was built about 100 m (330 ft) northeast of the temple of Ramesses II and was dedicated
to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II's chief consort, Nefertari. This was in fact the second time in ancient Egyptian history
that a temple was dedicated to a queen. The first time, Akhenaten dedicated a temple to his great royal wife, Nefertiti.
The rock-cut facade is decorated with two groups of colossi that are separated by the large gateway. The statues, slightly more than 10 m (33 ft) high, are of the king and his queen. On either side of the portal are two statues of the king, wearing the white crown
of Upper Egypt
(south colossus) and the double crown
(north colossus); these are flanked by statues of the queen.
As in the larger temple dedicated to the king, the hypostyle hall or pronaos
in the smaller temple is supported by six pillars; in this case, however, they are not Osiris pillars depicting the king, but are decorated with scenes with the queen playing the sistrum
(an instrument sacred to the goddess Hathor), together with the gods Horus
, and Thoth
, and the goddesses
of Asher, Satis
; in one scene Ramesses is presenting flowers or burning incense
The capitals of the
pillars bear the face of the goddess Hathor; this type of column is known as Hathoric. The bas-reliefs in the pillared hall illustrate the deification of the king, the destruction of his enemies in the north and south (in these scenes the king is accompanied by his wife), and the queen making offerings to the goddesses Hathor and Mut.
The hypostyle hall is followed by a vestibule, access to which is given by three large doors. On the south and the north walls of this chamber there are two graceful and poetic bas-reliefs of the king and his consort presenting papyrus
plants to Hathor, who is depicted as a cow on a boat sailing in a thicket of papyri. On the west wall, Ramesses II and Nefertari are depicted making offerings to the god Horus and the divinities of the Cataracts—Satis
Remarkably, this is one of very few instances in Egyptian art
where the statues of the king and his consort have equal size.
Traditionally, the statues of the queens stood next to those of the pharaoh, but were never taller than his knees. Ramesses went to Abu Simbel with his wife in
the 24th year of his reign. As the Great Temple of the king, there are small statues of princes and princesses next to their parents. In this case they are positioned symmetrically: on the south side (at left as one faces the gateway) are, from left to right, princes Meryatum
and Meryre, princesses Meritamen
and Henuttawy, and princes Rahirwenemef and Amun-her-khepeshef
, while on the north side the same figures are in reverse order. The plan of the Small Temple is a simplified version of that of the Great Temple.
With the passage of time, the temples fell into disuse and eventually became covered by sand. By the 6th century BC, the sand already covered the statues of the main temple up to their knees. The temple was forgotten until 1813, when Swiss
orientalist Jean-Louis Burckhardt
found the top frieze
of the main temple. Burckhardt talked about his discovery with Italian
explorer Giovanni Belzoni
, who travelled to the site, but was unable to dig out an entry to the temple. Belzoni returned in 1817, this time succeeding in his attempt to enter the complex. A detailed early description of the temples, together with contemporaneous line drawings, can be found in Edward William Lane
of Egypt (1825–1828).
The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964 by a multinational team of archeologists, engineers and skilled heavy equipment operators working together under the UNESCO
banner; it cost some US$40 million at the time (equal to $300 million in 2017 dollars). Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was carefully cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons, averaging 20 tons), dismantled, lifted and reassembled in a new location 65 metres higher and 200 metres back from the river, in one of the greatest challenges of archaeological engineering in history.
Some structures were even saved from under the waters of Lake Nasser.
Even though the Pyramids and Sphinx are spectacular, this Temple was the best thing I've seen so far.
On the way home we stopped at a perfumery, had a free 5 minute shoulder massage, sampled lots of essences, and I bought 4 essences.
A great day.
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