Abu Simbel is the site of one of Egypt’s most remarkable temples; not just because it was built over 2000 years ago in 1300 BC, or solely for its magnificence and beauty, but because it was also saved from destruction in the 1960’s.
Situated 280 kilometres south of Aswan in the Nile valley at Abu Simbel, is the Great Temple built by the powerful pharaoh Ramses II, and no visit to Egypt is complete without a visit to this incredible site. The impressive entrance is made up of four gigantic statues of Ramses himself, hewn from the mountainside. The largest ever built in Egypt, the statues were created to impress upon the Nubians to the south his power and greatness.
Nearby is a smaller temple, dedicated to the god Hathor and Ramses’s wife Nerfertari. The façade is decorated with four 10m high statues of the king and his queen.
In the 1960’s the Egyptian Government announced the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Due to their location the temples would have been swamped by the rising dam waters so they were carefully moved, block by block in an incredible feat of engineering. The blocks were fitted back together against a specifically constructed artificial cliff, 65 metres higher and 200 metres further back than the temples’ original location.
The whole project took almost 4 years to complete and was so precisely measured that, twice a year, in February and October, the rising sun penetrates all the way to the Great Temple’s inner sanctuary, just as it did when originally constructed.