Located in Aswan on the west bank of the Nile is one of Egypt's most visited attractions; Abu Simbel. (To visit the most popular spot you’ll have to head north to Cairo to The Great Pyramid of Giza.)
Over 3200 years ago Pharaoh Rameses II, also better known as Ramses the Great, had the temples built to celebrate his victory over the Hittites in 1274 BCE. It took 20 years to complete the two twin temples. The largest of the two, displays four massive 69 foot sandstone carvings of the great king seated at the entrance. The smaller temple is a monument for his favorite wife Queen Nefertari.
Deconstructing the Ancient Temple
In 1964 the temple amongst other historical sites had to be completely dismantled and relocated to higher ground to avoid being submerged after the construction of the Aswan Dam. With great care archaeologists and engineers cut 20 to 30 ton blocks from the face of the temple to move to higher ground, 656 feet inland. Handsaws were used to delicately cut the façade out avoiding any permanent damage. It took nearly 5 years to complete the reconstruction with roughly 3,000 workers.
Solar Alignment Phenomenon
Alignment of the temple had to be exact as the original. Positioning the structure so that twice a year, sun’s rays would enter a darkened inner chamber, called the Holy of Holies, reflecting upon the faces of Ramses II, the god Ra-Hor, and Amun. The fourth carving, Ptah remains dark as he is the god of darkness. This occurrence would happen on October 22nd, Ramses II birthday, also celebrating the beginning of summer and harvest, the second; February 22nd his coronation. A true REFLECTION and presumable celebration of both events! How ILLUMINATING! No wonder the temple was dedicated to the sun god, Ra.
Twice a year roughly 4,000 people visit Abu Simbel Temple to witness this amazing solar phenomenon.
Who is Abu Simbel?
Abu…wha? Abu Simbel has nothing to do with Ramses II. The name comes from an Egyptian boy who led Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt to the site in 1813. Burckhardt is famously known for discovering the ancient Nabataean city of Petra in Jordan also called the “Rose City,” due to its beautiful hue of pink. It too was cut out of stone! More often than not, explorers talk to locals to learn about hidden places. This is still practiced today!