We can view the temples of Ramses II the Great and his wife Nefertari in Abu Simbel, thanks to the UNESCO action as these buildings were moved from the flooded areas by Lake Nasser.
In order that the temples of Abu Simbel do not fall under water, in the years from 1964 to 1968 they were moved to a new location, which is located 210 meters from Lake Nasser. Both temples were cut into blocks, using hand saws, and then transported to the selected location. There they were put back together, placed among the hills, and artificially created on huge concrete domes.
Both rock temples are located just 100 meters from each other. They are located in ancient Nubia. Previously the buildings stood near the Nile, surrounded by date palms and coastal reeds. They were built in the mid-thirteenth century BC on the orders of the 15-year-old Ramesses II, later called the Great. They were supposed to testify to his power. Over time, the temples were almost completely covered with sand blown from the desert. When they were discovered in 1813 by John Lewis Burckhard, a Swiss scientist and traveler, only fragments of the statues of Ramses II from before the facade of the Great Temple protruded above the surface. Currently, the sanctuary is surrounded by a gravelly desert. However, the buildings almost shared the fate of another temple, Gerf Hussein, which was flooded by Lake Nasser.
With the construction of the Aswan High Dam, a special committee was established to develop a research program in the surrounding areas, but the relocation of monumental temples made of stone or carved in rock is a project that requires large financial resources and international cooperation of specialists from many fields. As a result, the temple of Gerf Hussein could not be saved.
Temple of Ramesses II the Great (Great Temple)
The facade of the temple of Ramses II the Great, also known as the Great Temple, impresses with its panache. Formed in the form of a pylon - a monumental entrance gate, it is 30 meters high and 35 meters wide. In front of it there are four colossal statues of the seated ruler, each of which is about 21 meters high. It is worth looking at the figures of the eminent ruler: the pharaoh is dressed in a traditional royal apron (shendyt) and has a straight beard - a symbol of the living ruler (in the posthumous images the ruler had a curly beard). There were also royal insignia: a special scarf (nemes) and a double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt with ureus (royal cobra). At the ruler's legs there are smaller images of his family members.
A large part of the temple is occupied by two hypostyle (columnar) rooms. In the first one, there are eight pillars arranged in two rows. There are also statues of the king depicted as the god Osiris in the crowns of Lower and Upper Egypt. It is worth walking along the walls to see the reliefs adorning them that depict scenes of sacrifices and processions of barges with images of deities. The bas-reliefs also show the military successes of Ramses II, including the victory at the famous Battle of Kadesh. In the second hypostyle hall, through which you enter the sanctuary, there are four pillars with painted scenes of sacrifice.
In the back of the temple there is a sanctuary. The Egyptians call them geser-geseru, and therefore "the Holy of Holies". Its peace is guarded by four statues carved in the back wall. They represent the three gods that make up the state triad: Ptah (the creator god, patron of the artists and craftsmen, Amun (the creator god, ruler of the earthly and heavenly spheres) and Re-Horachte (sun god), and the god-composed during the lifetime of Pharaoh Ramses II. The Great Temple was built, so that twice a year, in February and October, the rays of the rising sun fell on the statues placed in the depths of the sanctuary. It’s one of our stops during the 10-day tour of Egypt.
Temple of Nefertari (Little Temple)
Right next to the temple of Ramses II the Great, there is a much smaller temple for his wife, Nefertari. It was a rare custom to build separate temples for the queens. In front of the building's façade, four statues of a standing pharaoh and two of Nefertari are proudly presented. The crown of the royal wife, the composite, is impressive. It consists of carved ostrich feathers and a solar disk and is surrounded by cow horns. They were a symbol of Hathor, identified with the heavenly queen. The goddess watched over the safety of the queens, which is why the temple was dedicated to her.
References to Hathor can also be seen inside the temple. The pillars in the hypostyle hall have Hathoric capitals, so they represent the face of the goddess with cow ears, and in a heavy three-part wig. The image of Hathor as a divine cow was also carved in a niche in the western wall of the sanctuary.
Want to see them with your own eyes? Our tailor-made tour takes you to this and more! Book your Egypt tour package!