I awoke in Aswan, Egypt at 02.30am to collect a packed breakfast and get onto a minibus. It would be worth the pain of getting up so early though as I was off to see the famous temple at Abu Simbel.
To get there though you have to go under police guard. The Egyptian police insist that tourists travel out in a convoy and very early (it is quite a drive). After first being checked for bombs… we drove through the desert. It was quite beautiful as the sun rose – a big glowing disc on the horizon. It felt quite odd though being in this massive convoy of minibuses and coaches – surely more of a target for an enterprising terrorist… though we were less likely to be kidnapped I guess.
We were heading to Lake Nasser and the relocated temple complex of Abu Simbel. Ramsesses II built the temple in the 13th century BC on the banks of the Nile and dedicated it to Amun-Ra, Ra-Harakhte, Ptah and himself of course. Abu Simbel is one of the most magnificent sites of Acient Egypt. The temple was relocated here in the 1960s as it was under threat from the flood waters. The damming of the Nile at Aswan meant that the original site would be lost forever. So several countries got together and saved the site from inundation by cutting it into pieces and reassembling it on higher ground!
This photograph taken from the Egypt to Sudan ferry gives an idea of
It was quite a feet to move the entire temple complex piece by piece – if you look carefully at some of the photographs you can see the joins…
You might be wondering why one of the heads has fallen off, well it happened in an earthquake and it was decided to leave it aparently.
At the entrance stand four 20m high statues of Ramesses. In between are several smaller statues of family members including his mother Queen Tuya, the favourite of Ramsesses’ 30 wives, Nefertari and some of the children. The inside of the temple is incredible with many stunning walls are decorated with reliefs. The ones covering the battle scenes from the Battle of Kadesh during the Hittite wars were my favourite. The reliefs at Abu Simbel give a real sense of the battle and have Ramsesses on his war chariott. I’d love to show you, but “NO PHOTO INSIDE TEMPLE” I’m afraid!
When you enter you first come into a big hall with 8 columns and more hugs statues of Ramsesses and huge vultues in the middle of the ceiling with constellations around them. It is in this hall that you’ll find the carved reliefs showing the battle scenes. There are 8 chambers off to the sides and ahead is another hall with only 4 columns, and then another containing the inner sanctuary with carved figures of the god Ptah, Amun, Ra-Harakhte and Ramsesses.
The temple of Ramsesses II is pretty amazing, but there is another temple at the Abu Simbel complex worth exploring too.
The temple of Hathor and Nefertari, also known as the Small Temple, is equally as spectacular. It too is fronted by six massive (about 10m) statues of Ramsesses and Nefertari (his wife). Dedicating a temple to a queen is quite rare in ancient Egypt and this was only the second time in Egyptian history – Akhenaten was the first to do this, dedicating a temple to his wife Nefertiti. Ramsesses’ temple to Nerfertari is unusual as the statues of her are equal to the size of Ramsesses showing that he must have held her in high regard.