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A fantastic world Heritage Site for our enjoyment.
Great Temple of Abu Simbel (Egypt)
Member Name: garymarsh6
Great Temple of Abu Simbel (Egypt)
Advantages: An awesome monument testament to mans intelligence and brawn.
Disadvantages: The heat, the crooked guards and the rude tourists.
When I was a kid I remember watching a couple of documentaries about the moving of the great temples at Abu Simbel and also the temples at Philae and vowed one day when I grew up I would visit these places. Fortunately for me I have realised my dream.
I recently visited the wonderful and fantastic UNESCO world heritage site at Abu Simbel in Egypt. The cost of this trip was £65 by coach and included a very early start getting up at the ungodly hour of 3AM to board a coach for the four hour coach trip to ensure you arrived just before sunrise and before the heat of the day made the visit and journey uncomfortable. On reaching Abu Simbel from Luxor which is further north there was a noticeable difference in the heat.
Where is Abu Simbel?
Abu Simbel is in the South of Eygpt not far from the boarders with the Sudan. It is next to the Man Made Lake Nassar. The lake is absolutely massive but was necessary to conserve water and prevent the annual flooding of the lower Nile. Interestingly it is only from this point on that the Nile crocodiles abound as they are no longer able to reach the lower Nile due to the construction of the dam.
What is Abu Simbel?
Abu Simbel comprise two temples which were originally forming part of the Nubian temples of which there were six spread over a wide area down the Nile to Philae near the Aswan Dam. The temples were constructed for Ramses II and his Queen Nefateri around 1244 BC and took approximately 20 years to build. They were built as a monument to celebrate the winning of a war against the Nubians and were built to be a reminder of the victory and also to intimidate and impress the Nubian peoples.
Over a period of hundreds of years they were forgotten about and lost due to encroaching sand and buried completely in sand dunes. They were found again in the early 1800's buried deep in the desert sand following which they were excavated and opened back up again. They were supposedly renamed Abu Simbel after a local boy who showed the explorers the tombs which he had noticed from time to time poking out from underneath the shifting sands. The explorers stripped the temple of all moveable artifacts but what was left behind was a magnificent temple and Bas reliefs for the world to observe and wonder at.
The temples were rescued and moved brick by brick to its current site in the 1960's following outrage that these temples would be lost forever following the construction of the dam they would have ended up at the bottom of the lake lost to the world forever. The temple was sliced up into 20 to 30 ton chunks dismantled, numbered and moved bit by bit to higher ground then reassembled over 200 feet higher than the water level and a further 300+ feet back. This was a massive undertaking to preserve such a magnificent historical artifact. It took four years to complete this move and cost it over $40 million Dollars.
The great temple is dedicated to the Gods Amun, Ptah, Ra-Harkhty and to Ramesses II.
They were originally carved out of solid mountain rock and are quite magnificent. The largest of the two temples is dedicated to the god Amun and has four massive statues of Ramesses II sitting regally at the front of the temple. Egyptologists are able to identify that they were seated representations of Ramesses II because of the goatee beard and the right foot being slightly forward indicating that it was a royal statue of a Pharaoh. He was wearing the double crown of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. All four statues are identical and are about 65 feet high. One of the massive statues to the left of the doorway is damaged and it looks just like the head had been sliced off but this damage was the result of an earthquake. The façade of the temple is over 100 feet wide. Above the statues of Ramesses is a relief of 22 baboons worshipping the rising sun.
Inside the temple it is triangular in shape with the chambers starting off being very wide with eight massive statues of Ramesses standing against supporting pillars leading to the next chamber which is smaller then finally on to the sanctuary chamber right at the back of the temple. There are several anti chambers leading off at the sides of the main chambers all carved with reliefs depicting war scenes. They are absolutely stunning and so clearly carved into the rocks.
The sanctuary is unique in that twice a year on the 20th of February and 20th of October the sun would rise and penetrate the temples doorway shining right to the back of the temple illuminating the rear wall of the sanctuary. These two dates are supposed to celebrate Ramesses birthday and his coronation. The only statue that the sun does not shine on is the statue of Ptah the god of the underworld which remains in darkness. However since moving the temple to a different elevation this event actually now occurs one day later. How fascinating to think that the architects and mathematicians thousands of years ago could work this out with such a degree of perfection.
The lesser temple dedicated to Hathor & Nefatari.
The smaller temple is dedicated to Queen Nefatari and it is right next to Ramesses temple. There are six statues about 30 feet high either side of the entrance to the temple. The first one depicts the King the middle one the queen and the last two are of the King again. This is the only known time that the statues of both the King and Queen are of the same size. Usually the Queens statue would be smaller in size than that of the King. The temple is smaller than Ramesses temple. The first chamber has 6 statues either side of the hall standing against supporting pillars. The hieroglyphics and reliefs on the wall depict both the King and the Queen making offerings to the Gods and also the queen making offerings to the King who was revered as a living god. The other carvings show the various battles in the North and South of Eygpt.
With the building of the Dam at Aswan they would have been lost forever underneath the water
Due to the heightened level of security to protect the tourist industry all coaches travel in an armed convoy with armed police on each coach this is due to the increased risk to tourist by insurgents and bandits from neighboring Sudan which is only about 40 miles away. Eygpt is very reliant on the tourist industry and without it they would be considerably poorer. The other way of reaching Abu Simble is by plane from Luxor whilst the journey is faster by plane overall it takes about the same time due to checking into the airport and flying down to Abu Simbel before transferring to coaches. Flying comes at a price of course and can cost around £120-150 by plane.
Would I recommend a visit.
If you are staying in Luxor or on a Nile cruise I would highly recommend you visit Abu Simbel. It is a magnificent structure and monument and well worth getting up at some ungodly hour to see it. I feel not only was it a privilege to have witnessed the beautiful temples but to marvel at the way that these temples were constructed by an ancient civilisation and also modern mans ability to dismantle it and restore it to its former glory and for future generations to marvel at this wonderful monument. If you are on holiday in Egypt and you get the chance to do a trip I promise you that you won't regret it.
There are a couple of negatives one being that if you are disabled it may be a bit daunting to walk down to the temples but there is a little train like cart thing that can take you to the bottom as it is quite a hike to get back to the top again. Although not unmanageable in the blistering heat it is quite tiring. Essential to wear a sun hat, sun glasses and sun screen as there is little shade to take advantage of and carry water with you seriously it is essential.
You are not allowed to take any photos inside the temples to help with the preservation and the destruction of the delicate bas reliefs. The temple policemen and guides will offer to take your photo at a price of course which defeats the object of preservation when they are willing to take buckshee for letting you take a photo. It is far better for you to buy a guide book with brilliant photos in it which will be far superior to what you can take anyway. Also the police guards will demand you give them money for taking your photos.
At entrance to the site there are hawkers trying to sell you cheap souvenirs but they are persistent and can be quite intimidating. A firm LA SHOOKRAN (NO THANK YOU) will send them away. Please don't be nasty to these people who are incredibly poor. They are only trying to put food on their tables for their family. They are incredibly poor. I over heard some people using such foul language towards them which was really unnecessary. OK they are a pest in fact they are a pain in the arse but just accept that it is a way of life for them to scrape a few pennies together. They are out in that heat for up to 12 hours a day so remember that......could you or would you do the same. I Hope those people were so proud of themselves getting back on their air-conditioned bus they must feel so big and proud. It was really quite shameful .
Thank you for reading this and do try to visit one of the great wonders of the world.
Summary: Another once in a lifetime visit to one of the wonders of the world
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