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Definately worth the effort to go there
Great Temple of Abu Simbel (Egypt)
Member Name: thomaswp
Great Temple of Abu Simbel (Egypt)
Date: 13/07/01, updated on 19/07/01 (223 review reads)
Advantages: Beautiful, Awe inspiring, Atmospheric
Disadvantages: Long way from anywhere, Hot
I have been to Abu Simbel three times. It is an extraordinary place, and I am writing this opinion to explain why you should make the effort and find the money to get there if you are in the area.
The first thing that hits you is that there is nothing to see! There is just a big hill, with a rock-strewn path leading around it. The path is rough enough that you watch your feet as you walk. After a couple of minutes I looked up to see something unforgettable. The four colossal statues of Ramses II are set back in to the rock so you are almost in front of them before you see them. They are about 20m tall, seated and perfect. The majesty takes your breath away. One lost its head in antiquity and the Egyptians just left it on the floor. It is HUGE when you stand next to it, and gives you a good impression of its size.
I can stare at the outside of the statues for a long time, but that is just one of the wonders of the temple. Walking between the centre statues you enter the eerie depths of the temple. This is lined with eight(?) more huge statues of Ramses who almost watch you enter. The walls of the temple are lined with fantastic friezes. My favourite is the representation of Ramses in his chariot, firing arrows at his enemies. To capture the speed he was firing arrows, his bow and arm are depicted twice: not unlike cartoons we see today. Right at the back of the temple are the statues of four Gods. Every year (on 22nd February and 22nd October) the sun shines through the temple and on to the Gods. You can easily spend half an hour inside if you are interested (many tourists spend about five minutes in there – but it is a great respite from the heat as much as anything).
Once out of the main temple, you can visit the “small temple of Abu Simbel”, dedicated to Ramses wife, Nefertari. I feel sorry for this temple. On its own it would be an extraordinary thing, but next to the main temple it looks so
mewhat insignificant. The small temple only takes a few minutes to visit. Afterwards you can just sit and admire the large temple.
The temple is even more extraordinary for the fact that in the 60s the UN saved them from the rising waters of Lake Nasser, but cutting them from the rock, and rebuilding the temple higher up. The mound of rock the temple sits in is entirely artificial! This is a bit of an anticlimax, since after visiting the atmospheric temple, you can enter a small door to the right of the statues, and find out that the temple interior is under a concrete dome, and is held up by scaffolding. The dome is quite a feat of engineering in itself, but is just a curiosity.
I wish I were articulate enough to put in to words what runs through your mind when you see this place. I was speechless when I first saw it, and that first impression will never leave me. It ranks in my mind with other priceless moments such as seeing the pyramids for the first time (I arrived at dawn) and walking up to the stadium at Delphi (Greece).
The reactions of my companions the second and third times I went probably sum it up. Both were looking at their feet and talking to me. Both stopped dead in their tracks and gasped. It sends shivers down my spine just thinking of it.
You used to be able to go by road, which was a four hour drive across never changing flat desert, 90 minutes at the temple, then four hours back (via the High Dam at Aswan). You left at 4am, and got back at around 2pm. That was a tough day! But the temple is so wonderful I have done the journey like that twice! The cost was about £5 for the whole trip.
Fortunately, the road route is now forbidden. I assume this is because of security reasons. The last time I went, I flew from Aswan airport. You can also fly from Luxor, but that would be more expensive. The Aswan trip cost £80, took about 45 minutes in the
air, and we got a wonderful view of the temple from the air (I think you have to sit on the left side of the plane – but don’t quote me on that!).
Both trips give you a meagre 90 minutes at the site. This is plenty for most tourists, but if you are keen, you will find that it is a bit short. The cost of entry is around E£20 I think, which is about £5.
If you want longer at the site, you can go for the luxury Lake Nasser cruise. This has a stop right in front of the temple, so you can spend all day there and see it lit up at night. I have no idea how much the trip costs, but hopefully I will be able to afford it one day.
I will go back for sure. Egypt is a compelling place to visit, with too much beauty to be left for long. As the Egyptians say “if you look at the Nile you are sure to return”. I’m hooked. Are you?
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