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Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Panorama Abu Simbel.jpg
State Party  Egypt
Type Cultural
Criteria i, iii, vi
Reference 88
Region** Arab States
Inscription history
Inscription 1979  (3rd Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.
Egypt: Site of Abu Simbel (bottom)

Abu Simbel temples (أبو سمبل) are two massive rock temples in Nubia, southern Egypt on the western bank of Lake Nasser about 290 km southwest of Aswan. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Nubian Monuments",[1] which run from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae (near Aswan).

The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his alleged victory at the Battle of Kadesh, and to intimidate his Nubian neighbors. However, the complex was relocated in its entirety in the 1960s, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir.

The relocation of the temples was necessary to avoid their being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River. Abu Simbel remains one of Egypt's top tourist attractions.

Contents

History

Construction

Construction of the temple complex started in approximately 1244 BCE and lasted for about 20 years, until 1224 BCE. Known as the "Temple of Ramesses, beloved by Amun", it was one of six rock temples erected in Nubia during the long reign of Ramesses II. Their purpose was to impress Egypt's southern neighbors, and also to reinforce the status of Egyptian religion in the region. Historians say that the design of Abu Simbel expresses a bit of ego and pride in Ramesses II.

Rediscovery

With the passage of time, the temples fell into disuse and eventually became covered by sand. Already in the 6th century BC, the sand covered the statues of the main temple up to their knees. The temple was forgotten until 1813, when Swiss orientalist JL Burckhardt found the top frieze of the main temple. Burckhardt talked about his discovery with Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni, who travelled to the site, but was unable to dig out an entry to the temple. Belzoni returned in 1817, this time succeeding in his attempt to enter the complex. He took everything valuable and portable with him. Tour guides at the site relate the legend that "Abu Simbel" was a young local boy who guided these early re-discoverers to the site of the buried temple which he had seen from time to time in the shifting sands. Eventually, they named the complex after him: Abu Simbel.

Relocation

A scale model showing the original and current location of the temple (with respect to the water level)

In 1959 an international donations campaign to save the monuments of Nubia began: the southernmost relics of this ancient human civilization were under threat from the rising waters of the Nile that were about to result from the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964, and cost some USD $40 million. Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons averaging 20 tons), dismantled and reassembled in a new location– 65 m higher and 200 m back from the river, in what many consider one of the greatest feats of archaeological engineering. Some structures were even saved from under the waters of Lake Nasser. Today, thousands of tourists visit the temples daily. Guarded convoys of buses and cars depart twice a day from Aswan, the nearest city. Many visitors also arrive by plane, at an airfield that was specially constructed for the temple complex.

The complex consists of two temples. The larger one is dedicated to Ra-Harakhty, Ptah and Amun, Egypt's three state deities of the time, and features four large statues of Ramesses II in the facade. The smaller temple is dedicated to the goddess Hathor, personified by Nefertari, Ramesses's most beloved wife (in total, the pharaoh had some 200 wives and concubines).[citation needed] The temple is now open to the public.

The Great Temple

Close-up of one of the colossal statues of Ramesses II, wearing the double crown of Lower and Upper Egypt

The Great Temple at Abu Simbel, which took about twenty years to build, was completed around year 24 of the reign of Rameses the Great (which corresponds to 1265 BCE). It was dedicated to the gods Amun, Ra-Horakhty, and Ptah, as well as to the deified Rameses himself.[2] It is generally considered the grandest and most beautiful of the temples commissioned during the reign of Rameses II, and one of the most beautiful in Egypt.

Four colossal 20 meter statues of the pharaoh with the double Atef crown of Upper and Lower Egypt decorate the facade of the temple, which is 35 meters wide and is topped by a frieze with 22 baboons, worshippers of the sun and flank the entrance.[3] The colossal statues were sculptured directly from the rock in which the temple was located before it was moved. All statues represent Ramesses II, seated on a throne and wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The statue to the left of the entrance was damaged in an earthquake, leaving only the lower part of the statue still intact. The head and torso can still be seen at the statue's feet.

Next to the legs of the colossi, there are other statues no higher than the knees of the pharaoh.[2] These depict Nefertari, Ramesses's chief wife, and queen mother Mut-Tuy, his first two sons Amun-her-khepeshef, Ramesses, and his first six daughters Bintanath, Baketmut, Nefertari, Meritamen, Nebettawy and Isetnofret.

The entrance itself is crowned by a bas-relief representing two images of the king worshiping the falcon-headed Ra Harakhti, whose statue stands in a large niche.[2] This god is holding the hieroglyph user in his right hand and a feather while Ma'at, (the goddess of truth and justice) in on his left; this is nothing less than a gigantic cryptogram for Ramesses II's throne name, User-Maat-Re. The facade is topped by a row of 22 baboons, their arms raised in the air, supposedly worshipping the rising sun. Another notable feature of the facade is a stele which records the marriage of Ramesses with a daughter of king Hattusili III, which sealed the peace between Egypt and the Hittites.

The collapsed colossus of the Great Temple supposedly fell during an earthquake shortly after its construction, when moving the temple it was decided to leave it as the face is missing.
One of the eight pillars in the main hall of the temple, showing Ramesses II as Osiris

The inner part of the temple has the same triangular layout that most ancient Egyptian temples follow, with rooms decreasing in size from the entrance to the sanctuary. The temple is complex in structure and quite unusual because of its many side chambers. The hypostyle hall (sometimes also called pronaos) is 18 meters long and 16,7 meters wide and is supported by eight huge Osirid pillars depicting the deified Ramses linked to the god Osiris, the god of the Underworld, to indicate the everlasting nature of the pharaoh. The colossal statues along the left-hand wall bear the white crown of Upper Egypt, while those on the opposite side are wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt(pschent).[2] The bas-reliefs on the walls of the pronaos depict battle scenes in the military campaigns the ruler waged. Much of the sculpture is given to the Battle of Kadesh, on the Orontes river in present-day Syria, in which the Egyptian king fought against the Hittites.[3] The most famous relief shows the king on his chariot shooting arrows against his fleeing enemies, who are being taken prisoner.[3] Other scenes show Egyptian victories in Libya and Nubia.[2]

From the hypostyle hall, one enters the second pillared hall, which has four pillars decorated with beautiful scenes of offerings to the gods. There are depictions of Ramesses and Nefertari with the sacred boats of Amun and Ra-Harakhti. This hall gives access to a transverse vestibule in the middle of which is the entrance to the sanctuary. Here, on a black wall, are rock cut sculptures of four seated figures: Ra-Horakhty, the deified king Ramesses, and the gods Amun Ra and Ptah. Ra-Horakhty, Amun Ra and Ptah were the main divinities in that period and their cult centers were at Heliopolis, Thebes and Memphis respectively.[2]

The axis of the temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that twice a year, on October 20 and February 20, the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculpture on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, the god connected with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark.[2][3] These dates are allegedly the king's birthday and coronation day respectively, but there is no evidence to support this, though it is quite logical to assume that these dates had some relation to a great event, such as the jubilee celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the pharaoh's rule. In fact, according to calculations made on the basis of the heliacal rising of the star Sirius (Sothis) and inscriptions found by archaeologists, this date must have been October 22. This image of the king was enhanced and revitalized by the energy of the solar star, and the deified Ramesses Great could take his place next to Amun Ra and Ra-Horakhty.[2]

Due to the displacement of the temple, it is widely believed that this event now occurs one day later than it did originally.

The Small Temple

The temple of Hathor and Nefertari, also known as the Small Temple, was built about one hundred meters northeast of the temple of Ramesses II and was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II's chief consort, Nefertari. This was in fact the second time in ancient Egyptian history that a temple was dedicated to a queen. The first time, Akhenaten dedicated a temple to his great royal wife, Nefertiti. [2] The rock-cut facade is decorated with two groups of colossi that are separated by the large gateway. The statues, slightly more than ten meters high, are of the king and his queen. On the other side of the portal are two statues of the king, wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt (south colossus) and the double crown (north colossus); these are flanked by statues of the queen and the king. What is truly surprising is that for the only time in Egyptian art, the statues of the king and his consort are equal in size.[2]

Traditionally, the statues of the queens stood next to those of the pharaoh, but were never taller than his knees. This exception to such a long standing rule bears witness to the special importance attached to Nefertari by Ramesses, who went to Abu Simbel with his beloved wife in the 24th year of his reign. As the Great Temple of the king, there are small statues of princes and princesses next to their parents. In this case they are positioned symmetrically: on the south side (at left as you face the gateway) are, from left to right, princes Meryatum and Meryre, princesses Meritamen and Henuttawy, and princes Rahirwenemef and Amun-her-khepeshef, while on the north side the same figures are in reverse order. The plan of the Small Temple is a simplified version of that of the Great Temple.

The gods Set (left) and Horus (right) adoring Ramesses in the small temple at Abu Simbel

As the larger temple dedicated to the king, the hypostyle hall or pronaos is supported by six pillars; in this case, however, they are not Osirid pillars depicting the king, but are decorated with scenes with the queen playing the sinistrum (an instrument sacred to the goddess Hathor), together with the gods Horus, Khnum, Khonsu, and Thoth, and the goddesses Hathor, Isis, Maat, Mut of Asher, Satis and Taweret; in one scene Ramesses is presenting flowers or burning incense.[2] The capitals of the pillars bear the face of the goddess Hathor; this type of column is known as Hathoric. The bas-reliefs in the pillared hall illustrate the deification of the king, the destruction of his enemies in the north and south (in this scenes the king is accompanied by his wife), and the queen making offerings to the goddess Hathor and Mut.[3] The hypostyle hall is followed by a vestibule, access to which is given by three large doors. On the south and the north walls of this chamber there are two graceful and poetic bes-reliefs of the king and his consort presenting papyrus plants to Hathor, who is depicted as a cow on a boat sailing in a thicket of papyri. On the west wall, Ramesses II and Nefertari are depicted making offerings to god Horus and the divinities of the Cataracts — Satis, Anubis and Khnum.

The rock cut sanctuary and the two side chambers are connected to the transverse vestibule and are aligned with the axis of the temple. The bas-reliefs on the side walls of the small sanctuary represent scenes of offerings to various gods made either by the pharaoh or the queen.[2] On the back wall, which lies to the west along the axis of the temple, there is a niche in which Hathor, as a divine cow, seems to be coming out of the mountain: the goddess is depicted as the Mistress of the temple dedicated to her and to queen Nefertari, who is intimately linked to the goddess.[2]

Each temple has its own priest that represents the king in daily religious ceremonies. In theory, the Pharaoh should be the only celebrant in daily religious ceremonies performed in different temples throughout Egypt. In reality, the high priest also played that role. To reach that position, an extensive education in art and science was necessary, like the one pharaoh had. Reading, writing, engineering, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, space measurement, time calculations, were all part of this learning. The priests of Heliopolis, for example, became guardians of sacred knowledge and earned the reputation of wise men.

In popular culture

  • The temple is the fictional field headquarters of MI6 in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, containing a M's office, conference room, and Q laboratory.
  • The temple is a setting of the 1978 film Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile, where the statues "sing" because of the wind in the crevices (similar to wind blowing over a bottle).
  • The temple is featured in the 8-bit computer game Abu Simbel Profanation released in 1985 by Dinamic Software.
  • The temple is shown in 2001's The Mummy Returns, as a way to the Oasis of Ahm-Shere.
  • The temple is featured as a stage in the PC first-person shooter PowerSlave.
  • Team America mistakenly blows up the temple when they miss fleeing terrorists in Team America: World Police (2004).
  • The temple also features in Matthew Reilly's Six Sacred Stones.
  • The temple can be seen briefly in the background of the city-planet of Coruscant when Queen Amidala's ship first arrives in Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace.
  • In Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses, the Grandee of Jahilia (Mecca) is named Karim Abu Simbel
  • In Anne Michaels' second novel The Winter Vault the relocation of Abu Simbel is one of the main themes
  • The temple is a playable site in The Sims 3: World Adventures expansion pack.

Photo gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae - UNESCO World Heritage Centre
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Alberto Siliotti, Egypt: temples, people, gods,1994
  3. ^ a b c d e Ania Skliar, Grosse kulturen der welt-Ägypten, 2005

External links

coordinates

Coordinates: 22°20′13″N 31°37′32″E / 22.33694°N 31.62556°E / 22.33694; 31.62556



Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

File:Panorama Abu
State Party  Egypt
Type Cultural
Criteria i, iii, vi
Reference 88
Region** Arab States
Inscription history
Inscription 1979  (3rd Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.
Site of Abu Simbel (bottom)]]

Abu Simbel (Arabic: أبو سنبل‎ or أبو سمبل) is an archaeological site comprising two massive rock temples in southern Egypt on the western bank of Lake Nasser about 290 km southwest of Aswan. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Nubian Monuments",[1] which run from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae (near Aswan).

The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his alleged victory at the Battle of Kadesh, and to intimidate his Nubian neighbors. However, the complex was relocated in its entirety in the 1960s, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir.

The relocation of the temples was necessary to avoid their being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River. Abu Simbel remains one of Egypt's top tourist attractions.

Contents

History

Construction

Construction of the temple complex started in approximately 1244 BC and lasted for about 20 years, until 1224 BC. Known as the "Temple of Ramesses, beloved by Amun", it was one of six rock temples erected in Nubia during the long reign of Ramesses II. Their purpose was to impress Egypt's southern neighbors, and also to reinforce the status of Egyptian religion in the region. Historians say that the design of Abu Simbel expresses a bit of ego and pride in Ramses II.

Rediscovery

With the passage of time, the temples fell into disuse and eventually became covered by sand. Already in the 6th century BC, the sand covered the statues of the main temple up to their knees. The temple was forgotten until 1813, when Swiss orientalist JL Burckhardt found the top frieze of the main temple. Burckhardt talked about his discovery with Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni, who travelled to the site, but was unable to dig out an entry to the temple. Belzoni returned in 1817, this time succeeding in his attempt to enter the complex. He took everything valuable and portable with him. Tour guides at the site relate the legend that "Abu Simbel" was a young local boy who guided these early re-discoverers to the site of the buried temple which he had seen from time to time in the shifting sands. Eventually, they named the complex after him: Abu Simbel.

Relocation

In 1959 an international donations campaign to save the monuments of Nubia began: the southernmost relics of this ancient human civilization were under threat from the rising waters of the Nile that were about to result from the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964, and cost some USD $40 million. Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons averaging 20 tons), dismantled and reassembled in a new location – 65 m higher and 200 m back from the river, in what many[who?] consider one of the greatest feats of archaeological engineering. Some structures were even saved from under the waters of Lake Nasser. Today, thousands of tourists visit the temples daily. Guarded convoys of buses and cars depart twice a day from Aswan, the nearest city. Many visitors also arrive by plane, at an airfield that was specially constructed for the temple complex.

The complex consists of two temples. The larger one is dedicated to Ra-Harakhty, Ptah and Amun, Egypt's three state deities of the time, and features four large statues of Ramesses II in the facade. The smaller temple is dedicated to the goddess Hathor, personified by Nefertari, Ramesses's most beloved wife (in total, the pharaoh had some 200 wives and concubines).[citation needed] The temple is now open to the public.

The Great Temple

]]

The Great Temple at Abu Simbel, which took about twenty years to build, was completed around year 24 of the reign of Rameses the Great (which corresponds to 1265 BCE). It was dedicated to the gods Amun, Ra-Horakhty, and Ptah, as well as to the deified Rameses himself.[2] It is generally considered the grandest and most beautiful of the temples commissioned during the reign of Rameses II, and one of the most beautiful in Egypt.

Four colossal 20 meter statues of the pharaoh with the double Atef crown of Upper and Lower Egypt decorate the facade of the temple, which is 35 meters wide and is topped by a frieze with 22 baboons, worshippers of the sun and flank the entrance.[3] The colossal statues were sculptured directly from the rock in which the temple was located before it was moved. All statues represent Ramesses II, seated on a throne and wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The statue to the left of the entrance was damaged in an earthquake, leaving only the lower part of the statue still intact. The head and torso can still be seen at the statue's feet.

Next to the legs of the colossi, there are other statues no higher than the knees of the pharaoh.[2] These depict Nefertari, Ramesses's chief wife, and queen mother Mut-Tuy, his first two sons Amun-her-khepeshef, Ramesses, and his first six daughters Bintanath, Baketmut, Nefertari, Meritamen, Nebettawy and Isetnofret.

The entrance itself is crowned by a bas-relief representing two images of the king worshiping the falcon-headed Ra Harakhti, whose statue stands in a large niche.[2] This god is holding the hieroglyph user in his right hand and a feather while Ma'at, the goddess of truth and justice) in on his left; this is nothing less than a gigantic cryptogram for Ramesses II's throne name, User-Maat-Re. The facade is topped by a row of 22 baboons, their arms raised in the air, supposedly worshipping the rising sun. Another notable feature of the facade is a stele which records the marriage of Ramesses with a daughter of king Hattusili III, which sealed the peace between Egypt and the Hittites.

]]

The inner part of the temple has the same triangular layout that most ancient Egyptian temples follow, with rooms decreasing in size from the entrance to the sanctuary. The temple is complex in structure and quite unusual because of its many side chambers. The hypostyle hall (sometimes also called pronaos) is 18 meters long and 16,7 meters wide and is supported by eight huge Osirid pillars depicting the deified Ramesses linked to the god Osiris, the god of the Underworld, to indicate the everlasting nature of the pharaoh. The colossal statues along the left-hand wall bear the white crown of Upper Egypt, while those on the opposite side are wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt(pschent).[2] The bas-reliefs on the walls of the pronaos depict battle scenes in the military campaigns the ruler waged. Much of the sculpture is given to the Battle of Kadesh, on the Orontes river in present-day Syria, in which the Egyptian king fought against the Hittites.[3] The most famous relief shows the king on his chariot shooting arrows against his fleeing enemies, who are being taken prisoner.[3] Other scenes show Egyptian victories in Libya and Nubia.[2]

From the hypostyle hall, one enters the second pillared hall, which has four pillars decorated with beautiful scenes of offerings to the gods. There are depictions of Ramesses and Nefertari with the sacred boats of Amun and Ra-Harakhti. This hall gives access to a transverse vestibule in the middle of which is the entrance to the sanctuary. Here, on a black wall, are rock cut sculptures of four seated figures: Ra-Horakhty, the deified king Ramesses, and the gods Amun Ra and Ptah. Ra-Horakhty, Amun Ra and Ptah were the main divinities in that period and their cult centers were at Heliopolis, Thebes and Memphis respectively.[2]

The axis of the temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that twice a year, on October 20 and February 20, the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculpture on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, the god connected with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark.[2][3] These dates are allegedly the king's birthday and coronation day respectively, but there is no evidence to support this, though it is quite logical to assume that these dates had some relation to a great event, such as the jubilee celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the pharaoh's rule. In fact, according to calculations made on the basis of the heliacal rising of the star Sirius (Sothis) and inscriptions found by archaeologists, this date must have been October 22. This image of the king was enhanced and revitalized by the energy of the solar star, and the deified Ramesses Great could take his place next to Amun Ra and Ra-Horakhty.[2]

Due to the displacement of the temple, it is widely believed that this event now occurs one day later than it did originally.

The Small Temple

The temple of Hathor and Nefertari, also known as the Small Temple, was built about one hundred meters northeast of the temple of Ramesses II and was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II's chief consort, Nefertari. This was in fact the second time in ancient Egyptian history that a temple was dedicated to a queen. The first time, Akhenaten dedicated a temple to his great royal wife, Nefertiti. [2] The rock-cut facade is decorated with two groups of colossi that are separated by the large gateway. The statues, slightly more than ten meters high, are of the king and his queen. On the other side of the portal are two statues of the king, wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt (south colossus) and the double crown (north colossus); these are flanked by statues of the queen and the king. What is truly surprising is that for the only time in Egyptian art, the statues of the king and his consort are equal in size.[2]

Traditionally, the statues of the queens stood next to those of the pharaoh, but were never taller than his knees. This exception to such a long standing rule bears witness to the special importance attached to Nefertari by Ramesses, who went to Abu Simbel with his beloved wife in the 24th year of his reign. As the Great temple of the king, there are small statues of princes and princesses next to their parents. In this case they are positioned symmetrically: on the south side (at left as you face the gateway) are, from left to right, princes Meryatum and Meryre, princesses Meritamen and Henuttawy, and princes Rahirwenemef and Amun-her-khepeshef, while on the north side the same figures are in reverse order. The plan of the Small Temple is a simplified version of that of the Great Temple.

(left) and Horus (right) adoring Ramesses in the small temple at Abu Simbel]]

As the larger temple dedicated to the king, the hypostyle hall or pronaos is supported by six pillars; in this case, however, they are not Osirid pillars depicting the king, but are decorated with scenes with the queen playing the sinistrum (an instrument sacred to the goddess Hathor), together with the gods Horus, Khnum, Khonsu, and Thoth, and the goddesses Hathor, Isis, Maat, Mut of Asher, Satis and Taweret; in one scene Ramesses is presenting flowers or burning incense.[2] The capitals of the pillars bear the face of the goddess Hathor; this type of column is known as Hathoric. The bas-reliefs in the pillared hall illustrate the deification of the king, the destruction of his enemies in the north and south (in this scenes the king is accompanied by his wife), and the queen making offerings to the goddess Hathor and Mut.[3] The hypostyle hall is followed by a vestibule, access to which is given by three large doors. On the south and the north walls of this chamber there are two graceful and poetic bes-reliefs of the king and his consort presenting papyrus plants to Hathor, who is depicted as a cow on a boat sailing in a thicket of papyri. On the west wall, Ramesses II and Nefertari are depicted making offerings to god Horus and the divinities of the Cataracts - Satis, Anubis and Khnum.

The rock cut sanctuary and the two side chambers are connected to the transverse vestibule and are aligned with the axis of the temple. The bas-reliefs on the side walls of the small sanctuary represent scenes of offerings to various gods made either by the pharaoh or the queen.[2] On the back wall, which lies to the west along the axis of the temple, there is a niche in which Hathor, as a divine cow, seems to be coming out of the mountain: the goddess is depicted as the Mistress of the temple dedicated to her and to queen Nefertari, who is intimately linked to the goddess.[2]

Each temple has its own priest that represents the king in daily religious ceremonies. In theory, the Pharaoh should be the only celebrant in daily religious ceremonies performed in different temples throughout Egypt. In reality, the high priest also played that role. To reach that position, an extensive education in art and science was necessary, like the one pharaoh had. Reading, writing, engineering, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, space measurement, time calculations, were all part of this learning. The priests of Heliopolis, for example, became guardians of sacred knowledge and earned the reputation of wise men.

In popular culture

  • The temple is the fictional field headquarters of MI6 in the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, containing a M's office, conference room, and Q laboratory.
  • The temple is a setting of the 1978 film Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile, where the statues "sing" because of the wind in the crevices (similar to wind blowing over a bottle).
  • The temple is featured in the 8-bit computer game Abu Simbel Profanation released in 1985 by Dinamic Software.
  • The temple is shown in 2001's The Mummy Returns, as a way to the Oasis of Ahm-Shere.
  • The temple is featured as a stage in the PC first-person shooter PowerSlave.
  • Team America mistakenly blows up the temple when they miss fleeing terrorists in Team America: World Police (2004).
  • The temple also features in Matthew Reilly's Six Sacred Stones.
  • The temple can be seen briefly in the background of the city-planet of Coruscant when Queen Amidala's ship first arrives in Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace.
  • In Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses, the Grandee of Jahilia (Mecca) is named Karim Abu Simbel
  • In Anne Michaels' second novel The Winter Vault the relocation of Abu Simbel is one of the main themes

Photo gallery

See also

References

External links

coordinates

Coordinates: 22°20′13″N 31°37′32″E / 22.33694°N 31.62556°E / 22.33694; 31.62556




Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Abu Simbel: 2 of 4 immense statues of Ramesses II (looking up from the entrance) at the Great Temple.
Abu Simbel: 2 of 4 immense statues of Ramesses II (looking up from the entrance) at the Great Temple.
Abu Simbel looks across Lake Nasser (bottom center).
Abu Simbel looks across Lake Nasser (bottom center).

Abu Simbel in Upper Egypt was saved from the rising waters of Lake Nasser, growing behind the Aswan Dam, in a massive archaeological rescue plan sponsored by UNESCO in the 1960s. The complex of temples dedicated to the Pharaoh Ramsis II "the Great" remain an evocative and unforgettable destination.

Understand

Abu Simbel is a village lying 280 km south of Aswan and only 40 km north of the Sudanese border. It is a very small settlement with very little to attract visitors other than its great temples for which it is famous. Few tourists linger for more than a few hours, although there are 5 hotels to attract visitors to stay the night.

The temples at Abu Simbel were formerly located further down the hillside, facing the Nile in the same relative positions, but due to the rising waters of Lake Nasser, the original locations are underwater. In the 1960's, each temple was carefully sawed into numbered stone cubes, moved uphill, and reassembled before the water rose.

The Great Temple of Ramsis II was reassembled fronting a fake mountain, built like a domed basketball court, where the stone cubes occupy a section under the dome; from outside, the fake mountain looks like solid rock.

Archaeologists have concluded that the immense sizes of the statues in the Great Temple were intended to scare potential enemies approaching Egypt's southern region, as they travelled down the Nile from out of Africa.

Get in

By plane

EgyptAir offers daily flights to Abu Simbel from both Cairo (NB: early morning flight, about 5.30 am) and Aswan (up to four flights daily). http://www.egyptair.com.eg . Many smaller airlines also operate the Aswan to Abu Simbel route.

By car

Abu Simbel is currently inaccessible to foreigners travelling by car, on account of police security concerns. Travellers are only able to access Abu Simbel by bus from Aswan.

By bus

Foreign travellers can get to Abu Simbel by coach or minibus from Aswan, travelling in police convoys. There is at least one daily convoy each way, taking 3 hours.. Seats on the minibuses traveling in the convoy can be arranged at your hotel or through the Aswan tourist office. The cost for a return trip is 70LE. This does not include entrance fees, but may include travel to additional sights in Aswan such as the High Dam or unfinished obelisks. Make sure your minibus has air-conditioning.

By boat

It is possible to travel by cruise ship from Aswan through Lake Nasser to Abu Simbel.

Get around

The town of Abu Simbel is small enough to navigate on foot.

  • Great Temple of Ramses II. 6:00am to 5:00pm. Carved out of a mountain between 1274BC and 1244BC, but lost to the world until it was rediscovered in 1813 by Swiss explorer Jean Louis Burkhart. Dedicated to Ramses II himself and gods Ra, Amun, and Ptah. Features 4 20m+ statues of Ramses. Its axis was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that twice a year, on February and October 20, the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculpture on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, the god connected with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark. These dates are allegedly the king's birthday and coronation day respectively, but there is no evidence to support this, though it is quite logical to assume that these dates had some relation to a great event, such as the jubilee celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the pharaoh's rule. This image of the king was enhanced and revitalized by the energy of the solar star, and the deified Ramesses II could take his place next to Amun Ra and Ra-Horakhty. Due to the displacement of the temple, it is widely believed that this event now occurs one day later than it did originally. Also, look for a "Kilroy was here" on the lower legs of one of the 4 giant statues of Ramesses II, along with other grafitti, formerly considered fashionable. Be sure to follow the pathway inside the fake mountain dome, to see how the mountain was constructed. Adult: 90LE; Student: 45LE.  edit
  • Temple of Hathor.  edit
  • Sound & Light Show. each night at 7pm and 8pm in winter and 8pm and 9pm in summer. Headphones are provided to allow visitors to hear the commentary in various languages. 60LE.  edit

Do

Read more about the temples before arriving: time at Abu Simbel will likely be limited, with little time to read about the stone carvings inside the temples. Beyond the temples themselves, the detailed description of sawing and moving the stone cubes is also an interesting story to read.

As with the pyramids at Giza, reading about them, before arriving, in no way diminishes the impact of seeing them firsthand. The reconstructed temples at Abu Simbel appear entirely real, not like a simulated building at some theme parks; however, do go inside the dome of the Great Temple to appreciate that it is a fake mountain.

Eat

Visitors might need to bring their own snacks and beverages, due to the length of the journey and the limited time at Abu Simbel. There are many cafes along the main road. Prices are high due to the number of tourists.

  • Toya, Tariq al Mabad, 012 357 7539. Nice cafe with lovely garden. Stop for a sheesha if you have time. Brakfast: 8LE, Mains: 15LE.  edit
  • Wadi el-Nil, (Along the main road).  edit
  • Nubian Oasis, (Along the main road).  edit

Sleep

Many people do Abu Simbel as a day trip and fall asleep on the ride to/from Abu Simbel due to its early time. The only reason to stay overnight is to see the Sound & Light show.

  • Seti Abu Simbel, [1]. 5-star hotel. Chalet-style rooms overlooking Lake Nasser. Overpriced. Meals available. Single: UD$130, Double: US$180.  edit
  • Nefartart Abu Simbel, (Right next to the Temple).  edit
  • Nefartari Hotel. Very basic  edit
  • Nobaleh Ramsis Hotel.  edit
  • Abu Simbel Tourist Village / Hotel Abbas.  edit
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ABU SIMBEL, the name of a group of temples of Rameses II.(c.1250 B.C.) in Nubia, on the left bank of the Nile, 56 m. by river S. of Korosko. They are hewn in the cliffs at the riverside, at a point where the sandstone hills on the west reach the Nile and form the southern boundary of a wider portion of the generally barren valley. The temples are three in number. The principal temple, probably the greatest and most imposing of all rock-hewn monuments, was discovered by Burckhardt in 1812 and opened by Belzoni in 1817. (The front has been cleared several times, most recently in 1892, but the sand is always pressing forward from the north end.) The hillside was recessed to form the facade, backed against which four immense seated colossi of the king, in pairs on either side of.the entrance, rise from a platform or forecourt reached from the river by a flight of steps. The colossi are no less than 65 ft. in height, of nobly placid design, and are accompanied by smaller figures of Rameses' queen and their sons and daughters; behind and over them is the cornice, with the dedication below in a line of huge hieroglyphs, and a long row of apes, standing in adoration of the rising sun above. The temple is dedicated primarily to the solar gods Amenre of Thebes and Raharakht of Heliopolis, the true sun god; it is oriented to the east so that the rays of the sun in the early morning penetrate the whole length of two great halls to the innermost sanctuary and fall upon the central figures of Amenre and Rameses, which are there enthroned with Ptah of Memphis and Raharakht on either side. The interior of the temple is decorated with coloured sculpture of fine workmanship and in good preservation; the scenes are more than usually interesting; some are of religious import (amongst them Rameses as king making offerings to himself as god), others illustrate war in Syria, Libya and Ethiopia: another series depicts the events of the famous battle with the Hittites and their allies at Kadesh, in which Rameses saved the Egyptian camp and army by his personal valour. Historical stelae of the same reign are engraved inside and outside the temple; the most interesting is that recording the marriage with a Hittite princess in the 34th year. Not the least important feature of the temple belongs to a later age, when some Greek, Carian and Phoenician soldiers of one of the kings named Psammetichus (apparently Psammetichus II., 594-589 B.C.) inscribed their names upon the two southern colossi, doubtless the only ones then clear of sand. These graffiti are of the highest value for the early history of the alphabet, and as proving the presence of Greek mercenaries in the Egyptian armies of the period. The upper part of the second colossus (from the south) has fallen; the third was repaired by Sethos II. not many years after the completion of the temple. This great temple was wholly rock-cut, and is now threatened by gradual ruin by sliding on the planes of stratification. A small temple, immediately to the south of the first, is believed to have had a built antechamber: it is the earliest known example of a "birth chapel," such as was usually attached to Ptolemaic temples for the accommodation of the divine mother-consort and her son. The third and northernmost temple, separated from the others by a ravine, is on a large scale; the colossi of the facade are six in number and 33 ft. high, representing Rameses and his queen Nefrere, who dedicated the temple to the goddess Hathor. The whole group forms a singular monument of Rameses' unbounded pride and self-glorification.








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