Snapshot … Ramses II and Abu Simbel

One post on Egypt just wasn’t enough, so following on from my post on the beautiful Island Temple of Isis at Philae, today I’m returning to look back on one of the most spectacular sites I’ve ever visited and the man responsible for it development, Ramses II or Ramses The Great. Born around 1303 BC, Ramses was Pharaoh of Egypt from 1279 BC until his death in 1213 BC. Like most pharaohs he was buried in the Valley of the Kings but his mummified body is housed today in the Cairo Museum. As an aside, if you ever visit Cairo, please don’t miss out on viewing the mummies! I’m no Egyptologist (although I’ll certainly love to work on a dig side over there!) but I believe Ramses was one of the longest serving and greatest of the Egyptian rulers. He was a successful military campaigner and a prolific builder. And that is where I’m taking us today … to what I think is his greatest building achievement, Abu Simbel. (Apologies for the quality of the photos … this trip was taken in 1996!)

Abu Simbel (Ramses II)0001
The Great Temple of Abu Simbel
Abu Simbel (Nefertari)0001
The Temple of Hathor and Nefertari

Abu Simbel consists of two massive temple structures, both of which are carved into rock. The site itself is in the southern part of Egypt, approximate 300km from the Aswan Dam. It is not located at the original building site. Just like the Temple of Isis at Philae, the Abu Simbel temples were relocated in the 1960’s to protect them from the rising waters of the Nile following the construction of the Aswan Dam. Now, I’m going to give you a tip about travelling to Abu Simbel … most companies that do tours or day excursions to Abu Simbel are going to approach the site from the water, via boat on Lake Nassar. Please, take the time to find a company that will take the longer route and approach the temples via land/road. Typically, this might mean flying to the area and getting a little bus to the site. This is what I did and it made the impact so much greater. Approaching from land the site appears like nothing by relatively flat land over the lake, nothing much to see. You will walk down a gradual decline towards the lake, and upon reaching the flat sands, you’ll turn to see the magnificent and truly massive Great Temple. It’s facade is marked by four large, 20 metre tall statues of Ramses II. The shock and overwhelming awe at the size of this place was heightened by the fact that, as the saying goes, “I never saw it coming”. And the memory of that first glimpse still gives me goosebumps to this day.

The 20 metre high statues of Ramses II
Inside Abu Simbel – apologies for the blur!
Blurry but you get the idea! 🙂

The Great Temple at Abu Simbel was built by Ramses II in 1265 BC and is basically a temple in honour of himself along with the Egyptian Gods – Amun, Ptah and Ra-Horakhty. When you enter the Great Temple and walk between the towering statues of Ramses, you will come to a chamber at the end, statues of all four of the gods mentioned are located in here. It is said that twice a year, the passage of the sun and the marking of the hours of the day will play out as each of these statute is illuminated in turn. With the exception of Ptah, the god of darkness and the underworld, who will remain in shadow.

The four gods in the inside chamber – note that Ptah, god of darkness, is in shadow
Some of the engravings on the walls
A chamber off the main hall
This gives you an idea of how the engravings were done … the figure on the left is complete, the figure on the right has been draw on but not yet chiseled out of the rock!

Situated next to the Great Temple of Abu Simbel is another, slightly smaller rock carved structure built by Ramses II. It is the Temple of Hathor and Nefertari (Nefertari was Ramses II’s wife). Here’s the awesome thing … only one other pharaoh had ever built a temple in his wife’s honour. But Ramses went one better – for the first time, the six statues of the King/Pharaoh and his wife which adorn the temple entrance, were carved to be the same height (10 metres in this case). It says a lot about the regard Ramses II had for his wife.

Nefertari and the goddess Isis

This post is part of my contribution to the A-Z Challenge for April 2016

Click here for a list and links to my other challenge posts!


49 thoughts on “Snapshot … Ramses II and Abu Simbel”

  1. Egypt has such a rich heritage! I can imagine the thrill of walking through walls of history. Was it very hot? We had a brief halt in Cairo on our way back from our first Euro trip. That’s the closest we got! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was very hot! In the high 40’s (I recall hearing on one day that it cracked 50! … Celsius that is). But it didn’t feel that hot because the humidity was so low. Summers back home feel hotter.
      The history is incredible! Such a thrill to visit these ancient places 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a great idea, Niki! I’ve always found it helpful knowing a bit about the history of where I’m going before I get there. I figure if I’ve got the historical facts straight first, then I can sit back and soak up the culture 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh wow! To be there in person I cannot even begin to imagine how you felt, Kim. Talk about huge and even through your photographs the aura of this temple is powerful. Thank you for taking the time to share!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Maria! I’ve always tried to avoid getting people in my shots. But you’re right, they really make a difference here in helping people see the size of the structures. He was a fascinating figure, certainly one of the major players in Egyptian history 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have always wanted to go to Egypt. So popular and so touristy (most of my friends and family have been), but yet, I never made it there. But, I will, one day. I’m sure of it. 🙂 Looking forward to browsing your blog one of these days and see what else you have been up to during your travels!!! Maybe we share a few countries we both like a lot.

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely worth a visit. I don’t usually like going to touristy places but sometimes there’s no avoiding it. The world is getting so much smaller and opening up more to travel!
      I’ll be interested to see which countries we’ve both enjoyed 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Liz! I think it fell off a lot of people’s radar, particularly when all that domestic political unrest started a while back. It’s an amazing country and I always suggest that people see Jordan at the same time (if you haven’t already lol).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In the summer of one year, I wanted to live virtually in Egypt for sometime, So I was looking for a novel on Egypt that will help me accomplish that. I had found a book “Nefertiti” by Michell Moran. I guess it must be the same Egyptian queen you have referred here. I am not only thrilled but also in awe that you have been there! Abu Simbel is such a delightful architectural site. I had watched a documentary of the statues being transferred away from the rising water. Your post just brought so many memories back! 🙂 And, Egypt is indeed a place to get goosebumps! I get that every time I read or hear about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What a great way to spend a summer! The book you found is about a different Egyptian queen. Nefertiti was married to the pharaoh Akhenaten and she was thought to be a very beautiful woman. I imagine the book must’ve been fascinating as her story is quite interesting. The architecture at Abu Simbel is amazing but I agree that the story of how they moved the structure is so incredible. So glad you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes, I recall now.. Akhenaten.. who had changed the custom of worshiping Ra, and started worshiping Aten.. The story was very interesting, I just seem to forget and mix up sometimes! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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