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 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 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.
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.
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!