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Abu Simbel Temple

One of the most fascinating ancient relics in Egypt is the Abu Simbel Temple at Aswan. The imposing structure has years of history behind it and continues to enchant travelers from across the globe. It is 280 km (173 miles) south of Aswan. Chiseled from the mountain block lying in the west bank of the Nile River this magnificent temple was dedicated to Ra-Horakhty, Amun, Ptah and Ramses II. Built around 1244 B.C. It took 20 years to complete. The four stately gigantic statues of the pharaohs stand at guard outside the temple, looking over everyone who visits the temple premises as if warding away any undesirable force that poses to be a threat to Egypt. That was the whole intent of building the colossal structure.

Highlights of Abu Simbel Temple

Abu Simbel Temple
• Location: 300 km (186 miles) South of Aswan on the western bank of the Lake Nasser

• Time: 06:00 AM - 05:00 PM

• Entrance fee:

255 EGP per person
133 EGP per student
300 EGP per camera ticket
20 EGP for a tripod

Even if you wish to take photos with your cell phone you have to purchase the photography ticket.

• The sound and light show:
Time- 07:00 PM - 08:00 PM in winter; 08:00 PM and 09:00 PM in summer
Price- 60 LE

The Abu Simbel Temple Rediscovered

The temple was forgotten till 1813, being lost in the desert sand and expanding waters of the Nile. A Swiss explorer Jean-Louis Burckhardt chanced upon this monumental structure. The head of the temple was peeping from beneath the sand, while the other head was lost, buried deep within. It took four years for the sand to be cleared and the temples saw the light of the day, finally in 1817. The temple was relocated due to the rising water of the Lake Nasser when the Aswan High Dam was built on the Nile. The temple’s original location is now underwater. The temples were moved carefully in parts, in 1960, to a higher altitude under UNESCO by skilled engineers, archaeologists and 3,000 workers. Great care was taken to assemble the temple maintaining its orientation with the sun. To give it its original touch a mountain was created with a carved-out appearance from the mountain rock. The project cost $40 million and is a great point of interest for tourists.

You have to enter the temple climbing a flight of stairs leading to a terrace that brings you in front of the enormous temple 30 m high and 35 m wide structure. Now only three statues survive and look upon the waters of the Nile and beyond flowing by. The inner left statue had fallen long ago and still lies fallen for visitors to see the broken fragment that once stood guarding the gate of the temple.

The Abu Simbel Temple Outside

The 20 feet tall statues display the rest of Ramses II’s family- the mother, his favorite wife Nefertari, Queen Tuya and a few of his beloved children. The falcon-headed sun God, Ra- Horakhty is placed over the entrance between the throned behemoth at the centre.

Abu Simbel Temple Aswan

The Abu Simbel Temple Inside

As you enter you will find the roof of the vast hall is decorated with vultures which is again a symbol of protection, the goddess Nekbet on eight columns each of which has been carved by the daunting figure of Ramses II. Wall motifs display the Pharaoh's might in the battlefield, showing to the gods how he vanquished his enemies and destroyed them. The Battle of Kadesh (circa 1274 BC) is shown on the northern wall where Ramses motivated his army and won the battle over Hittites. The fleeing enemy being chased by arrows showered by Ramses II from his grand chariot is sculpted. The Egyptian army holding their round top shields surrounding the camp and Hittite town encircled by the Orontes River are intriguing.  

As you step further into the other hall having a wide porch balanced on four columns, you are surrounded with the statue of Rameses and Nefertari standing in front of the gods. You are led to the main sanctuary where Ramses along with the three gods of the great temple is shown sitting on the throne.

The Abu Simbel Temple's architecture is ingenious. On Ramses’ birthday and coronation day, 21 February and 21 October, the first rays of the sun touched the hypostyle hall piercing the gate into the sanctuary with the rising sun and awakened the statues of Ra-Horakhty, Ramses II and Amun with its brightness. The statue of Ptah was kept in darkness. The shifting of the temple from its original post has delayed this phenomenon by a day. The Egyptian tourism organizes special events in the temple to commemorate these days on the 22 February.  

Abu Simbel Temple
Abu Simbel Temple Fresco

Abu Simbel Temple
Light and Sound Show

The light and sound show in the evening at the Abu Simbel Temple draws tourists and the temple dramatizes its history, creating a sense of awe and mystery that is much loved and enjoyed by all. The temple can be visited in the wee hours of the morning since it is open to visitors from 05:00 AM. You can look at the temple in details while the sun is still a little mellow. Once the heat sets in, it becomes a bit uncomfortable. Cameras are not allowed inside the temple to prevent further damage to the inner walls and carvings. You can hire a guide to understand the temple in detail. Reading about the temple and its architecture and background will help you understand the symbols inside the temple. Appreciate the wonder doubly, first for its original creation and the second for its grand restoration. These brilliant pieces make you wonder how mankind keeps evolving in stages and being a part of the race makes our presence in the world even more potent.

How to Reach?

By Fight

• Aswan to Abu Simbel (roundtrip)

Price: $325 per person (prices keep changing so check on the Egypt Air website for updates)

Time: Average of 45 minutes

Air Egypt Flights. Time your flight in such a way that you can spend at least 1.5 hours in the temple complex.
The airline provides a bus service that takes you till the temple. It takes 5 min to the temple complex from the airport.

You can also fly from Cairo to Abu Simbel. Travel cost $500 per person.

By Land

• Tour service or private car

Distance one-way 290 km (180 mi)
Time one way: 2.3hrs to 3 hrs.

Total tour time 8 hrs.

Tour packages charge from, $160 per person to $425 depending on the vehicle. These packages are fixed by the hotel or separate tour companies.

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