Guide to a Perfect trip in Egypt!
The Temples of Abu Simbel are a huge attraction in Egypt, bringing many tourists into the country each year. Built by King Ramses II, the temples of Abu Simbel are touted to be the most impressive ones in the country. The Sun temple, located on the banks of River Nile, was built in 1250 B.C. and is carved into the sandstone cliffs. The 65-foot seated Ramses statue is the temple’s main attraction. There are two other temples in the complex as well, one for Ramses and the second for his queen Nefertiti.
The extraordinary beauty and grandeur of the Sun temples is simply spellbinding. The temple remained hidden from the world until 1812 when the Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt found it. In 1964, the temple was conserved to protect it from the rising waters of the Aswan High Dam. The entire site was dismantled and reassembled at a place 65m higher and 200m behind the river.
There are 108-foot high statues of Ramses in the entrance way, leading to a grand hall separated into two treasury rooms. Further inside is the Hypostyle Hall filled with flowered pillars and scenes of the family of the king. The monument honors Ramses II’s victory in the Battle of Kadesh, which is believed to have taken place in 1274 B.C. between the Egyptians and Anatolians (which includes part of modern-day Syria, Turkey and Lebanon). It’s said that the Sun temple took about twenty years to get built.
Abu Simbel Temple remains in darkness all through the year except for when it sees the stream of natural sunlight on two occasions in February and October. The light which streams into the complex reflects on Ramses II and Sun God’s seated statues, illuminating the entire place and highlighting its brilliant architecture. T The Sun Festival takes place when the light hits the statues. The statue that remains still in darkness, even on these two days is of Ptah, the Goddess of darkness. The sight is truly a marvelous one and attracts tourists from all across to celebrate the much-celebrated Sun Festival.
Ramses built the temple at Abu Simbel so that the sanctum sanctorum or the inner chamber would light up at just two times of the year, which are on February 22, the anniversary of his ascension to the throne and on October 22nd, which is his birthday. The festival is based on a solar phenomenon, and the Sun God was very important to Egyptians. Careful planning was required to ensure everything was aligned just right for the sun to shine where it was wanted.
Most say that getting to Abu Simbel is a major adventure in and of itself. You leave in a vehicle convoy after meeting in Aswan at 4 am. The convoy travels together across the open desert and is escorted by the military, and every bus has an armed officer accompanying to make sure there are no security issues along the trip in remote regions. The trip lasts three hours after which tourists reach Abu Simbel, near the Sudan border.
During the Sun Festival a large crowd gathers around the temple to witness the sunrise and to meditate. After seeing the spectacular solar phenomenon and having a good look at the statutes, tourists can then participate in the dancing and singing shows. The festival is a fun-filled one for any person to enjoy music, dance, food, drinking, shopping the market and much more. When here, it’s always advised to eat the local cuisine as well to enjoy the full experience.
On the two days of the year of the Sun Festival, that is 22nd February and exactly 8 months later, 22nd October, the Tourism sector in Egypt sees the coming of many visitors, flocking from all across the globe. Witnessing this phenomenon is a feast for all the senses, considering the knowledge of astronomy and technology that ancient Egyptians used for making such a construction and event possible. During the festival the Ministry of Tourism teams up with the people of Aswan to make arrangements and ensure everything goes smoothly as tourists enjoy this incredible solar and cultural experience.