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  • Writer's pictureEryn

Abu Simbel of Egypt

Eryn following a path toward the entrance to the Abu Simbel temple where two towering statues of its pharaoh sit on either side

After three hours of driving through an endless desert, we finally hop out of the car, leaving footprints in the sunbathed sand. The ride was claustrophobic and tired us, our interest and excitement waned. We didn't expect much and gingerly followed our guide down the sandy slopes. Just as we turned a corner, our eyes suddenly widened at the sight of the four 21-meter-tall figures of King Ramses II. It was hard to believe that a structure of such a size was created 3,000 years ago in the absence of modern technology! Under the watchful eyes of the grand statues, we began to wander around with renewed energy, the temple complex quickly becoming the most magnificent site we visited on our trip to Egypt.

King Ramesses II had the second-longest reign and built more temples and monuments than any other pharaoh. His statues can be found everywhere - in various sites in Egypt and even in the museums we visited in Europe! He is often regarded as the most powerful and well-known pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, and Abu Simbel is a very good example of his glory.

Two statues of a seated pharaoh carved into the rock face of the temple of Abu Simbel against a bright blue sky
Looking up at the massive statues carved into the cliff face of Abu Simbel

We walked through the large entrance, the air around us suddenly cooling. As my eyes adjusted to the sudden change of light, beautifully decorated walls were revealed. The artworks celebrate the supposed victories of Ramses II, hieroglyphics describing the elaborate scene. We wind through grand halls that are lined with columns and explore empty storerooms, making sure we have discovered every nook and cranny of the fascinating monument. We soon leave The Great Temple’s glory, for there is more to explore. We climb a slope to gaze upon a smaller but similar temple that is thought to be dedicated to his wife, Queen Nefertari. Watching over The Small Temple are six 10-meter-tall statues - two of the queen and four of her husband, the pharaoh. The interior is simpler than its larger counterpart, its walls showing scenes of the queen and some of the gods the Ancient Egyptians had worshipped.

The exterior of Abu Simbel's Small Temple built into the rock face with carvings, statues of pharaohs and their wives, and hieroglyphics
The Small Temple of Abu Simbel

Another impressive fact about the temple complex is that Abu Simbel no longer stands in the same location as in ancient times. In the 1960s, a decision to build a new dam was made, bringing the ancient wonder under threat of flooding. In order to protect Abu Simbel, the entire site was dismantled into pieces of three to twenty tons, moved to a higher and safer location, and put back together again as precisely as possible. If no action was taken, the water in the new dam would have swallowed the 3,000-year-old structures. Thanks to the great effort used towards the relocation, Abu Simbel is still standing today for everyone to appreciate.

Eryn walking under a cloudless blue sky toward the two Abu Simbel temples in the distance in Egypt


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