The Magic of Abu Simbel

 

A Temple Fit For a King

Of all the magnificent monuments and awe-inspiring temples on your Egypt vacation, the great Sun Temple at Abu Simbel south of Aswan is perhaps the most unique. Commissioned by King Ramses II between1290 and 1224 BC, in what must be one of the greatest demonstrations of narcissism in history, the gargantuan rock cut temple was built as a show of Ramses’ political power and his divine rights as pharaoh. As one of ancient Egypt’s most powerful rulers, it was, and still is, a monument fit for a king, and is a highlight of our Egypt custom tours.

Temple of Ramesses II, Abu Simbel, Egypt. One of the ancient Egypt greatest monuments in Aswan
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Queen Nefertari in the Temple of Ramesses II, Abu Simbel, Egypt. One of the ancient Egypt greatest monuments in Aswan

And it is the king himself who still guards the entrance to the beautiful structure. Carved directly into the side of a mountain are four colossal statues of Ramses, powerful yet majestically poised, and more than enough to deter any modern day treasure hunters.

The Sun Festival of King Ramses

But what sets Ramses’ temple apart from other ancient monuments is the architectural precision of its design. Due to the brilliance of Ramses and his architects, the entire temple was positioned so that, twice every year, the sun’s rays would align to illuminate the inner sanctum of the temple.

As the sun rises above the horizon, a single shaft of light penetrates through the temple doors and beyond, and beams laser-straight through the interior hypostyle hall into the inner sanctuary to light up the gods of the living world, while Ptah, the god of the underworld, remains in shadows.

It is a truly spectacular phenomenon, and the event is now celebrated with the Abu Simbel Sun Festival, which takes place on the date of Ramses’ ascension to the throne, February 22nd, and also on his birthday, on October 22nd.

Remember that scene from Raiders of the Lost Arc, where Indiana Jones places the staff in the beam of light? The inspiration for that scene was clearly found at Abu Simbel.

Abu Simbel Temple
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The statue of Ramses II at the Great Temple of Abu Simbel. The temples were dismantled and relocated in 1968 when Aswan dam was built.

Awesome Engineering, Both Old and New

After the construction of the Aswan High Dam, well worth a visit itself, and because of the risk of destruction from the rising waters of the Nile and Lake Nasser, in 1972 the temple was re-located to nearby higher ground. It was a remarkable feat of modern engineering, and meant that the temple would stand for all eternity, just as Ramses demanded. It does mean that the sun now strikes a day later than Ramses planned, but it does not diminish the beauty of what is another of Egypt’s spellbinding and legendary monuments you’ll experience on your Egypt tour. King Ramses II also built Luxor temple in the city of Luxor, parts in Karnak temple, and he also built the Ramesseum temple in the West bank of Luxor. The tomb of King Rameses II in the Valley of the Kings is one of the best tombs as well as his wife’s tomb in the Valley of the Queens.

 

Philae On The Nile

But the remarkable temples of Abu Simbel aren’t the only attraction in the area. On a small island in the middle of the Nile River sits one of ancient Nubia’s most important monument sites, the Temples of Philae. The temples were an ancient pilgrimage destination for followers of the cult of Isis, and have been venerated by travelers on their own Egypt travel packages for millennia. With its spectacular colonnades and intricate craved friezes, and with a backdrop of the gently flowing Nile all around, Philae is simply stunning.

Philae and Abu Simbel Temples both were moved to new locations
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Philae Temple

Much like the temples at Abu Simbel, Philae temple was also at risk from the rising water levels, but thanks to UNESCO‘s fantastic rescue project, they coordinated to move the temple from Philae Island to its modern home on nearby Agilika Island, block by massive block. Even the great King Ramses himself would be impressed.

Check out our luxury Egypt tours and our best Egypt tour packages and contact us for a free quote today!

Testimonials From Happy Travelers

My husband and I just got back from a 10 day trip in Egypt with Osiris Tours and had a fantastic time. We were looking for a custom, private tour and are so grateful that we found Osiris Tours. All company staff was incredibly professional, friendly, punctual and knowledgeable

radkeeper

Washington D.C.

I found Osiris on TripAdvisor after looking at another company with mixed success. 
I am so glad I found this priceless gem of a tour! I'm fairly well traveled but Egypt was like nowhere I've ever been.

Erik R.

Geneva, Switzerland

Our group 12 friends had high expectations for this trip -- a trip of a lifetime. Our expectations were met and exceeded! Starting in the Cairo airport, Osiris representatives took care of all visas and brought us to our hotel where we met our guide for our journey. We can't say enough wonderful things about our guide.

ADVENTURESOME51

Concord, New Hampshire

We had an amazing trip to Egypt. It was even more amazing than I had envisioned. The tombs and temples in Luxor were unbelievable. It wouldn’t have been nearly as fabulous without Sam our tour guide who was with us from start to finish.

crumbaugh

Birmingham, Alabama

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