If you don’t know it by name, you will have surely seen it in pictures, as it’s one of the most widely photographed temples in Egypt alongside the Pyramids of Giza.
Abu Simbel is a complex of two massive rock temples situated on the western bank of Lake Nasser. The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his Queen, Nefertari. They were built to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. Because of their remote location near the Sudanese border in southern Egypt, the temples remained unknown until their discovery in 1813.
The main temple really is a sight to behold. Carved high into the face of the mountain with four seated colossi flanking the entrance, and stretching back into the rock itself, the interior consists of a series of halls and rooms extending back a massive 185 feet from the entrance.
The most remarkable feature of the site is that the temple is precisely positioned so that twice every year, on 22nd February and 22nd October, the first rays of the morning sun shine down the entire length of the carved temple-cave to illuminate the back wall of the innermost shrine and the statues of the four gods seated there.
Just to the north of the main temple is a smaller one, dedicated to Nefertari for the worship of the goddess Hathor. This temple is also adorned by colossi across the front facade, three on either side of the doorway, depicting Ramesses and his Queen Nefertari a height of 32 feet.
The complex is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is seriously awe-inspiring and well worth a photo or ten! So luckily we have thrown it in as part of our itinerary when sailing the Nile in Aswan!