The father of about one hundred sons and fifty daughters, Ramses II was an Egyptian pharaoh who built the two magnificent temples located in Abu Simbel. Abu Simbel is located in Nubia, southern Egypt on the western bank of Lake Nasser. The original temple was on the bank of the Nile River. Before Ramses II had built these temples, which was in 1279 B.C, this area had been holy to Hathor of Absek, the goddess of joy and music. Abu Simbel is one of the most glorious monuments in the world because of the beautiful structure of both the temples made by Ramses II. There are a variety of facts about Abu Simbel and what has happened to it over the past years.
Ramses II built two temples. The Great Temple is one temple with four gigantic statues of Ramses II. He made this temple for himself and dedicated it to Amun-Re and Ptah. This temple was considered the most beautiful and grandest temples during Ramses II’s reign. The most remarkable feature of the Abu Simbel site is that every year, on February 22 and October 22, the first rays of the morning sun shine down on the four statues seated there. It is believed these dates were picked because the first was Ramses II’s birthday and the second was the date of his coronation. Also, it is believed that this now occurs one day later than it did originally because of the relocation of the temples.
The second temple or Small Temple was dedicated to Nefertari, Ramses II’s favorite wife. Nefertari was known to be the embodiment of Hathor of Absek, the goddess of joy and music. Basically, this temple was dedicated to Hathor. These temples were originally on the west bank of the Nile River. They eventually had to be moved because in 1960, the Aswan High Dam was getting built and the temples would drown from the water in the reservoir of Lake Nassar if they weren’t relocated.
For the relocation of the two temples in Abu Simbel, they were disassembled and reconstructed two hundred feet above the original site. This relocation was supported by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) between 1964 and 1966. Three thousand specialists were needed to cut the temples in pieces and rebuild them. More than fifty countries that were part of UNESCO paid for the reconstruction. The hill that the temple currently sits on is houses and an air conditioning plant covered up in sand. An artificial mountain was also constructed near the two temples. This relocation process cost eighty million dollars and took four years. It also made the temples known throughout the world.
The Abu Simbel temple was first discovered in 1813 by a Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. He found the top of the main temple and talked about it with Italian Egyptologist Giovanni Battista Belzoni. Following this event, Giovanni went to explore this temple. When Giovanni came upon it, it was buried under a lot of sand. It took him a lot of effort to dig the temple out of the ground and he eventually gave up. Then in 1817, Giovanni returned to investigate this site and was successful in digging the temple out. Any valuables that were portable were taken by him. During his exploration, Giovanni discovered the Statue of Paser. Paser was a viceroy of Nubia during the reign of Ramses II. He was in charge for any Egyptian concerns and military campaigns. Three years later, Giovanni Battista Belzoni also found Ramses II’s father, Seti I’s, tomb.
Ramses II was an egotistical pharaoh. In The Great Temple, there are pictures of Ramses II defeating his enemies in the Battle of Kadesh, even though he lost. Also, Ramses II made four huge statues of himself and very small statues of his family member beneath his legs. Even though Ramses II was self-centered, he dedicated a temple to his favorite wife, Nefertari. Ramses II like Nefertari very much. Still, The Great Temple with huge statues of Ramses II is bigger than his wife’s temple.
The construction of the temple complex started in approximately 1284 B.C and lasted for about twenty years. The purpose of temple complex was to impress Egypt’s neighbors and enforce its religion in the area. By the 6th century B.C., sand was already starting to cover the main temple and it was up to the knees of the statues. Since it was buried under sand, it escaped the destruction by the Christian invaders. Therefore, the hieroglyphics and carvings are still intact. The only damage by humans is graffiti from visitors in the 19th century.
The architecture of Abu Simbel is magnificent. When the temples are first glanced at, it makes one think that Ramses II was an amazing king. Abu Simbel is special because the temples were cut by hand-saws and moved during the relocation process. Surprisingly nothing was harmed. Also, these temples are so gigantic that they make many tourists gaze in awe. These statues are so huge that they give the impression that Ramses II was a supreme king.
Abu Simbel is now a famous attraction because of these temples. Today, thousands of people visit the Abu Simbel to see the temples. After the pyramids, Abu Simbel is the most widely recognized monument in Egypt. There about ten thousand visitors that pass through the temples each day during the busy winter season. Three thousand people visit the temple during summer. Tourists are allowed inside the temples, but no with their guide. Without the guides, tourists only scan through them since they do not know the significance of the artwork. This reduces the wear and tear of the temples.
Abu Simbel has helped prove a lot about history. Hopefully it will be preserved in Egypt and always be remembered.