Abu Simbel and Assuan
Due to a sandstorm our airplane was late and so we were forced to visit Abu Simbel not during a fresh morning but with 45 degree Celsius during a sunny afternoon; nevertheless was simply amazing.
Abu Simbel is an archaeological site comprising two massive rock temples in southern Egypt on the western bank of Lake Nasser about 290 km southwest of Aswan. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Nubian Monuments”.
The light for the photos in Abu Simbel due to the late hour was not great but can’t forget the images still in my eyes.
The twin temples in Abu Simbel were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II.
Abu Simbel date the 13th century B.C., as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his alleged victory at the Battle of Kadesh, and to intimidate his Nubian neighbors as you can see in one of the photos.
The Great Temple at Abu Simbel, which took about twenty years to build, was completed around year 24 of the reign of Ramses the Great (which corresponds to 1265 B.C.). Abu Simbel was dedicated to the gods Ra, and Ptah, as well as to the deified Rameses himself.
It is generally considered the grandest and most beautiful of the temples commissioned during the reign of Ramses II, and one of the most beautiful in Egypt. The statue to the left of the entrance was damaged in an earthquake, leaving only the lower part of the statue still intact. The head and torso can still be seen at the statue’s feet.
The entrance itself is crowned by a bas-relief representing two images of the king worshiping the falcon-headed Ra, whose statue stands in a large niche. This god is holding a hieroglyph in his right hand and a feather while Ma’at (the goddess of truth and justice) in on his left; this is nothing less than a gigantic cryptogram for Ramesses II’s throne name, User-Maat-Re.
The facade is topped by a row of 22 baboons, their arms raised in the air, supposedly worshiping the rising sun. Another notable feature of the facade is a stele which records the marriage of Ramesses with a daughter of king Hattusili III, which sealed the peace between Egypt and the Hittites.
The inner part of the temple has the same triangular layout that most ancient Egyptian temples follow, with rooms decreasing in size from the entrance to the sanctuary. The temple is complex in structure and quite unusual because of its many side chambers. The hypostyle hall is 18 meters long and 16,7 meters wide and is supported by eight huge Osirid pillars depicting the deified Ramesses linked to the god Osiris, the god of the Underworld, to indicate the everlasting nature of the pharaoh.
The bas-reliefs on the walls of the pronaos depict battle scenes in the military campaigns the ruler waged. Much of the sculpture is given to the Battle of Kadesh, on the Orontes river in present-day Syria, in which the Egyptian king fought against the Hittites.
From the hypostyle hall, one enters the second pillared hall, which has four pillars decorated with beautiful scenes of offerings to the gods.
The axis of the temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that twice a year, on October 20 and February 20, the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculpture on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, the god connected with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark. These dates are allegedly the king’s birthday and coronation day respectively, but there is no evidence to support this.
The temple of Hathor and Nefertari, also known as the Small Temple, was built about one hundred meters northeast of the temple of Ramesses II and was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II’s chief consort, Nefertari.
This was the second time in ancient Egyptian history that a temple was dedicated to a queen. The first time, Akhenaten dedicated a temple to his great royal wife, Nefertiti.
Traditionally, the statues of the queens stood next to those of the pharaoh, but were never taller than his knees. This exception to such a long standing rule bears witness to the special importance attached to Nefertari by Ramesses.
As the Great temple of the king, there are small statues of princes and princesses next to their parents.
The hypostyle hall is supported by six pillars decorated with scenes with the queen playing the sinistrum (an instrument sacred to the goddess Hathor), together with the gods Horus, Khnum, Khonsu, and Thoth, and the goddesses Hathor, Isis, Maat, Mut of Asher, Satis and Taweret.
The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964, and cost 40 million USD. Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons averaging 20 tons), dismantled and reassembled in a new location 65 m higher and 200 m back from the river, in what many consider one of the greatest feats of archaeological engineering.
The relocation of the temples was necessary to avoid their being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan dam on the Nile River. Abu Simbel remains one of Egypt’s top tourist attractions.
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- Abu Simbel and Assuan pictures / Egypt – portfolio © www.artphotoasia.net -