Abu Simbel temple, located in Nubia on Egypt’s southern border, is one of Egypt’s most awe-inspiring sites.
Abu Simbel temple: The Greatest Temple of Ancient Egypt
The Abu Simbel Temples are located in Abu Simbel, a tiny town on the border with Sudan on the western shore of Lake Nasser in Upper Egypt. The temple was built by Ramesses II, Egypt’s greatest king. It is also known as the Temple of Ramses II.
The Abu Simbel Temples were constructed to serve as a permanent memorial to the monarch and his queen, Nefertari, as well as to celebrate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh.
There are two temples here. The first, the Great Temple, is devoted to Ramesses II himself, while the second, the Small Temple, is dedicated to his wife, Queen Nefertari.
- The Great Temple
The Great Temple of Abu Simbel took around twenty years to construct. It was devoted to the gods Amun, Ra-Horakhty, and Ptah, as well as to the Great King Ramesses himself. It was also known as the Temple of Ramses II. It is often regarded as the finest and most magnificent of the temples built during Ramesses II’s reign, as well as one of the most beautiful in Egypt.
The Great Temple’s entrance is flanked on its front by four huge sculptures, each 20 metres tall and depicting Ramesses II seated on a throne. The main temple’s exterior is adorned with hieroglyphs commemorating Ramses II’s tremendous victory in the Battle of Kades.
Inside the great temple, there is a succession of chambers dedicated to Ramses and key members of his family. Except for two days a year, the final room is always dark except for two days every year. This was not done by chance; it took a thorough understanding of science, mathematics, architecture, and astronomy to achieve this result.
- Small Temple
The Small Temple, the second temple, is dedicated to Hathor. It was erected to commemorate Ramses’ favourite wife, Nefertari, despite being substantially smaller than the first. The queen emerges on a level playing field with the pharaoh. It is sometimes referred to as the Temple of Hathor and Nefertari.
The temple’s rock-cut façade is adorned with two groups of colossi separated by a wide entrance.
- The Great Temple
Alignment of the Sun with the Temple of Abu Simbel
Because the great temple is aligned with the sun, the sun shines twice a year in its darkest room, illuminating a statue of Ramses and the gods to whom the temple is devoted.
The ancient architects designed the temple so that sunlight would enter the chamber on February 22, the anniversary of his ascension to the throne, and on October 22, his birthday. The sun rises on these two days, illuminating the temple corridor and three of the four sculptures in the temple.
The first three statues are of Ramses II, Ra (the sun god), and Ammon (the king of the gods). Ramses was counted among the gods because, like the previous pharaohs, he regarded himself as a deity. The fourth statue is still in the dark because it depicts Ptah, the god of darkness. This statue hasn’t seen the light of day in almost 3,200 years.