Abu Simbel is incredible. There are many sights in Egypt that can have this description and I’ll add this one to the list. Abu Simbel was moved up 65 meters when the Aswan Dam created Lake Nassar, a huge lake spanning 180 kilometers into the Sudan. It consists of two stone temples, one for Ramses II and his beautiful wife Neferteri. Of course, the one for the Pharaoh is bigger and he also managed to carve himself into the temple for his wife. I guess one can do what one wants when one is Pharaoh.
The tour started at 3:15 a.m. and a round of pickups from five hotels in the area, soon the van was packed. I had arranged the tour through my hotel the night before. On the ride, I had declined the invitation from the driver to sit in the more comfortable front seat, I didn’t want nor need the “special” treatment as a solo female traveler. Upon boarding, I saw two familiar faces – Ean and Liz, the Canadian couple from Cairo! It was great to see them and we conversed about our respective trips to the desert.
I could barely keep my eyes open during the trek, having just had the 6 hours of sleep on top of a night of train rides and camping. The scenery was all desert, as I had seen before with the drive to the Oasis. The van rode with an escorted convoy. Large tour busses were first and then the small microbuses. It took 3 hours to get there and the temples were the main attraction.
After buying tickets, I rounded the large rock mound and saw the first profiles of the Ramses statues.
There are four seated next to each other, two on each side of the temple entrance. It’s perfect, the reconstruction did not try to create the original poses, but instead kept the head and torso of one of the Ramses statues on the ground where it fell on the original location. The statues are grand and stately, beckoning to the gods to recognize Ramses greatness.
The doorway to the temple reveals a large room with 15 feet tall Ramses statues acting as pillars. I noticed graffiti carved into the first few dated from the mid 1800s to mid 1900s, tourists wanting to leave their mark on eternity.
The temple had several rooms off the main one and included life size hieroglyphics and stories of imperial life. Directly in line with the entrance are four statues – three of gods and one of Ramses. This was a bold move, Ramses effectively stated that he was a god by placing himself next to them. Their placement is strategic on two days – his coronation and birthday, these statues light up with the direct sunrise on their exact position. Truly remarkable.
The smaller (of course) temple for Neferteri has six statues lining it’s front, all standing. Four are of Ramses and two of Neferteri. Her temple opens to pillars with her face as a god lining the columns. Hieroglyphics are abound and keep the crowd interested as we walk from cavern to cavern. I had come to Aswan to specifically see these temples and was very happy that I did, grand and divine, these temples showed the grandeur of ancient Egypt.
The tour is 3 hours and I end my walk around the massive temples with over priced tourist tea and join my group on the bus for the ride back to Aswan.