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The temples of Abu Simbel

Information, history and detailed description of the Ancient temples of Abu Simbel

The two temples of Abu Simbel lie at the end of lake Nasser in the Nubia desert of Southern Egypt. The main temple was built for the greater glory of Ramses II. His four statues dominate the exterior. The huge figures are 76 feet (23m) high, the head is 12 feet (4m) from ear to ear. They depict Ramses aging from young to the left to old on the right By the side of his leg is a statue of his wife, queen Nefertary and above him is a statue of the God Amun. The second temple of Abu Simbel is unique in that it was built for queen Nefertary and dedicated to Hathor the Goddess of Love and it was the only temple built for a queen in the whole of Egypt. The outside has carvings of Nefertary and Ramses together with many Hieroglyphics giving details of the lives of both people.

Abu simbel Hathor temple
Temple of Abu Simbel Temple of Hathor in Aswan

These temples were carved out of the solid sawan stones and this in fact saved them for future generations. The temples eventually fell in diffuse and covered with sand until were found by the British in the late 1900s. The building of the Aswan High Dam 200 miles to the north created lake Nasser and would have completely submerged Abu Simbel. In 1965 UNESCO approved and funded a Swedish plan to raise the temples 200 feet (60m) , move them 600 feet (180m) sideways to the edge of the new lake.This entailed the building of a two reinforced concrete domes, cutting the temples into 30 tons blocks and the rebuilding of these blocks both within and outside of these domes. The reconstruction was exactly as the original and no damage or faults were rectified.

Entering the Abu Simbel temple through a wooden door opened by the key of life the statues of the three Gods and Ramses can be seen in the sanctuary on March the 21st and September the 21st 5:58AM the ray of sun light penetrates the temple, bathes the 3 statues in light, the forth statue is not lit on because it is Kek the God of Darkness.

The inner chamber is supported by 8 columns each having a further statue of the Pharaoh. The columns themselves are decorated with carvings and paintings.

The yellow wedding dress of Nefertari is one of the best preserved paintings of the temples.

Many of the wall carvings illustrate the military exploits of Ramses who reigned for 67 years and made Egypt supreme in this area of the Middle east.

Other carvings are of various Gods which can be recognized by their animal heads. The king and queen are shown making offerings to the Gods. One of Ramses carvings show him hold the hair of one of his enemies and slay him with his hand held weapon.

Some of the carvings and paintings of Ramses show him wearing either the white canonical crown of upper Egypt or the combined white and red crowns of the united country of both upper and lower Egypt. From the carvings of the cartouche or name plates and from other Hieroglyphics it is possible to read the story associated with each picture. Egyptian Hieroglyphics consists of some 700 symbols , the finding of the Rosetta stone now in the British museum enabled these writings to be deciphered

The quality of these carvings and paintings and proportions of all the figures are quite extraordinary which say much of the quality of the masons in charge of these constructions which happened 3200 years ago.

A number of smaller chambers are built off the main one primarily for the priests to store wine food etc and possibly for living accommodation, these are well decorated but not up to the standard of the main temples.
Abu Simbel temples are indeed a great work of art by Ancient Egyptians.

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