The first country I visited in the continent of Africa is Egypt. Ever since I was young, I was fascinated with the idea of the Great Pyramid & the Sphinx, said to be 1 of the 7 Wonders of the World at one time. I finally got a chance to visit but it wasn’t the Pyramid of Giza & the Sphinx that dazzled. Instead it was another temple which I heard of only when I was in Egypt. That is also another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the Temple of Abu Simbel.
Temple of Abu Simbel is sensational! It lies about 175 miles from Aswan after the Egyptian government undertook a major reconstruction (in association with UNESCO) in 1968 & moved the two speos of Ramesses II & Nefertari to the current site. The gigantic rock was cut into sections, dismantled & then reconstructed on the summit of the Libyan mountains which overlooks the Nile River.
Now, to get an idea of perspective. The southern speos with a facade of 4 colossal statues of Ramesses II measures 108 ft high & 125 ft wide. The main reason why this has to be moved to higher ground was because of flooding caused by the building of Aswan High Dam. The original site is now submerged.
A most unusual phenomenon is said to be observed in this temple. Twice a year the sun penetrates the temple & floods the statues of Amon, Hamakhis & the pharaoh with light. It will become dark again after the initial 5 mins. The most remarkable thing is that Ptah, who is the god of darkness, is the only one that is never struck by the rays of the sun. Amazing, isn't it?
Essentially, there are 2 main temples at the Temples of Abu Simbel. 1) Temple of Ramesses II
This temple was dedicated to Amon-Ra, Harmakes & Ptah. It was elected solely to glorify Ramesses II the Great. The temple was covered in sand until May 22, 1813 which subsequently involved gigantic rescue operation as it was threatened by the waters of Lake Nasser.
2) Temple of Nefertari. (1st Queen of Ramesses II)
Ramses II dedicated this temple to his queen Nefertari, his most beloved wife. The queen's statue is represented on the facade of Abu Simbel Temple, in a size equivalent to that of her husband! Also known as temple of Harthor.
As with Borobudur (the largest Buddhist monument in the World), Abu Simbel was constructed way before (sometime in 1244 BCE) & was abandoned & totally covered in sand by 6th century BC. It was totally forgotten until 1813. It's mind boggling how something so gigantic could have been long forgotten & lost! (It is no wonder why they couldn't find Amelia Earhart in the huge ocean!) An even more surprising miracle that it was rediscovered in our lifetime! How lucky I've been to be able to see all these in person!
The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of PharaohRamesses II in the 13th century BC, 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. However, the complex was relocated in its entirety in the 1960s, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir.
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 High Dam on the Nile River. Abu Simbel remains one of Egypt's top tourist attractions.