It is a location in Egypt at Lower Nubia, near the Sudanese border, 280 km southwest of Aswan. It is a mountain cliff of whitish-reddish sandstone, stands majestically on the west bank of the Nile (now on the western shore of Lake Nasser behind the High Dam). At this site, two temples dug in the mountain were constructed for King Ramsis II, the third pharaoh of the 19th Egyptian Dynasty. Said temples stood as a symbol of Egyptian sovereignty in this land and the commemoration of the victory over the Hittites at Kadesh. The two temples were completed about 1206 BC., and were among the greatest temples of ancient Egypt. They are generally designated as the "Great Temple of Abu Simbel" and the "Small Temple of Abu Simbel". Both have more capacity and are more luxurious than all rock-composed Egyptian temples of all time. They stand by their glamorous architect, nobility of purpose, magnitude of their status and the beauty of their inscriptions.
Great Abu Simbel Temple
These temples were the subject of improvement and study since the early nineteenth century, studies concluded that the great temple was dedicated to Ramsis II with the gods Amun-Re, and Hor-em-akhet (Rising Sun). Meanwhile, the small temple was dedicated to Nefertiti, the wife of Ramsis II associated with the goddess Hathor.
The Great Temple
Its façade is 33 m high and 38 m wide, the temple is cut deep into the mountain to 63 m deep. Four colossal 20 meter statues of the pharaoh with the double Atef crown of Upper and Lower Egypt decorate the facade of the temple. All statues represent Ramsis II, seated on a throne and wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. Despite the magnitude of these statues, the sculptor excelled in carving handsome facial status and managed to reflect the smile that receives sunshine. Then above the statues, titles and names of the king, the god, the son of the Sun, and the Chosen one, are inscribed. Then there is a line of sacred Serpents, then another layer representing monkeys, raising their hands in cheering the bright Sun. Over the gate, located in the middle of the façade, there is a status of Ra Hor-em-akhet. Affected by the ideas of Akhenaten, the status of the King's family, his children, beloved wife, Nefertiti, and mother, are sculptured.
Great Temple of Abu Simbel – Statue Cutting and reallocation
Then, we reach from the gate to the eight statues pillared base, rising in altitude to 10 meters, representing Ramsis in the form of Osiris, Lord of the underworld and the setting sun, and decorated the ceiling with outstretched winged hawks and the stars. On the walls of the base, there carved scenes of the Battle of Kadesh. The pillared hall is followed by a smaller hall with four squared columns, carved by scenes representing Ramsis II with the gods. In the corners of the hall, there are several rooms, used to keep the sacrifices. Then comes the sanctum sanctorum, with four statues at the front : Lord of Ptah Memphis, Amon Ra, the Lord of Thebes, Ramsis, and Ra Hor-em-akhet, lord of Heliopolis. The first ray of sunshine enters to the sanctum sanctorum to shine on the Pharaoh, twice each year on the February 20 and October 20.
It is located about 150 m to the north of the Great Temple. The façade is decorated with six statues, four to Ramsis II and the other two to his wife Queen Nefertiti, the Great consolidated with the goddess Hathor. One enters from the entrance to the Pillared Hall, with columns, decorated from the front with the head of the good goddess Hathor. Meanwhile, the other walls have scenes and images of the king, queen and several gods. The walls are rich with images of the king's life including an image of Nefertiti providing offerings of flowers, food and drinks. This hall is followed by a second hall, on its walls, there are also scenes of the king and his wife in the presence of the gods. Finally, comes the sanctum sanctorum, where there is a statue of the goddess Hathor.
Abu Simbel – Small Temple
Rescuing the two temples:
Like other temples in the land of Nubia, these two temples were threatened with flood, upon building the High Dam. So in 1955, the threats against them were analyzed to find a solution and in 1958, Project to save the monuments of Nubia was developed. In 1959, there were several recommended solutions to protect the temples. In 1960 , UNESCO invited everyone interested around the globe to participate in the rescue of these monuments. In 1963, the Egyptian government, UNESCO and concerned bodies adopted the solution of dismantling the temples and transporting them to their current whereabouts on Mount Abu Simbel at a height of 65 m above their previous level. Work started the same year and was attended by nearly fifty countries and antiquities bodies in cooperation with UNESCO and Egypt.
Upon the completion of engineering projections, imaging, photogrammetric imaging and applying all methods of documentation, about 150 thousand cubic meters of rock have been removed from above the temples. Then began work on sawing large stones of 10-15 tons per piece, overhauled and transported to the new location, where they were assembled accurately. This phase of work was concluded in 1966, and then began high technical phase to reshape the mountain topping on the temples. A great temple dome of concrete unique of its kind in 58 meter dimension was built over the great temple, while another dome, equivalent to half of the first dome was built over the small temple. then, both were covered with rocks as they were before moving the temples. Both groups were equipped with the latest methods for measuring temperature, humidity and safety against earthquakes and disasters, and to secure suitable Work was completed in 1968. Abu Simbel became a first class tourist center; it includes a power station and water treatment plant, hotels, clubs and official and otherwise institutions. The temples overlook Lake Nasser and face the daily rays of the Sun.
The operation of saving the temples of Abu Simbel began in 1964, and cost US$ 40, spent between 1964 and 1968. The whole site was cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons and an average of 20 tons), which were dismantled and re-assembled at the new site at a height of 65 m and 200 m above the river level.
The Great Temple
Construction of the temple complex started in approximately 1244 BCE and lasted for about 20 years, until 1224 BCE. Known as the "Temple of Ramsis, beloved by Amun," it was one of six rock temples erected in Nubia during the long reign of Ramsis II. Their purpose was to impress Egypt's southern neighbors, and also to reinforce the status of Egyptian religion in the region. Historians say that the design of Abu Simbel expresses a measure of ego and pride in Ramsis II.
Four colossal 20 meter statues of the pharaoh with the double Atef crown of Upper and Lower Egypt decorate the facade of the temple, which is 35 meters wide and is topped by a frieze with 22 baboons, worshippers of the sun and flank the entrance. The colossal statues were sculptured directly from the rock in which the temple was located before it was moved. All statues represent Ramsis II, seated on a throne and wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower 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.
Next to the legs of the colossi, there are other statues no higher than the knees of the pharaoh. These depict Nefertari, Ramesses's chief wife, and queen mother Mut-Tuy, his first two sons Amun-her-khepeshef, Ramesses, and his first six daughters Bintanath, Baketmut, Nefertari, Meritamen, Nebettawy and Isetnofret.
The entrance itself is crowned by a bas-relief representing two images of the king worshiping the falcon-headed Ra Harakhti, whose statue stands in a large niche. This god is holding the hieroglyph user 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 worshipping 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.s.
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 (sometimes also called pronaos) is 18 meters long and 16,7 meters wide and is supported by eight huge Osirid pillars depicting the deified Ramsis linked to the god Osiris, the god of the Underworld, to indicate the everlasting nature of the pharaoh. The colossal statues along the left-hand wall bear the white crown of Upper Egypt, while those on the opposite side are wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt(pschent). 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. The most famous relief shows the king on his chariot shooting arrows against his fleeing enemies, who are being taken prisoner. Other scenes show Egyptian victories in Libya and Nubia.