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Like other sites in Egypt, Abu Simbel survived in great condition until modern times. When Greeks visited the site in the 6th century BC, mounds of sand had grown so high that the knees of Ramses' statues were covered.

When Victorian traveler Amelia Edward visited Abu Simbel in 1873, the site was so captivating that it left her breathless: 'It was wonderful to wake every morning close under the steep bank, and, without lifting one's head from the pillow, o see that row of giant faces so close against the sky,' she said. 'They showed unearthly enough by moonlight; but no half so unearthly as in the grey of dawn. At that hour, the most solemn of the twenty-four, they wore a fixed and fatal look that was little less than appalling. As the sky warmed, this awful look was succeeded by a flush that mounted and deepened like the rising flush of life. For a moment they seemed to glow – to smile – to be transfigured. Then came a flash, as of thought itself. It was the first instantaneous flash of the risen sun. It lasted less than a second. It was gone almost before one could say that it was there. The next moment, mountain, river, and sky, were distinct in the steady light of day; and the colossi - mere colossi now - sat serene and stony in the open sunshine. Every morning I waked in time to witness that daily miracle.'

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