Temples of Abu Simbel
The Temples of Abu Simbel were built by Ramesses ll during his 10th reginal year at Abu Simbel which lies 280 KM south of Aswan. They were cut out of the sand stone rock mountains and designed to overlook the Nile, only 150 m apart.
These temples, the Great one and the Small one have been completed during the 23rd reginal year of the King. The Great Temple is also known as the Southern temple and the Temple of Rahorakhety due to the fact that it lies to the south of the Small temple and it was dedicated to god Rahorakhety. As for the Small temple it was also known as the Northern temple and the temple of Hathor, lady of Ebshek (The region of Ebshek lies south of Abu Simbel in Sudan).
Ramesses II built the Great temple for himself to be defied and worshiped and he built the small temple and dedicated it for the worshipping of his wife Nefertari and to become a long lasting evidence for their lasting love story.
The ancient Egyptians were not only great engineers and architects but were also great astronomers which explains how they designed the Great temple in a way in which the sun rays would penetrate into its sanctuary; about 60m deep, and shine the face of the statue of the King twice a year: once during his birthday and once during his coronation day. The whole modern world counted the Great temple of Abu Simbel as a Phenomenon.
However, after building the high dam, and due to the increase in the water level of the Nile river, the temples were threatened to be flooded and totally submerged in water and thus had to be moved to a higher location. The UNESCO called for an international operation to safe the temples of Abu Simbel. The Egyptian government received many proposals from all around the world for rescuing these temples. They accepted the ltalian proposal which was based upon cutting the temple into 1042 pieces to reassemble it on another location 200 m away from the original site and 65 m higher. In 1964, the operation started, everything was recreated even the mountains in which the temples were once carved in. They made a dome above each temple to protect the temples from falling apart and they covered the dome with sand stone blocks. The best engineers in the world succeeded in saving the two temples and the operation ended in 1968 but they couldn’t duplicate what Ramesses ll’s engineers succeeded in doing, they missed by one day. The inauguration of the temples was in 1972.
Today, the sun shines inside the temple one day before the King’s coronation day and one day before his birthday. The sun used to shine on both the façade and into the sanctuary of the Great temple, some 60m deep into the mountain twice a year. Those days were King Ramesses ll’s birthday (22 oct) and his coronation day (22 feb), where the sun would sign the three solar deities in the sanctuary Rahorakhty, Ramesses ll, Amun Re except the fourth statue of Ptah which was left in the dark.
Millions of tourists from the whole wide world come today to visit the temples of Abu Simbel which is collaboration between ancient and modern engineers.
The Great Temple of Abu Simbel:
The façade of the Great temple is a trapezoid. It is decorated by four colossal statues of the king, two on either side of the entrance. Little statues of his family are cut between his legs. The top of the façade is decorated by a cavetto cornice bearing cartouches of the king. Above the cavetto cornice there is a row of baboons statues adoring the sun. Under the cavetto cornice there is line of inscriptions giving the names and titles of the king.
The entrance to the temple is cut in the middle of the façade between the 4 statues. Above the entrance there is a recess decorated by a representation of god Rahorakhety. On his right there is an usr scepter and on his left is the Maˁt sign. All is read as (usr maˁt Re), the name of Ramsses II which means (strong is the justice of Re). On either side of the recess there is a scene of the king raising his hands in adoration of the statue of Rahorakhety.
The Interior Design:
1. The First Pillared Hall:
The entrance leads to the first Pillared hall. Inside the hall, there are eight Osirid sculptures lined-up four by four against 8 squared pillars in the hypostyle hall. The four statues on the north represent the king wearing the double crown and those on the south show him wearing the white crown.
The scenes of this hall mainly represent scenes of the battle of Kadesh and traditional offering scenes of the king making offerings in front of different gods to gain their blessings.
There are 8 side chambers surrounding the hypostyle hall for keeping and storing the offerings and temple equipment. This is confirmed by the scenes on their walls.
2. The Second Pillared Hall:
Deeper into the rock is another pillared hall. lt contains 4 pillars two on either side. The scenes here mainly represent the king and his wife Nefertary.
3. The Vestibule:
At the western end of this second hypostyle hall, there are 3 doors leading to the vestibule which in turn leads to the sanctuary of the temple in the center and to two small undecorated side rooms on the sides, probably for storage.
4. The Sanctuary:
Inside the sanctuary cut in the rock are 4 statues representing Ptah, Amon, Ramesses II defied and Rehorakhty. In the middle of the room there is the remains of a pedestal which was probably for placing the sacred bark to transport the god to the sky.