Abu Simbel | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel, Aswan Governorate, Egypt

Luke Tomes

20 Jul 2021

About Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel is an archaeological site in Egypt housing a series of incredible Ancient Egyptian monuments, especially a number of rock temples. The most famous sites at Abu Simbel are the two Temples of Ramesses II. The site was rediscovered in 1813.

Abu Simbel history

Known as Ramesses the Great (sometimes spelt Ramses), Ramesses II is one of the most famous Egyptian pharaohs and formed part of the Nineteenth Dynasty. From 1279 BC, he built the temples at Abu Simbel as a way to immortalise himself, a feat he certainly seems to have achieved with these two vast structures and the large statues of himself which guard it.

The temples were carved directly into the sandstone outcrops located on the west bank of the Nile River, south of Aswan in the land of Nubia. These sacred temples were each dedicated to the gods as well as to Ramesses and his wife, Nefertari. The larger one, known as the Great Temple, honoured Re-Horakhti, Amon Ra and Ptah and the smaller, Hathor.

One of the most startling sights at Abu Simbel is the main hall of the Great Temple. This was also cut into the sandstone and along the hand hewn length are two rows of Osirid statues of Ramses, each one 30 feet high. Those on the north side wear the white crown of Upper Egypt, while those on the south side wear the double crown of Lower Egypt. This hall is precisely cut so that the early morning sun rays on 22nd of February and 22nd of October shine down the entire length to light up the back wall where the statues of four gods are seated.

Incredibly, the temples at Abu Simbel were once located elsewhere, but were moved – with the help of UNESCO – to their current location in order to protect them from flooding. The place they once stood is now under water.

Abu Simbel today

Today, the Abu Simbel temples form part of a UNESCO World Heritage site known as the “Nubian Monuments”. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Egypt.

Getting to Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel is a small village in the southernmost region of Egypt, just 25 miles away from Sudan. The closest major city is Aswan. Abu Simbel has its own airport and a few hotels and hostels but Aswan provides more options to overnight.

Abu Simbel is about a three-hour drive away from Aswan and there are many tour operators that can take you there.

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