The Temples Of Abu Simbel

The Temples of Abu Simbel are often overlooked by travelers for the more popular Pyramids of Giza, but it considered one of the most beautiful places in Egypt. To be completely honest, I never heard of it until we were going over the itinerary and it was on there. The temples of the Abu Simbel temples are two massive rock temples. The temples, located in southern Egypt near Sudan, were built in the 13th Century as a lasting monument to the king Pharaoh Ramesses II and his queen Nefertari. The temples also commemorate his victory at the battle of Kadesh in 1274 BCE. Ramesses chose the site near the Sudanese border because it was already sacred to Hathor, goddess of motherhood, joy, and love. This act only strengthened his divinity in the eyes of his people. Construction of the temple was completed around 1244 BC, but over time, the temples fell into disuse. Sand, ever-present in Egypt, began to cover the temple and by the 6th century BC the statues were covered to their knees. It wasn't until 1813 when Jean-Louis Burckhardt, a Swiss orientalist, found the top of the temple. Legend has it, he was guided to it by a boy named Abu Simbel, and so named it after him. Burckhardt discussed his findings with Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni who was able to finally enter the complex in 1817. It has been admired by anthropologists, historians, and tourists alike ever since.
To get to Abu Simbel, you can either fly or travel by bus from Aswan. Since you need to be a licensed operator to get through security checkpoints, you can't simply rent a car and do the drive yourself. Our bus left bright and early at 3:30 am and was a three-hour drive to the temple. It's a boring ride with deserts all around, be sure to bring a travel pillow and download our favorite Netflix shows to your device for the bus ride. However, if it's going to be a particularly hot day, you may get lucky and see a mirage. Everywhere you look at Abu Simbel, there is something grandiose. It was difficult to wrap my head around the ability to create these temples with such detail without the technology that we have today.
Fortunately, they have recently (as of 2019) started to allow people to take photos within the temple. You have to pay 300 Egyptian pounds for a ticket to do so though. The ticket can be split within a couple you just have to take photos one at a time, otherwise, the guards will yell at you. Unfortunately for me, I went during a time that photos were not allowed at all. (I guess this means I'll have to go back, right?) Once you pass through the entrance, there are engravings showing Ramesses and Nefertari paying homage to the gods. On the north wall is a detailed story of the victory at Kadesh. The smaller temple nearby has six colossi in the front façade – four which are the king, two are Queen Nefertari. This is a unique ode to the queen, typically women are represented on a much smaller scale than the Pharaoh. Nerfertari’s tomb is not in Abu Simbel, but rather in the Valley of the Queens. Today, Abu Simbel is the most visited ancient site Egypt after the Great Pyramids of Giza, and for good reason. I was truly impressed with not only the size but the engineering that went into the temple – both when it was built and when it was moved – as well. Stepping into the temple is like stepping back in time. While you’re there, put the camera down, lift your head up, and embrace ancient Egypt and all its glory.