The main temple of Abu Simbel is a monument built by Ramesses II (1279 - 1213 BCE). It was dedicated to the Gods Amun Ra, Ra Horakhty, and Ptah. It has four huge statues of the Pharaoh on the front, carved out of the rock. They are 22 m (72 ft) high. He is accompanied by smaller statues of his mother, Queen Tuya, his favorite wife Nefertari, and some of his children, among them his son Prince Amunherkhepshef. The Pharaoh is shown wearing the Pshent, or Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.
The head of the second statue from the left is broken off and laying on the ground in front of the statue. This happened during an earthquake just after the temple was completed. Ramesses II was still alive, but he was never told about it. He died shortly thereafter, never knowing that his temple had suffered this destruction during the earthquake.
The inside of the temple is lavishly painted. There is an outer hypostyle hall and an inner hall. Behind the inner hall is the inner sanctum. In it is the Pharaoh Ramesses II, seated between Amun Ra (left) and Ra Horakhty (right). On the far left is the Theban God of Darkness, Ptah. Twice a year, on 21 February, celebrating the Pharaoh's birthday, and on 21 October, celebrating the Pharaoh's coronation, sunlight reaches inside the temple, all the way to the inner sanctum and illuminates the Pharaoh and the two Gods flanking him. The fourth God, Ptah, is the God of Darkness, sunlight never reaches him.
Abu Simbel is one of the most famous monuments that was saved from the waters of Lake Nasser, the reservoir behind the Aswan High Dam. When the water started rising, it threatened numerous archaeological sites. Members of the United Nations Education, Science, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) started an ambitious project to save Abu Simbel (and several other sites). Piece by piece, craftsmen cut the temple out of the rock, marked every piece, recording its location, and moved everything back 210 m (690 ft) and up by 60 m (200 ft). There everything was re-assembled in exactly the same locations. Two artificial hills were erected into which the two temples were placed. The interiors of these hills are steel tube frames, but the outside looks just like a natural hill.
The only change due to the move is a shift of one day in the date of the illumination, it now occurs on 22 February and 22 October.
This move, as well as moves of about 20 other temples was done in a collaborative effort of many countries. Countries that helped with the moves in turn received some important artifacts to display in their museums, as a reward for the help.
The artificial hills into which the two temples were built. They look quite real from the outside. (697k) The hill with the main temple of Abu Simbel. (675k) View of the hill that holds the Queens Temple. (719k) View of Lake Nasser that engulfed the old site of Abu Simbel. (589k) The four statues of Ramesses II from the side. (757k) Full view of the four statues of Ramesses II. (744k) Full view of the four statues of Ramesses II. (730k) The left two statues. (787k) The right two statues. (744k) Full view of the left-most statue, with the Cartouche with Ramesses' name on the upper arm and on the pedestal. (759k) Full view second from the left, with the broken-off head in front. (786k) Full view second from the right. You can see the Cartouche with Ramesses' name on the upper arm and on the pedestal. (743k) Full view right-most statue. It is missing the ceremonial beard. (751k) The God Ra Horakhty over the entrance to the temple, flanked by reliefs of the Pharaoh. (879k) Another view of the God Ra Horakhty over the entrance, with the statue of one of the Queens in the foreground. (884k) Looking up at the right two statues, with the statues of the queens and sons around the legs of the Pharaoh. (688k) Looking up at the left two statues, with the statues of the queens and sons around the legs of the Pharaoh. (759k) One of the Queens next to the Pharaoh. On the side of the throne is the God Hapi (twice), once for Upper Egypt, and once for Lower Egypt, tying the Papyrus and Lotus around the stem of the Nile. (828k) Close-up of one of the Queens. (795k) Close-up view of the head of the left-most statue. (853k) The broken-off head of the second statue. It has been laying there since the temple had been built. (741k) Close-up of the head of the center-right statue. (815k) Close-up of the head of the center-right statue. You can see the beautiful Cobra on the forehead, the symbol for protection. (799k) The upper part of the two statues on the right. (773k) The heads of the two right-most statues. (789k) One of the statues of the Queens in detail. (818k) Looking up at the left-most statue. Notice the graffiti from the 19th century on the leg of the second statue. (667k) Close-up of the head of the left-most statue. (676k) Statue of Horus as a falcon. (694k) Another statue of Horus as a falcon. (808k) Decorations around the top, showing the Cobras for protection, and the Cartouches with Ramesses' birth name (center) and coronation name (right). (711k) Row of baboons on the top of the monument. (717k) A row of captured and bound enemies, carved on the base of the thrones of Ramesses II. (897k) Relief of Amun Ra (center, holding the Was scepter), Ra Horakhty (right), Horus (far right) and the Pharaoh Ramesses II (left) in the Temple of Abu Simbel. (691k) Close-up of the Cartouches with the birth name (right), and coronation name (left) of Ramesses II. (771k) Close-up of the Cartouche of the birth name of Ramesses II. (633k) The Pharaoh holding an enemy by the hair, ready to smash him, the typical pose of the Pharaoh in a lot of temples. The God Horus is offering him a curved blade. (707k) Painting inside the temple of the Pharaoh on a war chariot. (812k) Painting inside the temple of the Pharaoh and the Queen offering Papyrus plants to the Goddess Isis (it could be Hathor). (967k) Painting inside the temple of a war scene, with the Pharaoh receiving tribute. (1032k) Painting inside the temple of the Pharaoh smashing his enemy. (666k) Main entrance hall inside the temple, with the inner sanctum visible in the back. (832k) Inner column hall with the inner sanctum in the back. (685k) Painting inside the temple of the Pharaoh on a war chariot. (1033k) Painting inside the temple of the Goddess Hathor in the form of the Sacred Cow on a sacred barge. (946k) The inner sanctum. Ramesses II (right center) is flanked by Amun Ra (left) and Ra Horakhty (right). Ptah (far left) is the God of Darkness, sunlight never reaches him. (701k)
The Temple of Nefertari at Abu Simbel
The second temple in Abu Simbel was built for Nefertari, the favorite wife of Ramesses II. There are four statues of Ramesses II and two of his wife. Unusually, the statues of Nefertari are as tall as the ones of Ramesses. The temple is for the worship of the Goddess Hathor.
The front of the Temple of Nefertari. (775k) Closer view of the three statues on the left. (712k) Closer view of the three statues on the right. (729k) Left-most statue, a statue of Ramesses II. (760k) Second statue from the left, a statue of Nefertari. (743k) Third statue from the left, a statue of Ramesses II. (643k) Third statue from the right, a statue of Ramesses II. (756k) Second statue from the right, a statue of Nefertari. (775k) Right-most statue, a statue of the Pharaoh. (780k) Relief of the Queen, seated on a throne, with an attendant. (706k) Beautiful painting inside the temple of the Goddesses Hathor (left) and Isis (right) blessing the Queen. (714k) Painting inside the temple of the Goddess Hathor. (741k) The Fertility God Min (center) and the Goddess Hathor, with the Pharaoh, receiving the Queen. (770k)