Snapshot: Abu Simbel

September 18, 2020

One of Egypt’s greatest ancient discoveries, Abu Simbel is a masterclass in the grandeur of the pharaohs

Situated three and a half hours from Aswan, the temple of Abu Simbel was built by the mighty Pharaoh Ramses II in approximately 1255 BC. The site was dedicated to several ancient Gods, namely Amun Ra, Ra Harakhti, Ptah and to Ramses himself. Next to the main temple, Ramses also constructed a smaller, yet equally impressive temple dedicated to his favourite wife, Nefertari and Goddess Hathor. This was the first time a temple had been dedicated to a queen and only the second time in Egyptian history that this ever occurred. As the longest reigning and most powerful pharaoh in Egyptian history, it’s fitting that Ramses II was also the builder of its most grandiose monument.

Although records are somewhat conflicting, historians agree that Abu Simbel was once buried under years of desert sand until its rediscovery in 1813 by Ludwig Burckhardt, just a few years after he found the lost city of Petra in Jordan. Emerging from the towering sands were the four gargantuan statues of Ramses II that mark the entrance to the main temple of Abu Simbel. However, the insides weren’t visible for several years, until Burckhardt’s friend Giovanni Battista successfully excavated the site and helped himself to the valuables he found inside.

The great temple of Ramses II Abu Simbel in Egypt
The great temple of Ramses II Abu Simbel in Egypt

After walking through the visitors centre and over a small hill, you’ll come face to face with the enormous main temple. Take some time to examine the unique exterior before stepping inside. The main room of the temple is lined with yet more colossal statues of Ramses II, while every inch of wall space is adorned with intricately carved hieroglyphics and cartouches. There are reliefs of Gods like Horus and Isis, in addition to scenes depicting Ramses’ victory over the Hittites and other historic moments throughout his reign. A wander through the temples of Abu Simbel is as close to stepping back through ancient history as you can get.

Huge statues of Ramses II inside Abu Simbel Temple, Egypt.
Huge statues of Ramses II inside Abu Simbel Temple, Egypt.

Perhaps most fascinating about Abu Simbel is its placement on the land. The axis of the main temple was positioned intentionally by ancient architects so that on February 22 and October 22 every year, rays of the sun would infiltrate to the depths of the temple and highlight three of four sculptures carved into the wall. The only figure that is never illuminated is that of Ptah, God of the underworld.

Carved statues inside the great temple of Ramses II in Abu Simbel, Egypt.
Carved statues inside the great temple of Ramses II in Abu Simbel, Egypt.

For the first three thousand years of its existence, Abu Simbel was located on the west bank of the Nile in central Egypt, however, the construction of Aswan’s High Dam necessitated the relocation of many archaeological sites including this one. In a groundbreaking triumph of engineering, the entire construction was carefully disassembled, labelled and shifted to another location. This required breaking the enormous structure into individual fragments weighing up to 20 tons each and transporting them away from the lake. Once the new site was established, the complex had to be reconstructed like a lifesize, ancient jigsaw. Thanks to expert archaeologists and engineers, the re-build was executed perfectly and today, it’s impossible for the untrained eye to tell it was ever moved. Even the aforementioned highlighting of statues within the temple was duplicated, maintaining the mystique of the great temple.

An aerial view of Abu Simbel.
An aerial view of Abu Simbel.

RELATED TOURS
Travel from:Apr 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Egypt
$199pp deposit
Small Group
Moderate Pace

Small Group

From
$9,599 pp twin share
NZD
Travel from:Apr 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Egypt
$199pp deposit
Small Group
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted
From
$9,599 NZD
pp twin share
Travel from:Apr 2023
Travel until:Jun 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Small Group
Fully Escorted

Small Group

From
$9,230 pp twin share
NZD
Travel from:Apr 2023
Travel until:Jun 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Small Group
Fully Escorted
River
From
$9,230 NZD
pp twin share
Flights Included
Travel from:May 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Included
Small Group

Included

Typically $11,779
Now
$9,999 pp twin share
NZD
Travel from:May 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Included
Small Group
Fully Escorted
Typically $11,779
Now
$9,999 NZD
pp twin share
Travel from:Apr 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted

Small Group

From
$2,999 pp twin share
NZD
Travel from:Apr 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted
Small Group
From
$2,999 NZD
pp twin share
Travel from:Apr 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted

Small Group

Typically $15,969
Now
$9,999 pp twin share
NZD
Travel from:Apr 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted
Small Group
Typically $15,969
Now
$9,999 NZD
pp twin share
Travel from:Apr 2023
Travel until:Dec 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted
Typically $10,507
Now
$3,899 pp twin share
NZD
Travel from:Apr 2023
Travel until:Dec 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted
Small Group
Typically $10,507
Now
$3,899 NZD
pp twin share
Travel from:Oct 2023
Travel until:Oct 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Fully Escorted
From
$6,299 pp twin share
NZD
Travel from:Oct 2023
Travel until:Oct 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Fully Escorted
From
$6,299 NZD
pp twin share
$1999 Flight Offer
Travel from:Apr 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted

Small Group

Typically $10,658
Now
$9,299 pp twin share
NZD
Travel from:Apr 2023
Travel until:Nov 2023
Egypt
$99pp deposit
Moderate Pace
Fully Escorted
Small Group
Typically $10,658
Now
$9,299 NZD
pp twin share
Use the search bar at the top to SEARCH for your preferred destinations
Processing...