Abu Simbel Temples in southern Egypt and they are featured in nearly all of our Egypt tour packages and also in many of our Nile River cruises. They really should be right up there at the top of your list of must-see Egypt attractions. This is particularly true if you are looking to explore Egypt’s ancient pyramids, tombs and temples. Carved out of the rock, the temples were constructed not only to serve as a place of worship, but also as a lasting monument to Ramesses the Great and his beloved wife, Queen Nefertari.
The Abu Simbel Temples are located on the west bank of the Nile River, approximately 230 km southwest of Aswan in an area known a Nubia.
Today they are a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with a number of other UNESCO sites in Nubia from Abu Simbel Temples to Philae Temple near Aswan. Collectively, these are known as the “Nubian Monuments” and they are by far the best attractions in Aswan.
A Brief History Of Abu Simbel Temples
Work on the Abu Simbel Temples, which were to be carved out of the mountainside, started in 1264 BCE during the reign of King Ramesses the Great. While the exact completion date isn’t known, archeologists are relatively certain that they had been completed by 1244 BCE.
Like all temples, the Abu Simbel temples were built for worship, but most historians believe they were also designed to impress Egypt’s neighbors, and to further emphasize the importance of traditional Egyptian religion.
In 1968 the entire complex was relocated to a man-made hill above the reservoir of the Aswan High Dam. Had the temples not been moved, they would have disappeared into the rising waters of Lake Nasser following the completion of the new dam.
Ironically, by the 6th century BCE, the majestic temples had been abandoned, and they had already become partially buried under the desert sands. Slowly but surely they vanished from sight, only to be discovered more than 2000 years later in 1813 when the top frieze of the main temple was spotted sticking out of the sand by a Swiss explorer.
After a failed first attempt to gain entry into the ancient temples, JL Burckhardt returned to the site for a second time and in 1817 he successfully entered them. Unfortunately, as has happened often in Egypt’s long history, he took everything that he could carry with him, essentially looting the temples.
Visiting The Rock Carved Temples Of Abu Simbel
Visitors to the Abu Simbel Temples will immediately notice that one temple is considerably bigger than the other, with the larger of the two being the temple of Ramesses II, and the smaller one being the temple of his wife, Queen Nefertari.
While the Pharaoh’s temple was larger than that of his wife, statues of Ramesses II and Nefertari are of equal size. Histororians believe this shows just how much he loved and respected his wife.
This is something which is unique to pharaoh Ramesses II.
Because of its distance from Aswan, quite a few independent travelers tend to exclude a visit to the site. This is a shame really because it really is one of the most fascinating Aswan tourist attractions. With that having been said, many of our Nile cruises from Aswan to Luxor do include a visit to Abu Simbel Temples, as do many of our Nile cruises from Luxor to Aswan.