Our arrival in to Abu Simbel was quite something. The short flight from Aswan slammed down on to the tarmac as if announcing our arrival to the great pharaoh Ramesses II himself, whose temples we had come to visit.
The small temple of Queen Nefertari and the great temple of Ramesses II stand proud on the banks of Lake Nasser. Not that they had always stood there. In the 1960’s the two temples were moved to make way for Lake Nasser as the construction of the Aswan High Dam neared completion. Several of Egypt’s national treasures had to be protected or moved, and it is mind-blowing that these two temples at Abu Simbel are not stood the their original location, but 200 metres west of where they were built over 3,000 years ago.
Inside the great temple’s hypostyle hall, carved into the walls, are scenes from the Battle of Kadesh, depicting Ramesses’ great battle with the Hittites in the north. In the Sanctuary at the rear of the temple are sculptures of four seated figures. Twice a year the sun aligns perfectly with the temple’s entrance and illuminate three out of the four. The one left in the dark is Ptah, the God of the underworld.
Outside of the temples the heat was unbearable. It had been unbearable when we arrived, but by the time we’d finished sightseeing the temperature had risen and we had to hide back inside the Great Temple, which wasn’t a bad thing given the wonderful reliefs on the walls.
Outside the temple complex is where you find most of the street sellers, lining the path from the bus park down to the gates. Like in Aswan, and unlike in Luxor, this was pleasantly hassle free. A few kids had made it in to the grounds and were loitering in the heat trying to sell postcards. Whenever one struck lucky the others would rush over and try to sell exactly the same postcard to exactly the same tourist. Someone should tell them they might have more luck if they branch out to sell pens and stamps too.