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    Abu Simbel    
Temples of Abu Simbel Temples of Abu Simbel
Lithograph by David Roberts

AbuWhat does it mean? Simbel is about 280 kilometers (174 miles) south of Aswan. It was here that Ramesses II of the 19th dynasty decided to build his huge rock-hewn temples. The site is dominated by a temple he built for himself and another temple that he built to honor his wife Nefertari.

The temples are major landmarks of Egypt and their grandiosity represents the mightiness of the ancient Egyptians and Ramesses II himself, as one of their most eminent figures.
They were used till the Christian era when they were abandoned as paganism faded away. The temples were forgotten till the first half of the 19th century when they were rediscovered by early explorers. At that time they were almost submerged by desert dunes.

The construction of the High Dam in the 1960s threatened these monuments as well. The site was to be totally submerged by water and be lost forever. Scholars and archeologists voiced an outcry to salvage the monuments of Abu Simbel.

UNESCO supervised and funded the relocation of the temples to a new site about 60 meters (200 ft) above -and less than 200 meters (656 ft) beyond- the original site. Steel and concrete were used to build the encasements of the temples in the new site to imitate their original shape and also in a way to preserve their original orientation.
The 4-year operation ended in 1968 and after that water rose to a higher level to produce a similar medium of the original site.

The temple was recently restored and new tourist facilities were opened in December 2001.
Lighting system and ventilation of the temple was improved and visitors' center was built at the foot of the twin temples. The center has a lecture hall and a screen room where documentaries of the elaborate salvage operation are displayed. There are also miniature maquettes of the temples.
Tourists are supposed to listen to the explanations of the tour guides illustrated on the maquettes before getting inside the temple. This will shorten time that tourists spend inside the monuments and consequently help preserving them.

There is also the amazing Sound and Light show inaugurated in 2000. It's one of the best shows of their kind in the world.

Sun Temple of Ramesses II
Temple of Nefertari

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