When you see images of Ancient Egypt in print one image is often shown regularly—the temples known as Abu Simbel. This site is a popular tourist attraction and remains a popular destination. Thousands of visitors eagerly travel to see the two temples with the four giant figures of Ramses the Great seated at the entrance (The Great Temple of Ramses II) and the grand temple dedicated to his favorite queen— Nefertari (Temple of Hathor/Temple of Nefertari).
Though the temples have remained in rather good standing, the Temple of Ramses was not built upon the site it sits today; rather it was moved from its original location to avoid being submerged underwater. The temple was relocated because water was needed for the Egyptian people and the county was forced to make a difficult choice. Rather than let the lake (Lake Nasser) swallow the temple upon the construction of the new damn it was decided it should be elevated roughly 200 feet and moved away from the river roughly 650 feet. Had this relocation not been funded, Lake Nasser would have swallowed this treasure.
The Egyptian government financed the removal of the temples in 1964 for $40 million and it was cut into large blocks. The blocks were reassembled and joined together with many engineers and archeologists. Today, there is very little evidence of this move and now it is safe and enjoyed by many tourists. The only lingering evidence of relocation is seen upon entering the temple.
The temple was discovered by accident. In 1813, J. L. Burckhardt found the temple of Ramses II as he was preparing to leave the area. He spotted the front of the temple covered in sand and he had the rubble removed. After the temple was unearthed it soon became a high destination site for Victorians and tourists.
It appears that Ramses II began construction during the fifth year of his rule. During his reign, the temple was referred to as Hwt Ramesses Meryamun, which literally means Temple of Ramses beloved of Amun. Even by today’s standards the temple appears to have been constructed very extravagantly. Ramses had four large statues depicting him. Each statue is 67 feet high and he can be seen wearing the double crown (The crown of Upper and Lower Egypt). Shown to the side of each statute and on the throne are Nile gods unifying Egypt.
The hall inside the temple is a sight to see. It contains eight large statues of Osiris, four on each side. These large statues help to hold this massive temple up. The walls are decorated as well. They show the king at war during the battle of Kadesh presenting captives as offerings to the gods. This temple was designed to accommodate the sun. The axis was arranged in such a way that on two days of the year the sun’s rays enter the hall and illuminate the eight God’s of Osiris.
The other temple constructed by Ramses II for Nefertari is just as grand. It was dedicated to her and the Goddess Hathor. This temple is remarkable for the fact that it is one of only two temples known in
Egyptian history constructed for a queen. Unlike the pharaohs before Ramses II, most often a queen was shown as a smaller sized being and not hyped like the pharaoh. In the temple dedicated to Nefertari, she is equal in size and many Egyptologists believe this shows how much Ramses II admired his wife and his acknowledgement of her importance in his empire.