Abu Simbel are two massive rock-cut temples in the village of Abu Simbel ( Aswan Governorate, Upper Egypt, near the border with Sudan. They are situated on the western bank of Lake Nasser, about 230 km (140 mi) southwest of Aswan (about 300 km (190 mi) by road). The complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century BC, during the 19th Dynasty reign of the Pharaoh Ramesses II. They serve as a lasting monument to the king Ramesses II. His wife Nefertari and children can be seen in smaller figures by his feet, considered to be of lesser importance and were not given the same position of scale. This commemorates his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. Their huge external rock relief figures have become iconic.
The complex was relocated in its entirety in 1968 under the supervision of a Polish archaeologist, Kazimierz Michałowski, from the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology University of Warsaw, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir. The relocation of the temples was necessary or they would have been submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam on the River Nile. The project was carried out as part of the UNESCO Nubian Salvage Campaign. The entire complex was cut into pieces, moved quite a distance up the hillside and reconstructed exactly as it was originally. This was an amazing feat.
THE GREAT TEMPLE STANDS 98 FEET (30 METRES) HIGH WITH FOUR SEATED COLOSSI DEPICTING RAMESSES II FLANKING THE ENTRANCE.
Above is the Queen’s Temple
Iit It is agreed that it took twenty years to create the complex and that the temples are dedicated to the gods Ra-Horakty, Ptah, and the deified Ramesses II (The Great Temple) and the goddess Hathor and Queen Nefertari, Ramesses’ favorite wife (The Small Temple). While it is assumed that the name, `Abu Simbel’, was the designation for the complex in antiquity, this is not so. Allegedly, the Swiss explorer Burckhardt was led to the site by a boy named Abu Simbel in 1813 CE and the site was then named after him. Burckhardt, however, was unable to uncover the site, which was buried in sand up to the necks of the grand colossi and later mentioned this experience to his friend and fellow explorer Giovanni Belzoni. It was Belzoni who uncovered and first excavated (or looted) Abu Simbel in 1817 CE and it is considered likely that it was he, not Burckhardt, who was led to the site by the young boy and who named the complex after him. As with other aspects regarding Abu Simbel (such as the date it was begun), the truth of either version of the story is open to interpretation and all that is known is that the original name for the complex, if it had a specific designation, has been lost.