Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Great Temple of Abu Simbel and the Festival of the Sun

If you're fascinated at the grandeur of this temple in Egypt, wait till you hear what takes place within its walls twice a year.

The Great Temple of Abu Simbel or Sun Temple of Ramses II was built in dedication to Ramses II, as well as the gods Amon Ra, Harmakhis and Ptah.

Ramses II was one of the most famous pharaohs. He ruled Egypt from 1304 – 1237 BC (different sources state different time frames) and is regarded as the greatest and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian empire. Ramses II is also known as Ramses the Great.

Four gigantic statues of Ramses II, each more than 20 metres tall guard the entrance of the temple. It is intended that the statues unblinking stare would be the first thing that visitors, travelers and especially enemies see when they enter Egypt from the south.

The Festival of the Sun or Coronation of Ramses II falls on 22 February (Ramses II’s birthday) and 22 October (his coronation day) annually.

I was lucky to visit Egypt in February 2008 during the festival. So I travelled south to Aswan to witness this sunlight phenomena.

As I made my way inside the temple, I looked up and gasped at the sight of these statues.

So what happens during the festival?

In the most sacred part of the temple lies the statue of Ramses II, together with that of Amon Ra, Harmakhis and Ptah. This part of the temple is shrouded in darkness throughout the year.

However, twice a year on 22 February and 22 October, sunlight penetrates the entire length of the temple and floods the statues of Ramses II, Amon and Harmakhis. After about 5 minutes the light disappears.

What makes it interesting is that the statue of Ptah is never hit by the sunlight because Ptah is the god of darkness. Cool, huh?!

This is one of the reasons thousands of tourist flock to this magnificent temple to witness this phenomena. Sorry no pics to show you cause photography is not allowed inside the temple.

A temple dedicated to Nefertiti, Ramses II's wife is located beside Abu Simbel. Nothing beats looking at these 2 marvels of ancient architecture with your own eyes. The feeling of owe and wonder never seizes to amaze me.

A = Cairo, B = Aswan, C = The Great Temple of Abu Simbel

The Great Temple of Abu Simbel is located beside Lake Nasser. Its rising waters used to threaten the temple. What happened next became one of the greatest stories in archeological history, which I'll tell you about in my next entry.


JIPP said...

Wohooo! You’ve been to Egypt! Although I’m sorta big fan of ancient history, I hv problems remembering all those king names and princes and princesses and their royal clans etc. Thanks for sharing this.

Julie Lim said...


I have had an interest in egyptology since I was a kid. So remembering the names is not a problem, at least for the more popular gods and pharoahs.

My heart was sadden when I read that some of the artifacts in the Egyptian Museum were damaged in the recent riots that ousted Hosni Mubarak. These protestors don't seem to value and appreciate these priceless treasures!

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