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Abu Simbel Great Temple of Ramesses II Nineteenth Dynasty, CA 1260 B.C.

 

The two rock temple of Abu simbel are located around 40 KM. north of the Sudanese border on the west bank of the modern reservoir (Lake Nasser). Originally hewn into the cliffs of the Nile riverbank, these two temples were rediscovered buried in sand by the Swiss traveler Johann in 1813. Following their successful rescue, they now stand like skittles in the Nubian Desert. Ramses II dedicated the larger temple to the national gods Re-Horakhty, Amun-Re, Ptah and his own divine self.

Constructed in pylon form, the fašade is taken up by four colossal seated figures of the pharaoh which flank the entrance in pairs. The ruler wears the nemes head cloth with the double crown and a short loincloth. By his legs are statues of the princes and princesses and also of the pharaoh’s mother and his main wife, Neferari. The upper body of the figure to the left of the entrance collapsed in an earthquake that occurred already in ancient times.

The Western Desert Oases

For the Ancient Egyptians civilization began and ended with the Nile Valley and the Delta, known as the "Black Land" for the colour of its rich alluvial deposits. Beyond lay the "Red Land" or desert, whose significance was either practical or mystical. East of the Nile it held mineral wealth and routes to the Red Sea coast; west of the river lay the Kingdom of Osiris, Lord of the
Dead - the deceased were said to "go west" to meet him. But once it was realized that human settlements existed out there, Egypt's rulers had to reckon with the Western Desert Oases as sources of exotic commodities and potential staging posts for invaders. Though linked to the civilization of the Nile Valley since antiquity, they have always been different - and remain so. Siwa Oasis, far out near the Libyan border, is the most striking example: its people speak another language and have customs unknown in the rest of Egypt. Its ruined citadels, lush palm groves, limpid pools and golden sand dunes epitomize the allure of the oases. The four "inner" oases of Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla and Kharga lie on the "Great Desert Circuit" that begins in Cairo or Assyut - a Long March through the New Valley Governorate, where modernization has affected each oasis to a greater or lesser extent. While Bahariya and Farafra remain basically desert villages, living off their traditional crops of dates and olives, Dakhla and Kharga have become full-blown modern towns. The appeal of the awesome barrenness, most of it gravel pans rather than pure "sand desert". Much nearer to Cairo (and suitable for day excursions) are two quasi-oases: the Fayoum and Wadi Natrun. The Fayoum is more akin to the Nile Valley than the Western Desert, with many ancient ruins to prove its importance since the Middle Kingdom. Though a popular holiday spot for Cairenes, it doesn't attract many foreign tourists except for hunters and ornithologists. Wadi Natrun is significant mainly for its Coptic monasteries, which draw hordes of Egyptian pilgrims but, again, comparatively few foreigners.

The desert

Much of the fascination if this region lies in the desert itself. It's no accident that Islam, Judaism and Christianity were forged in deserts whose vast scarps and depressions displayed the hand of God writ large, with life-giving springs and oases landscape was once savanna, it was reduced to its current state millennia ago by geological process and overgrazing by
Stone Age pastoralists. The Western Desert, which covers 681,000 square kilometers (over two-thirds of Egypt's total area), is merely one part of the Sahara belt across northern Africa. Its anomalous name was bestowed by British cartographers who viewed it from the perspective of the Nile - and, to complicate matters further, designated its southern reaches and parts of northwestern Sudan as the "Libyan Desert". Aside from the oases, its most striking features are the Qattara Depression, the lowest point in Africa, and the Great Sand Sea along the Libyan border, an awesome ocean of dunes that once swallowed up a whole army. Further south, the Gilf Kebir and Jebel Uwaynat feature some of the most magnificent prehistoric rock art in Egypt,
and were the setting for the events in the book and film The English Patient.
All the practicalities of visiting the oases (including the best times to go) are detailed under the respective entries in this chapter. The most comprehensive source of historical, ethnographic and geographical information is Cassandra Vivian's The Western Desert of Egypt: An Explorer's Handbook (last updated in 2000; a new edition is due in 2007), which includes many useful maps and GPS waypoints, and is available from good bookshops in Cairo.

Visiting the desert: safaris


Organized desert safaris are the easiest and often the only way to reach some of the finest sites in and beyond the oases. There are local operators in all the oases, whose contact details appear in the text. As more are based in Bahariya than anywhere else, this is the best place to arrange safaris at short notice, particularly to the White Desert. Longer trips (4-19 days) to remoter sites such as the Great Sand Sea, the Gilf Kebir or Jebel Uwaynat must be booked weeks or months ahead. Safaris to the Gilf and
Uwaynat are restricted to spring and autumn and may sell out six months beforehand. Sadly, some safari outfits fail to respect the environment, leaving rubbish behind or encouraging tourists to remove flint arrowheads or spay water on rock paintings so that they look clearer in photos.

 
 
  Entrance statue of the sun god  
  In a high niche immediately above the temple entrance is a statue of falcon-headed sun god Re-Harakhty. Looking east the divinity wears the symbolic sun disk on its head and a short loincloth.

His arms hang down by the side of his body and are supported by two hypostatized hieroglyphs next to its legs

 
  The great pillared hall  
  The entrance of the temple leads into the great pillared hall, whose function corresponds to the courtyard of a traditional temple building. Four immense a statue of the pharaoh stands against the front of the pillars on either side of the axis.

As with the fašade statues, an individual name, expressing a speci8fic divine quality of the ruler was chiseled onto the shoulder of each of the statues. the long northern wall is completely given over to scenes depicting the battle of qadesh against the Hittites , while on the opposite wall just the lower register is decorated by three large sized battle scenes of Syrian , Libyan and Nubian war campaigns

 
  Statue group in the main sanctuary  
  The temple inner sanctum is situated at the far end of the structure, which measures 63 M. in length. The entire width of its rear wall is occupied by a group of statues.

The four seated figures have been hewn directly from the cliff face and are raised forward on a shared throne bench. on the outside left is the figure of the god of creation , ptah of Memphis , next to him the national deity Amun-Re of thebes

 
Great temple of Ramesses ll
Nineteenth Dynasty, ca. 1260 B.C.
The two rock temples of abu simbel are located around 40 km north of the Sudanese border on the west bank of the modern reservoir (lake Nasser) originally hewn into the cliffs of the Nile riverbank,
 
Entrance statue of the sun god

In a high niche immediately above the temple entrance is a statue of falcon- headed sun god Re-Harakhty. Looking east, the divity wears the symbolic sun disk on its head and a short loincloth.

The great pillared hall

The entrance of the temple leads into the great pillared hall, whose function core- sponds to the courtyard of a traditional temple building.

Battle of Qadesh (detail)

No other event in the sphere of foreign affairs affected Ramesses ll's reign to the extent that the battle of Qadesh against the Hittites did. In spite of a not exactly glorious outcome,
 
Statue group in the main sanctuary

lines91the temple,s inner sanctum is situated at the far end of the structure, which mea- sures 63 m(207 ft.) in length, in the depths of the hillside.
 
Small Temple of Nefertiti
Nineteenth Dynasty, ca. 1260 B.C.
The so-called small Temple of Abu simbel, dedicated by Ramesses II to his wife Nefertari and the goddess Hathor, was con- structed slightly further north from the main temple .
 
The pillared hall

In keeping with the temple's function as a shrine to Hathor, the great hall has been furnished with six pillars whose inward- facing sides are decorated with a sistrum (musical instrument that is rattled) with the head of the goddess,
 
 
The Temple Amada
Eighteenth Dynasty, ca 1450-1400 B.C.
AThe temple of Amada is another of the Nubian buildings that were rescued. It was built or extended by three great pharaohs of the Eighteenth Daynasty, thutmosis III, Amenophis II and thutmosis IV and deid- cated to the god Re-Horakhty and Amun-Re..
 
The Temple of ed-Derr
Nineteenth Dynasty, ca. 1250 B.C
New Amada is also where rock temple of ed-Derr, built by Ramesses II, was re-constructed. Today, this temple consist merely of two large pillaread halls and a sanctuary with side chambers.
 
The Temple of Wadi es-Sebua
Nineteenth Dynasty, ca. 1240 B.C.
IN New sebua there are also a number of shrines that were moved to a palace of safety from the floodwaters of laek Nasser.
 
Sphinx of Ramesses ll

Before the Aswan High Dam was built, Sebua offered its visitors a magnificent sight nearly every year at flood time. As the water level rose,
 
The Philae Temple

The Philae Temple which was the center of the cult of Isis in Aswan was mainly constructed by Ptolemy XII and then many kings from the Greco Roman era contributed by adding more and more items to the temple 
 
The Unfinished Obelisk

It is a huge obelisk dating from the Pharaonic New Kingdom and it is located in an ancient granite quarry just south of Aswan. If this gigantic obelisk was completed it would have weighed 1.8 million kilograms and would have stood at 41 meters high.
 
The Nubian Museum

The wonderfully designed Nubian Museum located to the south of Aswan is one of the most interesting places to visit in the city. Nubia, the region located between Aswan and Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, was inhabited since prehistoric times.
 
The Aswan Museum

The Aswan Museum is located inside a wonderful garden in the Elephantine Island. The museum hosts a number of displays starting from prehistoric times till the Greco Roman era. A new section was added to the museum containing the recent finds in Aswan including a set of jewelry and a marriage contract dating back to 350 BC
 
The Agha Khan Mausoleum

Being a land mark of Aswan, the Agha Khan Mausoleum is located in a deserted hill on the west bank of the Nile. The Agha Khan III (1877 -1957) the 48th leader of the Ismailies sect of Shiites was fond of Aswan where he used to spend the winter every year 
 
Abu Simbel

The two rock temple of Abu simbel are located around 40 KM. north of the Sudanese border on the west bank of the modern reservoir (Lake Nasser). Originally hewn into the cliffs of the Nile riverbank, these two temples were rediscovered buried in sand by the Swiss traveler Johann in 1813. Following their successful rescue, they now stand like skittles in the Nubian Desert 
 
   
Discover Abu Simbel

The two rock temple of Abu simbel are located around 40 KM. north of the Sudanese border on the west bank of the modern reservoir (Lake Nasser).
Abu Simbel Attractions 

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Abu Simbel Map

The two rock temple of Abu simbel are located around 40 KM. north of the Sudanese border on the west bank of the modern reservoir (Lake Nasser).
Abu Simbel Monuments

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