The Great Temple Of Abu Simble
For centuries, the tourist attractions and memorable landmarks at Abu Simbel remained in relative obscurity to enthusiasts of ancient Egyptian studies. All of that changed in 1813 when Johan Ludwig Burckhardt discovered the frontage of a temple, which had hitherto been hidden by sand during his visit to Abu Simbel.
Following this discovery, another trip to Abu Simbel by Giovanni Battista Belzoni in 1817 revealed an entrance into the temple. These were epoch-making discoveries and they led to an influx of tourist visits. Ever since sightseers have been captivated by the monumental architecture of the temple that was erected by Rameses II as well as his astounding monolithic statue all of which have been in existence for more than 3000 years.
Among many attractions that a traveller can enjoy in this area, The Great Temple of Abu Simble which belongs to the famous King Ramsses II comes on the top of the list, followed by The Small Abu Simble Temple which was built for his beloved wife Nefertari.
Rameses II’s Massive Temple
Located at the entrance of The Great Temple of Abu Simble built by Rameses II are four huge images of the king himself in a sitting position all carved from stone with each measuring as high as almost 66 ft.
Images of inhabitants of the ancient Nubian civilization can be found at the king’s feet which include those of his most senior wife Nefertari, his mother Tuya and a couple of his children (who were quite plenty).
Each of the king’s sculptures seems to depict him at various phases of his life despite the fact that the images were likely carved at an early period of his time in power.
If Ramses’s plan was to secure a place in history and not have his memory obliterated, then the colossal magnitude of those statues are enough proof that he succeeded in achieving this aim.
There are depictions of the gods of the period in the temple, specifically those to whom it was dedicated which are Amun, Ptah, and Re-Horakhty, Ramses himself is also countenanced among these divine beings. Making inscriptions and marks on statues is an old practice and it reflects in the statues at Rameses II’s temples too.
Some of the inscriptions that stand out are those by Psamtek II soldiers from the Dynasty XXVI and these inscriptions were done in the Greek language.
If you look up just as you’re about to enter the temple, an image of Rameses the great paying obeisance to Re-Horakhty (the falcon-headed sun god) as well as some carved baboons can be seen. The temple interior is a little more pedestrian with a design that slopes down towards the front of the temple.
Also, 4 rows of two Osiris pillars each support the roof of the first hypostyle hall. On the walls of this hall are images scenes from the king’s victorious battles over belligerent foes, often from Libya and Nubia. Further images of victorious battle scenes and the capture of enemy prisoners adorn the walls, in particular, the Northern wall shows Rameses’ most remarkable conquest at war which took place at the battle of Kadesh.
Of the four statues at the entrance, the one on the left side shows Rameses in the white crown that is characteristic of the Upper Egypt region while the one on the right shows him donning the double crown which is used to honor rulers in the Two Lands.
Further inwards, an image of the goddess Nekhbet can be seen on the vulture ceiling, just before approaching the antechamber.
The antechamber itself is supported by four columns on which are carved various images depicting Rameses the great and Nefertari (his queen) making sacrifices to the gods and performing other religious rites. Various repositories around the antechamber hold various items meant for the rites as well as some likely tributes from the people of Nubia.
It appears that the idea of a holy of holies is not exclusive to the temple built by King Solomon as recorded in the bible. Rameses the great also had a sacred inner court in his temple, located quite some distance from the antechamber.
On the inner walls of this sacred court can be found once again the images of the gods previously mentioned: Amun, Ptah, and Re-Horakhty, as well as Rameses himself, depicted in a divine form.
Within the inner court, a platform can still be found on which the sacred boat must have been placed. Also, the positioning and orientation of the temple are such that rays of sunlight fill the inner court on the 22nd of February and the 22nd of October every year. This might have been a source of some kind of mythology or spiritual significance for the Nubians.
Embellishments and ornaments adorn The Great Temple Of Abu Simble and depict the majesty and divinity of Rameses who was considered a celestial Pharaoh. It is likely that these embellishments and the aggrandizement of Rameses served to keep the Nubians in awe of their king and to make them submissive and obedient to his rule.