Location and history
Ramses ll’s twin temples at Abu Simbel, Egypt, were originally carved out of the mountainside during the Pharaoh’s reign in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. Their huge external rock relief figures have become iconic.The structure comprises two massive rock temples at Abu Simbel (أبو سمبل in Arabic), a village in Nubia, southern Egypt, near the border with Sudan. They are situated on the western bank of Lake Nasser, about 230 km southwest of Aswan (about 300 km by road). The complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Nubian Monuments,” which run from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae (near Aswan).
The larger of the two temples is dedicated to Ra-Harakhty, Ptah and Amun, Egypt’s three state deities of the time, and features four large statues of Ramses II in the facade. The smaller temple is dedicated to the goddess Hathor, personified by Nefertari, the most beloved of Ramses ll’s many wives. The temple is now open to the public.
The complex was relocated in its entirety in 1968, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir. The relocation of the temples was necessary to prevent them from being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River.
Ramses ll and the temples’ construction
Construction of the temple complex started in approximately 1264 BC and lasted for about 20 years, until 1244 BC. Known as the “Temple of Ramsses, beloved by Amun” it was one of six rock temples erected in Nubia during the long reign of Ramses II. Their purpose was to impress Egypt’s southern neighbours, and also to reinforce the status of Egyptian religion in the region. Historians say that the design of Abu Simbel expresses a measure of ego and pride in Ramses ll.