Friday, January 13, 2012

Incredible Abu Simbel


Check out the man sitting at the temple doorway to get a feel for the
immense size of this achievement.

Ramses II can not be ignored nor his existence questioned. As our guide loved to say--he was The Pharaoh Who Loved Himself and who trumpeted himself as "loved by Amun."Abu Simbel clearly is the most definitive example of this; although, his visage and presence can be found everywhere in the Nubian region of Egypt.

Abu Simbel represents two remarkable human achievements. It was literally carved out of the mountainside, as opposed to being built from blocks of stone in a chosen location, in the 13th century BC--a long time ago. It is actually a complex composed of two temples--the one above which was his and a second one right next door for his favorite consort Queen Nefertari (not to be confused with the more famous Nefertiti.)

Temple of Hathor and Nefertari

Do note though that in Neferatri's facade, there are more representations of Ramses II than of her. Hathor was the "cow goddess of love" whom the queens of Egypt represented.

The carving of these temples out of the rock would be a phenomenal achievement in our century. To have it accomplished 34 or so centuries ago blows the mind.

The second testimony to the ingenuity of man is that it even exists today for new generations to marvel at and enjoy. When the man-made Lake Nasser reservoir was built as a result of the construction of the Aswan Dam across the Nile River, many temples were in danger of being submerged and lost forever under the waters. Through a massive effort on the part of 51 nations and UNESCO many of the temples were relocated either in Egypt or given as gifts to nations who had helped in the salvage.

The most remarkable of these efforts was the moving of the Abu Simbel complex 65 meters up the mountain. This entailed "building" a new mountain including a concrete dome to then be camouflaged to resemble the original hill. Today it appears as if these temples were always where they are now--it is truly an amazing feat of engineering and incredible vision of those who "knew" it could be done. Today the original location is completely submerged under the waters of Lake Nasser.

Backing up a little now:

We flew from Cairo to the small airport at Abu Simbel where we were met by Mustafa who became our driver and guide. He took us to our delightful one night accomodations, the Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge which is quite unique and, in our mind, special (You might want to spend a minute or two on their website.) It's a far cry from luxury but it seems real. This is Nubian territory and so the attempt of this lodge is to give a flavor of what Nubian is. It also has its own sustainable farming program, growing the produce they use. We found it interesting to watch their farming process which is pretty inventive.


That night we went to the Sound and Light show which is said to be one of the best in Egypt. I can't vouch for that but we thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was well done. Again the dearth of visitors was apparent as the seating area is large enough for 100's of people--bus load--and yet there were only 7 of us. In fact, they normally do not do the show for fewer than 8 but somehow they took pity on us--maybe because they appreciate the fact that some people are not being deterred from coming.

The next morning we were up before dawn to be at the temples in time to see the sun rise on them. The colors change dramatically plus it is fascinating to see how the Ramses II temple was constructed so that the sun would shine directly into the temple--illuminating all the way to the back.

After watching this, we went inside both temples to see the drawings and hieroglyphics from long ago--still brilliant in their colors with battle scenes and story lines easy to decipher. Normally there are lines to go in here--but---it was just we 3, having all the time we wanted to look and explore the little rooms. I did take some pictures (without flash) even though it is now frowned upon. The truth is picture taking has just recently been stopped due to people ignoring the requests not to use flash so, I felt I was not being really bad.

After the morning excursion, we went back to Eskaleh and had a very good breakfast on the veranda looking down to Lake Nasser.


We had a short time to explore the farming process before packing up again and heading to the airport to fly to Aswan and the beginning of the legendary Nile Cruise.

3 comments:

menehune12@gmail.com said...

How remarkable I remember reading Nefertiti and marveled at the depth of construction at that time for their monuments -- to themselves! Such a great trip to document and save for your family's history. For me your trip has captured the true essence of travel - recreation/fun, education, memories, and in need of vacation after one!

sandrac said...

It's shocking that there were so few visitors; even with the political situation you would expect a few adventurous souls to check it out!

Wonderful photos; I'm envious!

Jane said...

Menehune and Sandra...thanks for reading this Sandra, Egypt is an easy flight from Italy. Many Italians to to Egypt but mostly to the Red Sea rather than the historical places. To me that is very strange.