One among the famous tourist destinations of the mummified Egypt comes to be Abu Simbel which is the center of attraction for millions because of its eons old mountain-carved temples. Abu Simbel, basically has a very long history of its present existence. It is believed that it was once at the verge of being lost in history but was saved by some archaeologists. In 1960s, UNESCO rescued it from being buried under the waters of Lake Nasser.
The temples that are worth seeing in Abu Simbel are dedicated to Pharaoh Ramseses II and his wife Nefertari, and were built in the 13th century BC. The place does not have much to attract visitors but whatever it has is significantly glorious and worth a visit.
Location and How to reach there
The small village is about 280 km away from Aswan and only 40 km from the border of Sudan. The temples were earlier facing the Nile River but due to the re-establishment plan in 1960s their locations were shifted up the hills to secure the archeological site from the rising water of river Nile.
Abu Simbel can be reached from Aswan via plane, bus or boat. If you want your journey to be more comfortable then you can take the assistance of a local travel agency and get yourself a rented car with a driver.
Abu Simbel is located in the middle of the desert and thus, has a typical arid climate which gives two possibilities of its ground temperature, that is, the place is extremely hot during the day and the nights are much cooler. Very less and rare rainfall is witnessed in the place.
The climate in Egypt is hot during the summer months which give the exact specifications for a tourist to visit the place during the spring and winter seasons. Tourists are advised to wear sunglasses and hats to protect themselves from the blistering weather.
Popularly known as the ‘Nubian Monuments’, the twin temples of Abu Simbel are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It took over 20 years to construct these rock-cut temples, which symbolize the grandeur and eminence of the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II. It is believed that he desired to have a prevailing influence over the neighboring rulers and kings and therefore, to demonstrate his supremacy he had these temples built for himself and his consort, Nefertari.
The Great Temple of Pharaoh Ramesses II is considered to be an architectural wonder and one of the most majestic Egyptian monuments. Twice a year, in February and October, a solar phenomenon occurs when the sun’s rays enter the temple in such a way that they fall upon every sculpture except that of Ptah, the god of darkness.
The Temple of Hathor and Nefertari maybe smaller but is quite marvelous. The carvings on the temple walls depict Nefertari’s sanctification as the divine queen and also portray her performing rituals with her husband.
Eateries, Shops and Hotels
The place has a varied amount of local cafes along the roadsides but the journey towards the Abu Simbel is very much tiring so the visitors tend to bring their own snacks in order to enjoy the road trip. Some of the food joints like Toya, wadi el-Nil and Nubian Oasis are famous for their hospitality and quality food. But the choice of meals is limited. The main cuisines include Ful medames (mashed fava beans), Kushari (rice, lentils, macaroni, chickpeas, garlic and tomato) or Corchorus (herb-like green leaf vegetable).
The shopping locations in Abu Simbel are quite average and lie just outside the temples of Abu Simbel. One can buy stuff like post cards of the temples, t-shirts, magnets, statues and all the usual souvenirs at reasonable prices.
There aren’t a large number of hotels in Abu Simbel as most of the tourists make one day trips only. Those who decide to stay are enthusiastic about the hour long Sound & Light Show that takes place after dark. Hotels like Seti Abu Simbel Hotel, Nefertari Hotel Abu Simbel and Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge provide a wide range of activities and most offer good views of the surrounding area.
Other Things to See and Do
It can be quite an exciting and worth discovering phenomena to witness the magical features of the beautiful temples. There are the remains of a sun-court next to the Great Temple and also, the ‘Marriage Stella’ which has its own story. Apart from visiting the great temples of Abu Simbel, one can ferry the Nile River to visit the Island of Agilika where another beautiful temple rests.
The Sun Festival that takes place in February and October is an event that should not be missed. You get the chance to be a part of the local celebrations and experience the traditional ways and means of merrymaking.
The desert sky showcases the most amazing sunrises and sunsets. You can cruise the Lake Nasser or take pleasure in bird watching. This small village can prove to be a refreshing destination if you’re ready to absorb its rich history and culture.