We left for Abu Simbel at 4 am in the morning. It was dark and quite outside and we did not see many people on the road except an occasional policeman. After a very short ride, we were stopped at a check post just before entering the desert. There were a number of tourist buses and private cars full of tourists before us in the queue. We were told that the post would open at 5 am, which meant a halt of about 20-25 minutes.
It was pitch dark, breezy and cold outside, so we sat in the car and waited. I was feeling a bit sleepy so I kind of dozed off. When I re opened my eyes we were well into our drive to Abu Simbel and the day had just broken out. As I looked out of the window of the car, this sight greeted me, a beautiful sunrise in the desert.
The Abu Simbel Temples, built by ancient Egyptians in a village in Nubia region are near the Sudan border, which explains the checking and presence of Police and Army in the area. The temples are about 300 kms from Aswan and are on the banks of Lake Nasser. They are UNESCO World Heritage Site and were relocated to their present site after the original site was flooded by the Nasser dam.
For the Egyptians in particular, the temples hold a very special place as they were built in 13th century, during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II, by cutting into the rock. They were called “Temple of Ramesses, beloved by Amun Ra”. They were built to commemorate his victory in the Battle of Kaddish and to remember his queen Nefertiti.
In 1968, after the Nasser dam was built, these temples were submerged in the water and had to be relocated to their present site. Till 1813, these temples were covered in sand till they were discovered. The legend has it that Abu Simbel was the name of the local boy who guided the re-discovery.
They are truly awe inspiring structures and one wonders how they were built in the first place and later shifted to their present site. Truly these wonderful monuments should be on every traveller’s bucket list. Sadly though photography is not allowed inside the temples.
After visiting the temples, we returned to Aswan, and headed straight to quick lunch near the railway station as we were going to travel to Luxor by Egypt Railways train at 3pm. More about the journey and food later.