Temples at Abu Simbel
Abu Simbel, Egypt
Temples at Abu Simbel Reviews
Jul 20, 2007
Lonely Planet told me that a trip to Abu Simbel was easily the highlight of any trip to Egypt. I want put out some information to help you decide whether or not the hike is worth it.
First of all, it is indeed a hike. I took a hotel sponsored van which was part of the first daily convoy to Abu Simbel from Aswan which was about 3.5 hours one way. Visitors like me from Aswan were required to travel in convoys for security reasons. Yes, Egypt has been having trouble in the past few years (2005, 2006) with Islamists targeting tourists with explosives and has therefore upped the security in this region as well as in the Sinai. The ironic part of all of this is that now, a large group, say 6 vans and 10 charter buses, full of tourists now departs on a regular schedule every day with only a lead and maybe a chase car of Egyptian police/military. Personally I felt less than secure by this.
The good news is that even the budget hotels in Aswan can arrange a driver for your group. You have the option to stay in Abu Simbel itself, which is a small town with little more than hotels and an airport. I would have flown had I not also intended to go to Aswan and Luxor as well. Domestic flights on Egypt Air from Cairo down the Nile are relatively cheap and very much worth it compared to extremely long train rides.
The location of the temples after being moved places them on a cliff over looking Lake Nasser with its bright blue water. The reliefs in the temple depict Ramses II single handedly dominating the Nubians and other tribes/nations of his reign. This is wholly ironic because the temple was moved away from the rising waters of Lake Nasser which was created after the Egyptian government decided to dam the Nile, thus flooding and destroying lower Nubia, once inhabited by scores of Nubian farmers who at one time reaped the benefits of the Nile river valley. After thousands of years the Egyptians are still dominating their southern neighbors.
The disappointing history aside, Abu Simbel in lower Nubia (Upper Egypt) is still and exciting sight. The Great Temple of Ramses II was amazing. The Temple of Nefertari lies right next to the Great Temple of Ramses II. I am not sure whether the temples were originally situated together but now the history buffs can kill two birds with one stone by visiting the king’s and his wife’s self glorification temples in one visit. I do not know too much about ancient Egypt but I will say that the reliefs in the inner chambers are just as moving as the Colossi of Ramses sitting on the outside. The pictures I include should speak for themselves. There is however no pictures taken of the inside of the two temples because of the lighting restrictions but be assured that they are detailed, and for the most part intact.
The precision that was used in reconstructing the temple after it was moved out of the path of rising lake-overflow is astonishing. From my memory the only truly noticeable cuts in the temple are on the mountain into which temple was carved, which is now marred by a checkerboard of rock slicings. In the entrance buildings before you buy your tickets, there is a detailed step by step description of the temple relocation process. These posters are interesting but the English grammar and spelling is at times so bad that it's hard to understand.
The Graffiti from 19th century discoverers tattooed on the hieroglyphics is annoying but for the most part, able to be overlooked. Because you have to come all in one of two daily convoys, this site is crawling with tourists. It is impossible to get a picture of anything without people in the background. The security cameras, chain-linked fences and pretty flower gardens make this site very unnatural. There is in no way the Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider feeling of entering other Egyptian temples and ruins.
Abu Simbel is located on the Sudanese border below the tropic of cancer. It is HOT, even at 9:00am. I went in the summer, though, and managed to survive just fine. I prefer the “tough it out” method but keep in mind how sweaty you get because there’s a 3-4 hour ride back to Aswan in a crowded 15 passenger van that they amazingly fit 17 people into. The admission and transportation prices were expensive by Egyptian standards because it is a massive tourist operation/trap. This being said, it is quite cheap for American tourist standards. Everything related to ancient Egypt is this way, compared to the pennies one pays for the other less visited attractions (i.e. spending a weekend on the Red Sea or on a Western Desert safari).
In conclusion, if you are on one of those comfortable charter bus tour groups, Abu Simbel is a natural choice for a day’s excursion. If you are like me and prefer to hitch hike around, this may be worth skipping. These are however two of the most famous temples in Upper Egypt but there are just as extravagant temples around Aswan (Philae, Edfu, Esna) and of course in Luxor.
Part of the Studying in Cairo, Egpyt travel blog
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Nov 27, 2007
Truely great experience.Came in on a Boat on Lake Nasser.Need at least a Minimun of one hour to see the Temples.Professional Photo can be taken well worth it.
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