Abu Simbel temple and Nubian dinner

Abu Simbel Travel Blog

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We got a wake up call at 3:15am for our trip out to Abu Simbel, which is some 250km or so south of Egypt, quite close to the border with Sudan. At 3:45am we took our van down to the large waiting area where all the vehicles for the day go. The only way to get to Abu Simbel is with the big convoy at that time because the area is so remote that if a tourist vehicle got stuck out there on their own then they would have a lot of trouble getting help. It leaves so early so that there is time to get there and walk around the site before the sun starts to bake the tourists into tourist-shaped biscuits.

Our driver was a bit of a maniac and we went really fast down the good road near the front of the convoy, though it didn't really seem like my mental picture of vehicles driving through a desert in a big huddle with nothing in sight. Most of the group slept all the way through but I was wide awake after a decent sleep the night before, so I just stared out the window for the three hours.

Abu Simbel temple has the same recent history as Philae in that it was under grave threat from the rise of Lake Nasser so UNESCO undertook the movement of the temple to higher ground to protect it from the dammed water. The temple was built by the infamous Pharoah Ramses II, who used the temple to threaten enemies to the south and to demonstrate that he was on equal par with the gods. When we arrived we were on the other side of the fake mountain they put together to place Abu Simbel on, so we did not have a view to it. After going through the entrance we walked around the side and had our first view at the temple face.

The front of the temple consists of four absolutely gigantic statues of a seated Ramses II, but the second one has fallen down prior to its modern discovery from under the sand in the early 1800s. It is hard to describe how big they are, it is just colossal. We sat in the shade near the base of the statues and Wael told us all about the the man Ramses II, the temple, its modern discovery and its movement to the new site. We took a bunch of photos from outside and then we went inside the temple on our own because guidance is not allowed inside.

Inside the temple was also very impressive, with huge columns and scenes of Ramses II's life engraved in the walls with hieroglyphic descriptions. There were a number of small rooms to the side of the inside of the temple that had vividly coloured depictions on the walls, and there were enough that you could be inside one on your own for a while without being disturbed. At the back of Abu Simbel is a small room where four statues sit showing three main gods and Ramses II. This was to depict that Ramses II was one of the gods. The room is very special because the sun can reach the room all the way from the front entrance of the temple in the early morning, and at a couple of times of the year the sunlight creates an effect where it crosses past each of the statues except the god of darkness.

About 500m away from the main temple at Abu Simbel is the smaller temple to Ramses II's main wife, Queen Nefertari. It has two statues of the queen at the front, and four of Ramses II. Inside there were a number of statues of her face. After checking that temple out the sun was starting to get very strong so we met back at the exit and took the van the three hours back to Aswan.

That evening we went out to a village of the Nubian people for dinner. We walked around the village first and went into a local school where a teacher taught us the numbers and the alphabet, and then wrote our names on the board in Arabic letters. At the house for dinner there was a show first, with lots of dancing and playing songs on traditional instruments.

On the way back from the dinner we stopped at the five star Movenpick hotel on an island on the Nile. We went up to the classy top floor bar and then went down to another part to get ice cream. We went outside to a garden area where they were playing the Netherlands v Uruguay game on a big screen, so we sat down and watched that before heading back to the hotel.
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Abu Simbel
photo by: ellechic