The Tomb of Ramses II in Abu Simbel

Photo of The Tomb of Ramses II in Abu Simbel, Aswan
Photo of The Tomb of Ramses II in Abu Simbel, Aswan
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The Tomb of Ramses II

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On the western bank of Lake Nasser is the temple of one of the greatest rulers the world has known. In spite of its remote location, Ramses wasn't the first person with the idea of carving a holy site out of the desert rock known as the Hill of Libations. There was a shrine to Horus at the same site when Ramses, then in the 34th year of his reign, decided that he was the cat's meow and should be remembered for all time. Ramses was big on the number four. Four corridors parallel the central hall inside, two rows of four columns help hold the ceiling up, four antechambers lead off the main hall, the second hall is supported by four more columns, there are four statues in the rear of the temple, and four giant representations of Ramses himself out front to greet the faithful and scare the hell out of the infidels. Surrounding each statue are smaller statues of Ramses' wives, daughters, sons, and in-laws. Since he went through all the bother of having their images carved, we'll go through the bother of naming the whole Egyptian Brady Bunch in order of appearance (left to right): Princess Nebtawi, Bant Anta, Esenofre, Queen-mother Muttuy, Queen Nefertari, Prince Amunhirkhopshef, Queen Nefertari twice, Prince Ramessesu, Queen-mother Muttuy, Queen Nefertari, and Princess Merytamun. As you can tell some were liked more than others and got to be carved more than once. In the middle of this royal family is a statue of Re-Harakhte safely stowed in a niche. The Egyptians were undeniably good at both architecture and astronomy, and it appears they liked to show that off quite often. This is another example. The rising sun penetrates deep into the cave-like temple and illuminates the statues of four gods on the back wall. The ancient architecture prompted a modern-day engineering feat. When the Aswan Dam was built, the rising waters of Lake Nasser threatened to swallow the temple. It was just a hundred years earlier that the temple was disgorged from underneath tons of sand. Rather than let this Herculean feat go to waste, the temple was dismantled and moved to higher, drier, safer ground. The $40,000,000.00 "rock" the temple is now carved into was actually poured out of the back of a cement mixer, but it's a good enough illusion to make the tourists happy. If you plan to visit, good luck. This is one of the harder places to get to in Egypt. It's south of the Aswan Dam, and almost into Sudan. Travel is by boat or plane, and time is measured in days, not hours. Being there brings a sense of isolation and desolation. Even in ancient times this was a remote unforgiving frontier. Not much has changed.

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