The cave temple of Pharaoh Ramses II in Abu Simbel is one of the most famous monuments of ancient Egyptian culture. Huge, 20 meter high statues of the pharaoh Ramses II, framing the entrance to the temple, today have become the same symbols of Egypt as the pyramids and sphinx. From many covers of guidebooks, the formidable face of this powerful pharaoh, a courageous warrior, a favorite of the gods, looks at us.
Abu Simbel is probably the most investigated monument of Ancient Egypt. The fact is that in the late 1950s, during the construction of the Aswan Hydroelectric Power Station, Abu Simbel was in the territory of the future reservoir, and he was threatened with complete flooding. Various rescue projects have been developed to save the world famous monument, including the creation of an underwater glass dome over the temple. But as a result, they decided to disassemble all the facilities of the complex and move them to a higher place. The salvation of Abu Simbel is the most expensive project of UNESCO. This unprecedented action was carried out in four years, and experts from fifty countries of the world took part in it.
Monuments of Egypt – Abu Simbel in Egypt
Researchers studying the monument during these works were amazed at the vast amount of knowledge that the ancient Egyptian masters used to create such a grandiose structure. UNESCO experts concluded that the lines of the facades of the Big and Small churches ran parallel to cracks in the rocky ground and thus solid rocks served as a natural support of giant statues. During the construction of the cave temple, architects took into account the natural properties of the soil – the layers of sandstone in it were bonded with iron oxide, as a result of which the layers were almost not subject to destruction. In addition, iron oxide enriched the palette of stone, giving sandstone a wide variety of shades. The ensemble of Abu Simbel is formed by two buildings: the Great Temple dedicated to the very pharaoh Ramses II and the three gods: Amon, Ra-Khorakht and Ptah, and the Small Temple, erected in honor of the goddess Hathor,
The entrance to the temple of Abu Simbel is oriented east. Twice a year, on March 21 and September 21, at 5 hours 58 minutes, a ray of sun crosses a line located 65 m from the entrance to the temple and illuminates the left shoulder of Amon-Ra and Ramses II. After a few minutes, the beam moves and illuminates Harmakis, and after 20 minutes the light disappears. Noteworthy is the fact that light never hits Ptah. After all, Ptah is the ruler of the underworld and the sun does not need him; he must forever remain in darkness.
Abu Simbel Temples
Despite the fact that the Great Temple, in addition to the deified Pharaoh Ramses, was dedicated to three more gods, the whole idea of the construction is the exaltation of Ramses II. This is especially emphasized by the facade of the temple, carved into the rock mass in the form of a traditional pylon – only of unimaginable size, where the entrance to the sanctuary is framed by four gigantic, twenty-meter-high figures of Ramses II. The masters succeeded at this scale of the statues of the seated pharaoh, carved from hard sandstone, to maintain portrait similarity. The technique of making figures of such proportions amazes and delights. After all, it was possible to make them only by perfectly mastering the system of proportions, which establishes the exact relations between the dimensions of the figure and each of its parts.
The huge statues of Ramses were visible from afar to everyone floating on the Nile. And when the first rays of the sun appeared over the horizon, colossi were painted in dark red color, standing out sharply against the background of the blue-black shadows cast by them.
The small temple of Abu Simbel is dedicated to the goddess Hathor. It is much simpler and more modest than the Bolshoi, and consists of a columned hall carved into the rocks and a sanctuary with three niches. The facade of the Small Temple is decorated with six figures made in full growth. Between the statues of Pharaoh Ramses II, statues of his wife Nefertari-Merenmut are placed here. The sculptures stand in deep shaded niches, due to which a play of light and shadow is created in the rays of the sun, enhancing the impression of these monumental figures. An inscription is carved on one of the columns of the Small Temple: “Ramses, a strong truth, a favorite of Amon, created this divine home for his beloved wife Nefertari.” In front of her was Pharaoh Ramses II, who was, as it were, under the protection of the goddess.
Ramses, constantly taking care of his own glorification, ordered the construction of a temple, next to his masterpiece, of much smaller size (no more than 10 m long), dedicated to his wife Nefertari: in Egypt, no wife of the pharaoh was ever depicted on the facade of the temple, only the wife of Ramses II awarded this honor. Today, Abu Simbel Temple, saved by the efforts of many people from flooding, has become a pilgrimage site for tourists from all over the world. In Abu Simbel, this miracle of ancient Egyptian art appears before them personally. At the same time, it is also a monument to the efforts of those people from fifty countries who united to save Abu Simbel. Well, as the President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, said about this, “nations are able to work miracles when they unite with good intentions.”