Hubs and I caught a 10.30am flight from Aswan to Abu Simbel. From the airport, a free bus shuttled us to the site of this amazing temple. Ramesses II had the temple carved into the cliffs of the Nile Valley in 13th Century BC – yes BC! More than 14,000 years ago.
When the high dam was built in Aswan in 1972, there was a risk that Abu Simbel would be flooded. A team of engineers from all over the world moved the temple by cutting it into 1000 pieces, some weighing 15 tons, and replicated the cliff in higher land. The temple was put back together and this took about 2 years to complete and it was completed perfectly. Truly an engineering marvel.
How impressive is Abu Simbel? Seriously. When Hubs and I arrived, we were first off the shuttle bus and walked around to the temple and we were the only people there. How MAGIC. Well, it was magic for ten minutes until the sleepy security guards woke up from under a tree and walked to the temple to check we weren’t taking photos inside!
The columns stand at more than 20m and the statues of Ramesses II are so imposing. The temple was built so he could assert his power as well as celebrate his ‘said’ victory of the battle of Qadesh against the Hittites in Syria. This is the only temple where I have seen war scenes and carvings of stabbings and people getting killed.
There are two temples at Abu Simbel – one that Ramesses II built for himself, and one he dedicated to his first and favourite wife, Nefertari. The unusual thing about Abu Simbel is that at his wife’s temple, she stands almost to equal height to her husband Ramesses. This is very unusual – when depicted in statues, the wife of pharaohs usually stand about knee height to their husbands. This goes to show how much he loved Nefertari. Some say she was the only human being he actually loved. Funny that, some historians believe Ramesses II had up to 100 wives and over 200 children, and four of his wives were his daughters. WRONG! This could explain why some Egyptians are a beer short of a six pack if they are descendants of the ancient pharaohs!
The temples are massive – huge – just ginormous. You can’t imagine how imposing they are until you are standing in front of it. How on earth did those ancient Egyptians build something so colossal 14,000 years ago? Just think, the car hasn’t even been invented for 200 years. There were no power tools, machinery, trucks, or anything mechanical. Just chisels, slaves, and millions of man hours too construct these ever lasting monuments.
It was hot, but Hubs and I were both prepared for the heat – her with a wet hat, and me with a wet cotton scarf, and we managed fine.
I was so impressed and so was Hubs even though she has been there three times. It was certainly worth paying A$200 for a return flight and going at this time of year meant we were able to really enjoy the site without thousands of tourists around. Sensational. The only thing that could have made it better would be to have Mohamed with us interpreting the carvings and feeding us the history as we walked around. I’d read his papers, so I passed on what I could to Hubs.
The boys Sam and Ayman didn’t come to Abu Simbel with us. We met up with them later for our last night travelling together in Egypt. Their next stop is Lebanon to see Ayman’s mum. We decided to follow Mohamed’s tip of going to Sunset for drinks and sheesha. We caught a taxi to Sunset and we were all so disappointed to see that there was no view! No, Mohamed didn’t give us a bum steer, the wind was strong, causing sand storms in the distance. So it was windy, everything was covered in a film of dirt and no sunset. What a shame! We stayed for one sheesha and a quick game of dominoes and left.
We caught a taxi back to the Nile banks and found a restaurant that Hubs ate at 450 years ago when she was last in Aswan called Aswan moon. This was a restaurant floating on the Nile on a docked barge. The setting was a lot cooler with the breeze coming off the river. At sunset it felt like we were sitting in front of hot hair dryer the wind was so warm. Dinner was delicious. Beautiful lentil soup, and chicken kebab and salad. We moved to an area at the end of the barge and had a sheesha and great talks about family, life, the afterlife, our beliefs, etc. It was a really great night. I’m going to miss travelling with Sam and Ayman. They have been great company.
Next stop, Hubs and I head to Sinai for 5 days in Dahab.