Guide to Abu Simbel

So, you’re visiting Egypt and you’re making a list of the most exciting and interesting places to visit. Mr & Mrs Egypt are excited to help you make the most of your next trip to Egypt by offering guides and advice on your trip.

As you’ve clicked through to this specific guide, there’s a good to fair chance that you’re interested in Abu Simbel. Well, we’d like to tell you that your interest is very well-founded as these twin temples built by Ramesses II are simply stunning and Abu Simbel fully deserves its place on your Egypt itinerary.

If anything we say here inspires you to visit Egypt with us, take a look at our custom Egypt tours, and please get in touch if you have any questions.

What is Abu Simbel?

Abu Simbel is a pair of twinned temples that were built by Ramesses II — arguably Ancient Egypt’s most successful ruler. The temples were built over 3,000 years ago as a dedication to three gods: Amon-Ra, Ra-Harakhti, and Ptah. However, it is also accurate to say that Ramesses II built Abu Simbel to promote his own power and to demonstrate the might of his Egyptian empire.

When Was Abu Simbel Constructed?

Many years of careful assessment and research have given us a fairly accurate timeframe for when Abu Simbel was built. Both temples were completed in 1244 BC, and they took approximately twenty years to build. The amazing thing is that the temples were built so long ago (over three thousand years) that there was enough time for these amazing structures to be completely forgotten about and covered in sand. And this leads us to the next topic…

When was Abu Simbel Discovered?

While it’s unclear exactly how long Abu Simbel laid under the sand, forgotten to the world, we know that it was discovered in 1813 AD by Jean-Louis Burckhardt. He discovered the top portion of the Great Temple’s frieze and began the process of organising an excavation, which was led by Giovanni Battista. Even in the 19th century, when tourism wasn’t nearly as big an industry, Abu Simbel was a popular attraction.

Saving Abu Simbel!

Some readers may already know the story of how Abu Simbel was saved during the 1960s. It may be the greatest architectural reconstruction achievement of all time. Essentially, the Aswan Dam’s construction raised water levels in many parts of the Nile Delta, and Abu Simbel was in very immediate danger of being submerged in water. 

Thankfully, the Egyptian government had help from UNESCO and over 50 countries who were invested in protecting this ancient treasure. They then embarked on an almost inconceivably difficult project to dismantle, move, and then reassemble Abu Simbel. This vast undertaking took five years and it proved to be a resounding success!

When you visit, the fact that the temples used to be in a different place is almost inconceivable, as it has been rebuilt so perfectly into the cliffside. While the original architecture is impressive, for many, the skill and attention to detail in the reconstruction project is just as impressive!

Where is Abu Simbel? (How do you get to Abu Simbel?)

You’ll find the temples of Abu Simbel just a five-minute drive from the village of Abu Simbel. Unfortunately, there are no big cities or easy-to-reach places nearby. This means that the best way to get to Abu Simbel is to first visit Aswan as you can take a road trip from the city of Aswan to Abu Simbel. 

It is possible to drive from Luxor but it’s such a long journey we don’t recommend it. A road trip from Aswan to Abu Simbel takes roughly 3.5 hours both ways, so look out for comfortable vehicles with good air conditioning.

There is much more to say about Abu Simbel, but we hope your appetite is suitably whetted! One thing that can never be conveyed in writing or, indeed, by video, is the sense of wonder most people feel when they stand before this ancient, beautiful monument. No literary or cinematic experience can actually replace standing at Abu Simbel, and we hope you have an incredible time when you visit!

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