The Splendor of Abu Simbel

Trip Start Dec 31, 2008
Trip End Jan 20, 2009

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One of the most spectacular sites in the world! The place is fantastic not only for the beautiful monuments and sculpture but also because of the monumental task it took to move these temples from their original site so that the Aswan High Dam could be built. 

We took an optional tour of the place and then learned that we could have hired a private guide at the hotel, fly on the same plane to and from the site as our fellow tour group members, and for a lower price!!!  Anyway, no matter.  One of the great things is flying in and seeing it, if you are on the correct side of the aircraft, from above.

The story of the present day site of Abu Simbel is unbelievable.  In the 1960s, with the construction of the Aswan High Dam, it appeared that the temples of Abu Simbel were doomed to vanish beneath the rising waters of Lake Nasser.  The decision was made to save them, beginning an engineering project reminiscent of the pyramids themselves.  First, movable dam walls were built around the temples to shelter them from floodwater during the rescue project. Then the facades were covered with sand to add a layer of protection to the fragile sandstone.  Guided by bas-relief maps within the temples themselves, and following intricate plans crafted by a team of international specialists, the entire complex was cut into 1,036 blocks, weighing 11 tons each.  Block by block, thanks to the labor of 25,000 workers over three years, Abu Simbel was moved 200 feet up the cliffs from which it had been carved and safely re-established above the new water level.

One can hardly believe that this wasn't the original site.  This ancient wonder, with its huge guardian statues seemingly emerging from a cliff, and elaborate depictions of famous battles on the inner walls of Ramses’ Temple is certainly impressive.  It has been said that this famed king was something of a narcissist--and we saw ample evidence of that here in the sheer number of objects depicting him, including a mammoth statue in which his head appears to support the weight of the entire temple.
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