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The following feature on Abu Simbel can be found at Wilson's Almanac's Book of Days - entry for 22 February

Festival of Perpendicular Sun

Illumination the Inner Sanctum of Ramses II, Abu Simbel Temple, Egypt (also October 22)

"The archaeological complex of Abu Simbel comprises two massive rock temples in southern Egypt on the western bank of the Nile. It is a part of the Nubian Monuments UNESCO World Heritage Site, which runs from Abu Simbel downriver as far as Philae.

The twin temples were carved out of the mountainside by Pharaoh Ramses II in the 13th century BC to intimidate his Nubian neighbors and as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari.


"Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was dismantled and reassembled in a new location - 65 m higher and 200 m back from the river - to save the temples from the rising water levels caused by the construction of the Aswan High Dam."

Source: Wikipedia

"Ramses II, in a fit of precision and despotic architectural egotism, carefully angled his temple at Abu Simbel so that the inner sanctum would light up twice a year: once on the anniversary of his rise to the throne, and once on his birthday. The combination of human endeavour and natural phenomena provides what must be one of the most spectacular sights in the world.

"Crowds pack in to the temple before sunrise and watch the shafts of light slowly creeping through the stone. Eventually, statues of Ramses, Ra and Amun are illuminated in the inner sanctum (the statute of Ptah - the god of darkness - remains in the shadows). When they have recovered their breath, spectators can join celebrations outside, including a fair and music demonstrations. However, nothing can really impress you immediately after witnessing such a sight.

"The Abu Simbel temple was built by Ramses II (1279-1213 BC) to demonstrate his political clout and divine backing to the ancient Nubians. On each side of the temple, which was carved into a sandstone cliff overlooking the Second Cataract of the Nile, sit a pair of colossal statues of him, more than 65 feet tall. Though the statues have been damaged in earthquakes since their construction, they remain an awe-inspiring, tremendous sight. The temple is aligned to face the east, and above the entrance sits a niche with a representation of Re-Horakhty, an aspect of the sun-god.

"In the early 1960s the entire temple was moved to higher ground, a task requiring considerable international engineering resources, when the Aswan Dam caused the Nasser lake to rise and inundate the area. For this reason, the sun now strikes a day later than Ramses had originally planned, though the event itself is no less stunning."   Source

"The most remarkable feature of the site is that the temple is precisely oriented so that twice every year, on 22 February and 22 October, the first rays of the morning sun shine down the entire length of the temple-cave to illuminate the back wall of the innermost shrine and the statues of the four gods seated there [see 1. photograph of the sunlight shining in]. Precisely this same effect was apparently also fundamental to the design of the artificial cave of Newgrange in Ireland."   Source

"Abu Simbel was first reported by J. L. Burckhardt in 1813, when he came over the mountain and only saw the facade of the great temple as he was preparing to leave that area via the Nile. The two temples, that of Ramesses II primarily dedicated to Re-Harakhte, and that of his wife, Nefertari dedicated to Hathor, became a must see for Victorians visiting Egypt, even though it required a trip up the Nile, and often they were covered deeply in sand, as they were when Burckhardt found them."  Source

"The main temple was dedicated to Ramesses II and to the four universal gods Ptah, Re-Harakhte, Amun-Re, and to Ramesses II himself. Of the seven temples he built, Abu Simbel is considered to be the most impressive

"Above the doorway in a niche stands the sun god, a falcon headed representation of Ramesses, holding a war-scepter which shows the head and neck of an animal which is read as user, in his right and a figure of Ma'at in his left. This cleverly creates the Kings throne name of User-Ma'at-Re. At the top of the facade is a row of baboons which are thought to be greeting the morning sun and indeed the monument looks best at that time

"A Solstices occurs twice a year on or about February 20-22nd and October 20-22nd when the rays from the sun enter the front of the temple and bathe the statues of the Gods 200 feet inside the temple with light. Interestingly enough, all but Ptah, the source of Chthonian life."   Source
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