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The Other Egypt

Abu Simebl Festival 22 october 08

During the Abu Simbel Festival crowds fill the temple at sunrise to watch the shafts of light slowly creeping through the stone, illuminating the statues of Ramses, Ra and Amun and providing a spectacular sight.

It was Ramses II who, in a fit of precision and 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.

Impressively, it is only the inner sanctum that lights up, while the statute of Ptah (the god of darkness) remains in the shadows.

When they have recovered their breath, visitors can join celebrations outside, including a fair and music demonstrations. However, nothing can really impress you immediately after witnessing such a sight.

When the Aswan Dam caused the Nasser lake to rise and inundate the area in the early 1960s, the entire temple was moved to higher ground and for this reason the sun now strikes a day later than Ramses had originally planned.

To see the Festival of Abu Simbel, you can take an optional half-day excursion to the awe-inspiring Sun Temple of Abu Simbel. This is your once in a lifetime opportunity to see the ancient Egyptian architectural marvel.

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 is 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 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.

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