Abu Simbel

The temple of Abu Simbel, in the heart of the Nubian territory, almost at the frontier with Sudan, still defies the centuries. It was the most imposing construction of the greatest pharaoh in Egyptian history, Ramses II, who had it carved directly into the rocky mass of the mountain. The façade, 31 meters high, consists of four colossal statues of the seated Ramses II.

Once the ancient kingdom of Kush, Nubia is the stretch of land next to the Nile from Aswan down to Khartoum in the south. Nubians are depicted in many tomb paintings and reliefs. Usually as mercenaries or traders. Nubians still have distinct traditions, architecture and languages, even though many migrated either to Aswan and Kom Ombo or south to Sudan after Lake Nasser swamped much of their traditional homeland. Nubia contains dozens of sites of archaeological interest – 24 temples, as well as fortresses and tombs, were menaced by the waters of the High Dam, including Dendour, Ellessiya, Amada and Wadi al-Sebowa. Some have been moved, most notably Philae, Kalabsha and Abu Simbel, and other salvage and restoration operations are in train; the Nubian Museum is being built near Aswan to house rescued artifacts. Today you can take a luxury cruise round Lake Nasser and discover the “New Nubia”, viewing temples that, because of their former inaccessibility, have rarely been seen since the beginning of the nineteenth-century.

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