SUN FESTIVAL – TEMPLE OF KING RAMSES II – ABU SIMBEL
Saturday 22 Feb 2014. Abu Simbel – Aswan. As dawn breaks the magic will unfold and here we’ll witness the spectacular Sun Festival
of King Ramses II. Possibly the most awe-inspiring temple of all ancient Egypt, with its gargantuan rock-cut façade, the great Sun Temple of King Ramses II at Abu Simbel was created to revere the mighty Pharaonic ruler King Ramses II. Ramses the Bold, Ramses the Great, and Ramses the Narcissist are perhaps all apt titles for one of ancient Egypt’s most powerful rulers. Celebrating a life that spanned nearly a centenary, Ramses had plenty of time for his more than 200 wives and concubines who produced him some 96 sons and 60 daughters.
Built by Ramses II to demonstrate his political clout and divine backing to the ancient Nubians, Abu Simbel is an awesome self tribute. Guarding the entrance to the temple (built between 1290 and 1224 BC) hewn into the side of a mountain are four famous colossal statues of the pharaoh himself, which sit majestically staring out across the desert, seemingly since time began. Over the centuries, the desert sands imperceptibly shifted until the temple was all but lost to humanity. It was rediscovered by chance in 1813 by a Swiss explorer called John Lewis Burkhardt. Only one of the heads of the pharaohs was showing and only a small part of the rest of the colossal temple peeked above the desert sands. The other rock cut temple at Abu Simbel is the Temple of Hathor, which is fronted by six massive standing statues. Four of them represent King Ramses II, whilst the other two are of his beloved wife, Queen Nefertari.
In a fit of precision and architectural egotism, Ramses II had Abu Simbel carefully angled and oriented in order that the sun’s rays would align twice a year on his date of his ascension to the throne (21 February) and on his birthday (21 October) and illuminate the inner sanctum of the temple. This incredible natural phenomenon provides for a most spectacular sight, and is now known as the Sun Festival of King Ramses II. People gather before sunrise and watch the shafts of light slowly creeping through the rock hewn inner Hypostyle Hall and through to the Sanctuary.
Significantly, the sun illuminates statues of Amun- Re, Re-Herakhte and Ramses the god, whilst the statute of Ptah - the god of darkness - remains in the shadows.
Famously, the temple was re-located in a multimillion dollar operation in 1972, further up from the shoreline of Lake Nasser, which had hreatened to erode the foundations of this monolithic temple complex. For this reason, the sun now strikes a day later than Ramses had originally planned, though the event this morning itself is no less stunning.
After the grand finale, we’ll explore the site in depth with a fully guided tour of the Sun Temple of King Ramses II and also the Temple of Hathor. You’ll have time to independently explore and take plenty of pictures, before returning to Aswan. Upon arrival to Aswan you will check out of the hotel, there is time to relax and enjoy the hotel facilities (a number of day use rooms will be provided for the group). Later this evening we board the overnight train for our journey back to Cairo. Enjoy a light dinner in the comfort of your sleeper cabin. Overnight - Overnight Train