For those of you who are used to hearing about festivals that leave attendants covered in mud, here’s something a little bit different: The Abu Simbel Sun Festival is a bi-annual cosmic event taking place at Abu Simbel temple on the banks of Lake Nasser, Egypt. This is one festival where mud definitely won’t be a problem!
The original Abu Simbel temple was built in the 13th century BC by King Ramses II, who in a fit of narcissism and with considerable architectural brilliance commissioned the structure to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. Complete with four separate statues of himself at various stages of his adult life at the entrance, it’s an impressive monument before one even enters or finds out about the back story.
In true King Ramses style, simply building a temple in the middle of the desert would have been far too easy; instead he had it carved out of the mountainside. In addition, Ramses had the temple positioned in such a way that on the days of his coronation (21 February) and birthday (21 October) respectively, the rays of the rising sun would shine directly through the front door and into the inner sanctum. Four statues: Amun-Re, Re-Herakhte and Ramses the god, are then illuminated, whilst the statute of Ptah (the god of darkness) remains in the shadows. It’s a feat of architectural brilliance, and a highlight of any tour to Egypt.
But the wonders don’t stop there: in the late 60s the shoreline of Lake Nasser was in danger of eroding the temple foundations and damaging it permanently. But rather than allow a structure of such importance to be ruined, engineers relocated the temple further up the bank. However, they weren’t able to align the temple exactly as it had been, meaning that the sun now hits the inner sanctum of the temple a day later than it did in Ramses’ day. In a way, it’s a fitting tribute to the building prowess of the ancient Egyptians.
Celebrate the wonder of the King Ramses Sun Festival in Egypt – take a look at our homepage for more details.