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Hotels of Abu Simbel
A hotel in Abu Simbel is an establishment that provides lodging paid on a short-term basis. Facilities provided may range from a basic bed and storage for clothing, to luxury features like en-suite bathrooms. Larger in Abu Simbel hotels may provide additional guest facilities such as a swimming pool, business centre, childcare, conference facilities and social function services. Hotel rooms in Abu Simbel are usually numbered (or named in some smaller hotels and B&Bs) to allow guests to identify their room. Some Abu Simbel hotels offer meals as part of a room and board arrangement. Hotel operations vary in size, function, and cost. Most Abu Simbel hotels and major hospitality companies that operate hotels in Abu Simbel have set widely accepted industry standards to classify hotel types. General categories include the following:
Upscale luxury hotels in Abu Simbel
An upscale full service hotel facility in Abu Simbel that offers luxury amenities, full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and the highest level of personalized and professional service. Luxury Abu Simbel hotels are normally classified with at least a Four Diamond or Five Diamond status or a Four or Five Star rating depending on classification standards.
Full service hotels in Abu Simbel
Full service Abu Simbel hotels often contain upscale full-service facilities with a large volume of full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and a variety of on-site amenities such as swimming pools, a health club, children's activities, ballrooms, on-site conference facilities, etc.
Historic inns and boutique hotels in Abu Simbel
Boutique hotels of Abu Simbel are smaller independent non-branded hotels that often contain upscale facilities of varying size in unique or intimate settings with full service accommodations. Abu Simbel boutique hotels are generally 100 rooms or less. Some historic inns and boutique hotels in Abu Simbel may be classified as luxury hotels.
Focused or select service hotels in Abu Simbel
Small to medium-sized hotel establishments that offer a limited amount of on-site amenities that only cater and market to a specific demographic of Abu Simbel travelers, such as the single business traveler. Most Abu Simbel focused or select service hotels may still offer full service accommodations but may lack leisure amenities such as an on-site restaurant or a swimming pool.
Economy and limited service hotels in Abu Simbel
Small to medium-sized Abu Simbel hotel establishments that offer a very limited amount of on-site amenities and often only offer basic accommodations with little to no services, these facilities normally only cater and market to a specific demographic of travelers, such as the budget-minded Abu Simbel traveler seeking a "no frills" accommodation. Limited service Abu Simbel hotels often lack an on-site restaurant but in return may offer a limited complimentary food and beverage amenity such as on-site continental breakfast service.
Guest houses and B&Bs in Abu Simbel
A bed and breakfast in Abu Simbel is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and inclusive breakfast. Usually, Abu Simbel bed and breakfasts are private homes or family homes offering accommodations. The typical Abu Simbel B&B has between 4 and 11 rooms, with 6 being the average. Generally, guests are accommodated in private bedrooms with private bathrooms, or in a suite of rooms including an en suite bathroom. Some homes have private bedrooms with a bathroom which is shared with other guests. Breakfast is served in the bedroom, a dining room, or the host's kitchen. Often the owners of guest house themselves prepare the breakfast and clean the rooms.
Hostels in Abu Simbel
Abu Simbel hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge, and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available. Hostels are often cheaper for both the operator and occupants; many Abu Simbel hostels have long-term residents whom they employ as desk agents or housekeeping staff in exchange for experience or discounted accommodation.
Apartment hotels, extended stay hotels in Abu Simbel
Extended stay hotels are small to medium-sized Abu Simbel hotels that offer longer term full service accommodations compared to a traditional hotel. Extended stay hotels may offer non-traditional pricing methods such as a weekly rate that cater towards travelers in need of short-term accommodations for an extended period of time. Similar to limited and select service hotels, on-site amenities are normally limited and most extended stay hotels in Abu Simbel lack an on-site restaurant.
Timeshare and destination clubs in Abu Simbel
Abu Simbel timeshare and destination clubs are a form of property ownership also referred to as a vacation ownership involving the purchase and ownership of an individual unit of accommodation for seasonal usage during a specified period of time. Timeshare resorts in Abu Simbel often offer amenities similar that of a Full service hotel with on-site restaurant(s), swimming pools, recreation grounds, and other leisure-oriented amenities. Destination clubs of Abu Simbel on the other hand may offer more exclusive private accommodations such as private houses in a neighborhood-style setting.
Motels in Abu Simbel
A Abu Simbel motel is a small-sized low-rise lodging establishment similar to that of a limited service hotel, but with direct access to individual rooms from the car park. Common during the 1950s and 1960s, motels were often located adjacent to a major road, where they were built on inexpensive land at the edge of towns or along stretches of highways. They are still useful in less populated areas of Abu Simbel for driving travelers, but the more populated an area becomes the more hotels fill the need. Many of Abu Simbel motels which remain in operation have joined national franchise chains, rebranding themselves as hotels, inns or lodges.
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The Great Temple of Ramesses II is on the left and the Small Temple of Nefertari is on the right.
Shown within Egypt
Aswan Governorate, Egypt
/ 22.33694; 31.62556 / 22.33694; 31.62556
Approximately 1264 BCE
New Kingdom of Egypt
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
i, iii, vi
1979 (3rd session)
The Abu Simbel temples are two massive rock temples at Abu Simbel (أبو سمبل in Arabic), a village in Nubia, southern Egypt, near the border with Sudan. They are situated on the western bank of Lake Nasser, about 230 km southwest of Aswan (about 300 km by road). The complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Nubian Monuments", which run from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae (near Aswan). The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. Their huge external rock relief figures have become iconic.
The complex was relocated in its entirety in 1968, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan High Dam reservoir. The relocation of the temples was necessary to prevent their being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River.
Abu Simbel temples: History
Abu Simbel temples: Construction
Construction of the temple complex started in approximately 1264 BCE and lasted for about 20 years, until 1244 BCE. Known as the "Temple of Ramesses, beloved by Amun" it was one of six rock temples erected in Nubia during the long reign of Ramesses II. Their purpose was to impress Egypt's southern neighbours, and also to reinforce the status of Egyptian religion in the region.
Abu Simbel temples: Rediscovery
With the passage of time, the temples fell into disuse and eventually became covered by sand. By the 6th century BC, the sand already covered the statues of the main temple up to their knees. The temple was forgotten until 1813, when Swiss orientalist Jean-Louis Burckhardt found the top frieze of the main temple. Burckhardt talked about his discovery with Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni, who travelled to the site, but was unable to dig out an entry to the temple. Belzoni returned in 1817, this time succeeding in his attempt to enter the complex. A detailed early description of the temples, together with contemporaneous line drawings, can be found in Edward William Lane's Description of Egypt (1825-1828).
Tour guides at the site relate the legend that Abu Simbel was the name a young local boy who guided these early re-discoverers to the site of the buried temple which he had seen from time to time in the shifting sands. Eventually, they named the complex after him.
Abu Simbel temples: Relocation
The statue of Ramses the Great at the Great Temple of Abu Simbel is reassembled after having been moved in 1967 to save it from flooding.
A scale model showing the original and current location of the temple (with respect to the water level) at the Nubian Museum, in Aswan
A close-up of one of the colossal statues of Ramesses II wearing the double crown of Lower and Upper Egypt.
The collapsed colossus of the Great Temple supposedly fell during an earthquake shortly after its construction. On moving the temple, it was decided to leave it as the face is missing.
In 1959, an international donations campaign to save the monuments of Nubia began: the southernmost relics of this ancient human civilization were under threat from the rising waters of the Nile that were about to result from the construction of the Aswan High Dam.
One scheme to save the temples was based on an idea by William MacQuitty to build a clear fresh water dam around the temples, with the water inside kept at the same height as the Nile. There were to be underwater viewing chambers. In 1962 the idea was made into a proposal by architects Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry and civil engineer Ove Arup. They considered that raising the temples ignored the effect of erosion of the sandstone by desert winds. However the proposal, though acknowledged to be extremely elegant, was rejected.
The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1964 by a multinational team of archeologists, engineers and skilled heavy equipment operators working together under the UNESCO banner; it cost some $40 million at the time. Between 1964 and 1968, the entire site was carefully cut into large blocks (up to 30 tons, averaging 20 tons), dismantled, lifted and reassembled in a new location 65 meters higher and 200 meters back from the river, in one of the greatest challenges of archaeological engineering in history. Some structures were even saved from under the waters of Lake Nasser. Today, a few hundred tourists visit the temples daily. Guarded convoys of buses and cars depart twice a day from Aswan, the nearest city. Many visitors also arrive by plane, at an airfield that was specially constructed for the temple complex.
The complex consists of two temples. The larger one is dedicated to Ra-Harakhty, Ptah and Amun, Egypt's three state deities of the time, and features four large statues of Ramesses II in the facade. The smaller temple is dedicated to the goddess Hathor, personified by Nefertari, Ramesses's most beloved of his many wives. The temple is now open to the public.
Abu Simbel temples: Great Temple
View of the partially excavated Great Temple from the right, with a human figure for scale.
Front view of the Great Temple before 1923.
Interior of the Great Temple, before cleaning
Interior of the Great Temple, after cleaning
Human figures standing at the entrance to the Great Temple, sometime before 1923.
The Great Temple at Abu Simbel, which took about twenty years to build, was completed around year 24 of the reign of Ramesses the Great (which corresponds to 1265 BCE). It was dedicated to the gods Amun, Ra-Horakhty, and Ptah, as well as to the deified Rameses himself. It is generally considered the grandest and most beautiful of the temples commissioned during the reign of Rameses II, and one of the most beautiful in Egypt.
Four colossal 20 meter statues of the pharaoh with the double Atef crown of Upper and Lower Egypt decorate the facade of the temple, which is 35 meters wide and is topped by a frieze with 22 baboons, worshippers of the sun and flank the entrance. The colossal statues were sculptured directly from the rock in which the temple was located before it was moved. All statues represent Ramesses II, seated on a throne and wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The statue to the left of the entrance was damaged in an earthquake, leaving only the lower part of the statue still intact. The head and torso can still be seen at the statue's feet.
Next to the legs of the colossi, there are other statues no higher than the knees of the pharaoh. These depict Nefertari, Ramesses's chief wife, and queen mother Mut-Tuy, his first two sons Amun-her-khepeshef, Ramesses, and his first six daughters Bintanath, Baketmut, Nefertari, Meritamen, Nebettawy and Isetnofret.
The entrance itself is crowned by a bas-relief representing two images of the king worshipping the falcon-headed Ra Harakhti, whose statue stands in a large niche. This god is holding the hieroglyph "user" and a feather in his right hand, with Ma'at, (the goddess of truth and justice) in his left; this is nothing less than a gigantic cryptogram for Ramesses II's throne name, User-Maat-Re. The facade is topped by a row of 22 baboons, their arms raised in the air, supposedly worshipping the rising sun. Another notable feature of the facade is a stele which records the marriage of Ramesses with a daughter of king Hattusili III, which sealed the peace between Egypt and the Hittites.
The inner part of the temple has the same triangular layout that most ancient Egyptian temples follow, with rooms decreasing in size from the entrance to the sanctuary. The temple is complex in structure and quite unusual because of its many side chambers. The hypostyle hall (sometimes also called a pronaos) is 18 meters long and 16.7 meters wide and is supported by eight huge Osirid pillars depicting the deified Ramses linked to the god Osiris, the god of the Underworld, to indicate the everlasting nature of the pharaoh. The colossal statues along the left-hand wall bear the white crown of Upper Egypt, while those on the opposite side are wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt (pschent). The bas-reliefs on the walls of the pronaos depict battle scenes in the military campaigns the ruler waged. Much of the sculpture is given to the Battle of Kadesh, on the Orontes river in present-day Syria, in which the Egyptian king fought against the Hittites. The most famous relief shows the king on his chariot shooting arrows against his fleeing enemies, who are being taken prisoner. Other scenes show Egyptian victories in Libya and Nubia.
From the hypostyle hall, one enters the second pillared hall, which has four pillars decorated with beautiful scenes of offerings to the gods. There are depictions of Ramesses and Nefertari with the sacred boats of Amun and Ra-Harakhti. This hall gives access to a transverse vestibule in the middle of which is the entrance to the sanctuary. Here, on a black wall, are rock cut sculptures of four seated figures: Ra-Horakhty, the deified king Ramesses, and the gods Amun Ra and Ptah. Ra-Horakhty, Amun Ra and Ptah were the main divinities in that period and their cult centers were at Heliopolis, Thebes and Memphis respectively.
Abu Simbel temples: Solar alignment
It is believed that the axis of the temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that on October 22 and February 22, the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculptures on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, a god connected with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark. People gather at Abu Simbel to witness this remarkable sight, on October 21 and February 21.
These dates are allegedly the king's birthday and coronation day, respectively. There is no direct evidence to support this. It is logical to assume, however, that these dates had some relation to a great event, such as the jubilee celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the pharaoh's rule. In fact, according to calculations made on the basis of the heliacal rising of the star Sirius (Sothis) and inscriptions found by archaeologists, this date must have been October 22. This image of the king was enhanced and revitalized by the energy of the solar star, and the deified Ramesses the Great could take his place next to Amun Ra and Ra-Horakhty.
Due to the displacement of the temple and/or the accumulated drift of the Tropic of Cancer during the past 3,280 years, it is widely believed that each of these two events has moved one day closer to the Solstice, so they would be occurring on October 22 and February 20 (60 days before and 60 days after the Solstice, respectively).
Abu Simbel temples: Small Temple
The Small Temple from below and left, before 1923.
The Small Temple after relocation.
The temple of Hathor and Nefertari, also known as the Small Temple, was built about one hundred meters northeast of the temple of pharaoh Ramesses II and was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II's chief consort, Nefertari. This was in fact the second time in ancient Egyptian history that a temple was dedicated to a queen. The first time, Akhenaten dedicated a temple to his great royal wife, Nefertiti. The rock-cut facade is decorated with two groups of colossi that are separated by the large gateway. The statues, slightly more than ten meters high, are of the king and his queen. On either side of the portal are two statues of the king, wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt (south colossus) and the double crown (north colossus); these are flanked by statues of the queen and the king.
The gods Set (left) and Horus (right) blessing Ramesses in the small temple at Abu Simbel
Remarkably, this is the only instance in Egyptian art that the statues of the king and his consort have equal size. Traditionally, the statues of the queens stood next to those of the pharaoh, but were never taller than his knees. Ramesses went to Abu Simbel with his wife in the 24th year of his reign. As the Great Temple of the king, there are small statues of princes and princesses next to their parents. In this case they are positioned symmetrically: on the south side (at left as you face the gateway) are, from left to right, princes Meryatum and Meryre, princesses Meritamen and Henuttawy, and princes Rahirwenemef and Amun-her-khepeshef, while on the north side the same figures are in reverse order. The plan of the Small Temple is a simplified version of that of the Great Temple.
As the larger temple dedicated to the king, the hypostyle hall or pronaos is supported by six pillars; in this case, however, they are not Osiris pillars depicting the king, but are decorated with scenes with the queen playing the sistrum (an instrument sacred to the goddess Hathor), together with the gods Horus, Khnum, Khonsu, and Thoth, and the goddesses Hathor, Isis, Maat, Mut of Asher, Satis and Taweret; in one scene Ramesses is presenting flowers or burning incense. The capitals of the pillars bear the face of the goddess Hathor; this type of column is known as Hathoric. The bas-reliefs in the pillared hall illustrate the deification of the king, the destruction of his enemies in the north and south (in this scenes the king is accompanied by his wife), and the queen making offerings to the goddess Hathor and Mut. The hypostyle hall is followed by a vestibule, access to which is given by three large doors. On the south and the north walls of this chamber there are two graceful and poetic bas-reliefs of the king and his consort presenting papyrus plants to Hathor, who is depicted as a cow on a boat sailing in a thicket of papyri. On the west wall, Ramesses II and Nefertari are depicted making offerings to god Horus and the divinities of the Cataracts - Satis, Anubis and Khnum.
The rock cut sanctuary and the two side chambers are connected to the transverse vestibule and are aligned with the axis of the temple. The bas-reliefs on the side walls of the small sanctuary represent scenes of offerings to various gods made either by the pharaoh or the queen. On the back wall, which lies to the west along the axis of the temple, there is a niche in which Hathor, as a divine cow, seems to be coming out of the mountain: the goddess is depicted as the Mistress of the temple dedicated to her and to queen Nefertari, who is intimately linked to the goddess.
Each temple has its own priest that represents the king in daily religious ceremonies. In theory, the Pharaoh should be the only celebrant in daily religious ceremonies performed in different temples throughout Egypt. In reality, the high priest also played that role. To reach that position, an extensive education in art and science was necessary, like the one pharaoh had. Reading, writing, engineering, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, space measurement, time calculations, were all part of this learning. The priests of Heliopolis, for example, became guardians of sacred knowledge and earned the reputation of wise men.
Abu Simbel temples: Climate
Köppen-Geiger climate classification system classifies its climate as hot desert (BWh).
Climate data for Abu Simbel
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average rainy days
Mean daily sunshine hours
Source #1: Climate-Data.org
Source #2: Weather to Travel for sunshine and rainy days
Abu Simbel temples: Gallery
Temple of Ramesses II
Earliest photo, 1854 by John Beasley Greene
Temple of Ramesses II, photo taken in 2007
Close-up of the leftmost statue at the temple of Rameses II
Central, inset statue of Ra-Horakhty at the Great Temple
Baboon carvings above the heads of the statues of Ramses at the Great Temple
View of the Great Temple from the right, photo credited to William Henry Goodyear (before 1923)
Front view of the Great Temple from before 1923
View of the rightmost statue at the Great Temple, partially excavated, with a human figure (possibly William Henry Goodyear) for scale
View of the Great Temple's colossal statues from the right, partially excavated
Interior of the Great Temple, before cleaning
Colour photo of the Great Temple from the right, partially excavated, from before 1923
The Great Temple from the right, from before 1923
Temple of Nefertari
Earliest photo, 1854 by John Beasley Greene
Earliest photo, 1854 by John Beasley Greene
The Small Temple in its relocated context, 1999
Closer view of the Small Temple, 2007
Nefertari offering sistrums to seated goddess Hathor. Frieze inside the Small Temple.
Ramesses offering to seated god Ptah. Frieze inside the Small Temple.
Inscription at the entrance to the Great Temple. Hooper Brooklyn Museum Archives
The Small Temple in context, before relocation. Goodyear Brooklyn Museum Archives
Statues in the sanctuary of the Great Temple
Interior of one of the temples at Abu Simbel, with graffiti
View of the Nile from Abu Simbel, before 1923. Brooklyn Museum Archives
Abu Simbel temples: See also
List of archaeoastronomical sites sorted by country
Abu Simbel temples: Notes
Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae - UNESCO World Heritage Centre
Lane E, "Descriptions of Egypt," American University in Cairo Press. pp.493-502.
Alberto Siliotti, Egypt: temples, people, gods,1994
Ania Skliar, Grosse kulturen der welt-Ägypten, 2005
"Climate: Abu Sinbil - Climate graph, Temperature graph, Climate table". Climate-Data.org. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
"Abu Simbel Climate and Weather Averages, Egypt". Weather to Travel. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
Abu Simbel temples: Further reading
Berg, Lennart (1978). "The Salvage of the Abu Simbel Temples" (PDF). International Council on Monuments and Sites. Retrieved 7 March 2015. - Highly detailed article describing the process of saving and creating a new location for the temples.
Abu Simbel temples: External links
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Abu Simbel temples.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Abu Simbel.
Wikisource has the text of the 1921 Collier's Encyclopedia article Abu-Simbel.
Google (20 February 2016). "Abu Simbel archeological site" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
Abu Simbel at the website of Egypt State Information Service
Abu Simbel at Aldokkan
Abu Simbel temples' plan
Abu Simbel temples images
Abu Simbel map, images and info
Abu Simbel UNESCO page
Links to related articles
World Heritage Sites in Egypt
Memphis and its Necropolis – Giza pyramid complex to Dahshur
Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
Saint Catherine Area
Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis
Wadi El Hitan (Whale Valley)
Ancient Egypt topics
Glossary of artifacts
Architecture (Egyptian Revival architecture)
Great Royal Wives
Ancient Egypt portal
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