Saturday, May 29, 2004

Egypt - Abu Simbel

I got up frightfully early in the morning without a complaint. I was going to see Abu Simbel. How could I feel bad? It didn't matter that I was still sick, tired from heat and lack of sleep. How many times in life does one get to see such monumental structure?
The flight to Abu Simbel was a very short one. We landed, directly boarded bus, and was there. We approached the site from the back so it was impossible to see anything, but a glimpse of the Nasser lake...then I saw. The colossal statues. I had read and seen many pictures about Abu Simbel, but I was not prepared for the sight in front of me.

Side view of Abu Simbel
What was I expecting? I am not sure, but not this. This incredible structure that is supposedly cut into the mountain in olden days. Of course, this temple too had to be relocated due to the flooding by the construction of the dam. That is something I did not know. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to move this incredible place.
The front entance of Abu Simbel
If "awe-inspiring" is what it was trying to achieve, Abu Simbel did just that. I can clearly see Ramses II's personality. He wanted to inspire and he certainly achieved it. As we walked into the temple through the seemingly narrow entrance (compared to the whole structure I mean), we come face to face with the colossal columns. The colors of ceiling reliefs are still visible and each columns, 8 total leading to the inner chamber is decorated with hieroglyphs.
The columns of Abu Simbel
There are images of Ramses II everywhere. The columns themselves depicted him...His power. I am told that the commoners could enter this part of the temple. It would have been like the people of Medieval era entering the Cathedral. How they must have truly believed the god-Pharaoh Ramses II.  

The columns of Abu Simbel
Past the columns, one can see the numerous wall reliefs of Ramses II's deeds...his battles, his victories, his power. Each relief tells a story. I cannot be sure how many of such stories are actually true, but even if they told half the story, how grand his life must have been?

Wall reliefs at Abu Simbel
One famous battle Ramses II had was that at Kaddish with Hitites. It is told that he had won the battle with the help of God Ra. The battle had been almost lost. He had been outnumbered...but he rode through, to the enemies, his shields shining, his stance never faltering... 

Ramses II at Battle of Kaddish
Another story of Ramses II's battle with Nubians. He is the mighty king. Even I started to believe as I moved from one scene to another of his valor. It didn't help that he was looking down from each columns and each wall.
The battle with Nubians
It is told that only two days out of the whole year, the sun goes through the temple. It shines into this inner chamber where four figures reside. One, of course is Ramses...a deified version of himself. The most extraordinary fact about this inner chamber is that the sun's ray only touches three of the figures. The dark god Ptah is never touched. The temple had been set on exact location and height to be able to achieve this. Even modern science seem to have failed on this. When the temple was moved, because of the height difference and slight change of location, the day that sun shines through the temple is off by few days.   

Inner chamber of Abu Simbel
Ramses II had many wives and many sons and daughters, but his first wife, Nefertari had been the one he never forgot. It is perhaps she who had made him have so many wives. He could not forget her. She had been older than him, but that had not mattered. She is only one who in the history who had been deified by her husband.

I cannot imagine such love. There are remaining records of love letters between Ramses and Nefertari. Love letters! Can you imagine? This is from the Pharaoh...the almighty king of Egypt.

The outside wall relief of temple of Nefertari

Nefertari's temple was on a much smaller scale, but still exquisitely beautiful. If the theme of the Temple of Ramses had been that of valor and power, her temple was that of beauty, refinement, peace, love...

Entrance to the temple of Nefertari
 Entrance to the temple of Nefertari
Inside the temple. the columns are decorated with the goddess Hathor, of song, love...The temple reliefs do not speak of wars...but instead of peace, music, love and forgiveness.    

Inside the temple of Nefertari
After the tour of both temples, we sat in the shade in front of the large man-made lake Nasser. The dam had created this and I wondered what still lay below the depths of those tranquil waters.

View of Lake Nasser from the temple
Books related to Abu Simbel


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