More Than 6,500 Tourists Gather to Watch the Sun Alignment at Abu Simbel Temple
Nestled beneath the Upper Egyptian sun, on the western bank of Lake Nasser, Abu Simbel Temple is a time-defying edifice of ancient Egyptian architectural ingenuity. There, a never-seen-before phenomenon of staggering measures takes place twice a year; that is the solar alignment at the face of King Ramses II’s statue within the temple.
On the 22nd of February, the birth date of the late Egyptian pharaoh, and again on the 22nd of October, his coronation, the rays of the sun illuminate three of four statuses situated at the top of the temple’s interior, each of which is 22.5 meters in height.
In this year’s first ceremony, according to the Ministry of Antiquities, more than 6,500 tourists from every corner of the world gathered to witness the everlasting beauty of ancient Egypt. The visitors also included a number of prominent Egyptian government representatives including the Ministers of Antiquities, Tourism, Investments, Culture, and Communication. Those in addition to African ambassadors and diplomats.
During the last two years, despite the Egyptian effort exerted to attract tourists to Abu Simbel Temple, the numbers have not been encouraging. However, for the first time ever since 2015, thousands attended the uniquely Egyptian phenomenon of solar alignment. That’s surely a sign that the country is starting to regain its forgotten touristic status.
For 3,200 consecutive years, on these two specific dates, the solar alignment event takes place, and for years, scientists, archaeologists, and anthropologists alike were mesmerized by the craftsmanship and inventiveness of the ancient Egyptians. It is mind-boggling how after all these years, and despite outside factors, natural or man-made, the solar alignment always occurs.
In a display of archaeological and engineering mastery, the rays of the sun are brought 60 meters inside the temple, where the walls are inscribed with hieroglyphs detailing important events from the life of King Ramses II. With time, the rays reach for the statuses of King Ramses II, Sun God Re-Horakhty, and Creation God Amon-Re. All are lit, except for the statue of the Theban God of Darkness, Ptah. The 20-minute event culminates in the illumination of the four gigantic faces. It is a site of unimaginable beauty that never fails to make its witnesses fall in love with Egyptian history.
In the early 1960s, with the construction of Aswan’s High Dam, Abu Simbel Temple was under the threat of submersion due to the rising water levels jeopardizing the site’s structural integrity. An international campaign raised donations and a plan was put in place, the entire temple was entirely dismantled and relocated to a plateau to the northwest of its original location. The relocation has seen engineers, architects, archaeologists, and construction workers from all over the world come together on this massive undertaking, successfully saving the temple complex from drowning.
The relocation of the temple has caused the alignment to occur one day later in the year than the original date.
Ramses II was a great king, and to this day, he still manifests in Egyptian modern culture. His mountain-carved temple has helped see Egypt become an international hub for tourists from all over the world.