I had my first encounter with Ramses II’s temple in the 3D virtual tour section of our Encarta encyclopedia at home. During my free time, especially on summer breaks, I would go and visit the temple again and again, as if there’s something new I’d see everytime I go. Fast forward, I never thought that I’d be navigating the temple again, and this time, in the flesh! So just imagine the silent squeal inside my head when I finally saw the Abu Simbel Temples!
3:30 AM was the call time and although still groggy, I dragged myself out of the ship and on to the car that will bring us to our day’s highlight. We were given our packed breakfast and it felt like a kid going on a field trip (well, we really were). Anyway, we traveled with a convoy of buses and cars, complete with a troop of policemen. Heard that way back then, there were terrorist attacks that made this part of Egypt an unsafe place to visit. Thus, the police convoy to ensure the safety of the temple’s visitors.
From our previous trip to the High Dam, we learned that the temples of Abu Simbel were relocated to save it from completely drowning. The temple sits on its new home, some 61 meters above and 210 meters away from its original site. We arrived in Abu Simbel just in time for sunrise. The first temple we visited was of Ramses II‘s. I was astonished to see face-to-face the Colossi of Ramses, the whole structure carved from rock. It was dedicated to the sun god, Ra but the four giant statues of the pharaoh seemed to deviate from this. During an earthquake, one of the four giant Ramses lost its upper body, the rest of which can be found lying on the ground.
Inside the temple is a gallery of images depicting Ramses and the battles he won. But the most noticeable is the 8 pillars showing Ramses depicted as Osiris. It’s also worth mentioning the images and reliefs of Ra and some other gods I cannot recall. But still, I find the pharaoh the center of this temple.
Next we paid a visit to the neighboring Temple of Nefertari, the (favorite) wife of Ramses. The facade is like those of Ramses, flanked by giant statues of the pharaoh and his queen. The temple is dedicated to Hathor, goddess of love.
We left Abu Simbel after two hours and embarked on another three-hour journey back to Aswan. Before boarding the ship, we did a side trip to a granite-quarry-turned-open-air-museum. It features the famed Unfinished Obelisk. Across the street is a cemetery.
After lunch we continued sailing the Nile and by the time we reached Kom Ombo, it was bit late in the afternoon.
We got off and visited the Temple of Sobek and Haroeris, most known as Temple of Kom Ombo. The two gods, crocodile-headed god Sobek and falcon-headed Haroeris (or Horus the Elder) share sanctuaries on the twin temple, the former located on the left side of the temple; the latter, on the right. Coptic vandals are easy to spot on as Copts used the place for ceremonies. Also worth looking into was the wall illustrated with Roman surgical instruments.
Come dinner, everyone in the cruise was invited for socials by the captain. We didn’t attend though because we felt a little out of place with everyone wearing Egyptian traditional dress. :P