Around 12 miles from Sudanese territory is one of the most well known of the
Nubian sites, the great temple of Rameses II and the one dedicated to his
beloved wife, Nefertari. Towards the late 1960, thanks to a remarkable
engineering project, the temple was cut into blocks and rebuilt 213 feet higher
up, set between two artificial hills and carefully positioned maintaining the
original orientation, a condition indispensable to allow. The pharaoh's
architects intended the sun's rays to penetrate the temple's inner chamber
twice a year, bathing the four divinities, Ptah of Memphis, Amun-Ra of Thebes,
Re-Horakty of Heliopolis and the deified Rameses II himself, in its warm light.
The temple was rediscovered early in the 19th century by the Swiss explorer,
J.L. Burckhardt, the first European since the Classical period to visit the
site. To do so, he disguised himself as an Arab. A few years later, the Italian
G.B. Belzoni managed to free the entrance to the temple from the sand, opening
the way for many travelers to visit including celebrities such as the emperor
Maximilian of Bavaria and Gustav Flaubert who, accompanied by the photographer
Maxim du Camp, left us with valuable images of the temple facade, still
partially buried in the sand.
The temple was principally dedicated to Re-Horakty and originally featured four colossal statues of Rameses II observing the borders of Egypt with placid serenity. One of these collapsed, probably not long after its erection, due to an earthquake. The smaller temple at Abu Simble was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Queen Nefertari, principal and beloved bride of the Pharaoh. The facade of the small building features four statues of the king alternating with two of the queen in the guise of the Goddess Hathor. Alongside them are the princes and princesses, sons and daughters of the great royal couple.