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Egypt's Temple of Abu Simbel

Egypt

The Temple of Abu Simbel, built by Ramses II in about 1250 BC and relocated to the shores of dam-made Lake Nassar, is a sightseeing highlight.

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After two lazy days, we reach the city of Aswan, the last major port on the river. An ancient garrison town famed for its granite quarries, today it's embraced tourism, taking full advantage of its attractive riverfront.

These days, Aswan is most famous for its massive dam. It was built with Soviet technology and money back in the Cold War. A game changer for Egypt, it tamed the Nile providing electricity and controlling the flow of the once-erratic river. The dam created a huge reservoir, called "Lake Nasser." Its creation submerged many towns and ancient treasures. But the most important temple was saved.

To visit that temple, tourists catch a short flight from Aswan. It's an easy half-day side trip over one of the largest man-made lakes in the world.

The Temple of Abu Simbel, while originally built by Ramses II in about 1250 BC, was relocated here only about 50 years ago. 

Abu Simbel was saved from being submerged in the lake and lost forever after an international outcry. Thanks to a heroic effort, in 1968, this ancient temple was cut into huge blocks and relocated to this spot — high and dry for at least another 3,000 years.

Four towering statues of the powerful pharaoh stand sentinel at the entry. Ramses' wife and some of his children — considered less important and therefore smaller in scale — ‑are at his feet. Inside, the central hall is lined with more imposing statues of Ramses. They're surrounded by reliefs showing off his power. Here, the pharaoh leads his army into battle, riding his chariot — thoroughly destroying his enemies. And finally, in the sacred sanctuary, Ramses assumes his place in the company of the gods.