Abu Simbel

Temple of Ramesses on left, Nefertari’s on right

This morning we rose at 4:00 a.m. to travel to southernmost Egypt bordering on Sudan. I watched the moon set–which was almost as gorgeous as the setting sun!  
Abu Simbel was built by Ramsses II, who enjoyed an unusually long reign from 1279 to 1213–66 years–and is thought to have been 90 when he died. He’s often considered the most powerful Pharoah and completed many successful military campaigns. As a result, he lost numerous sons.

You can see favorite wives and children carved around Ramesses legs, but his importance is reflected by the disparity in size

Ramesses was an aggressive builder, erecting temples all along the Nile. He constructed on a massive scale, utilizing the monuments to promote himself. Most of the Egyptians were illiterate, and to see massive likenesses of the Pharoah rendered in stone and on temple walls displaying him as a victorious warrior–again and again and again–inspired loyalty and elevated his persona to that of a god.  But this temple in particular was meant to send a message to anyone considering taking on Egypt: don’t think about it. 

Ramesses, killing enemies two at a time!
Ramesses at battle in his chariot
Returning with prisoners of war that will serve Egypt

His love for Nefertari was evident by the temple memorializing her, also in Abu Simbel. Usually wives are depicted much smaller than the pharaohs, but Nefertari’s stature is similar to Ramesses. 

This symbol is “ankh”, the key of life.
This is Hathor, goddess of women and fertility, represented by a cow.

The remarkable thing about Ramesses temple is that it was carved into stone–not created by stone blocks. When plans were made to damn the Nile and create Lake Nasser, it would have been lost forever!  But UNESCO stepped up and many nations participated in the overwhelming project of removing the temple from the mountainside in pieces and reassembling it at another location.

The temples overlook Lake Nasser

What a Herculean effort to spend a lifetime endorsing oneself as a supreme victor and eventually portraying yourself as a demigod! I don’t know whether to respect or despise Ramesses. What do you think?!?

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