Abu Simbel is located 280 km southwest of Aswan in a remote part of Lower Nubia. In 1290 B.C., Ramesses the Great carved two unique temples into the region’s rocks but neolithic rock drawings and tools found at Abu Simbel suggest that it was an important site as early as the prehistoric era. An earlier chapel to a local image of Horus also stood on the sight.
The temples were carved into bluffs of pinkish sandstone that rises steeply from the desert bordering the narrow floodplain of the Nile. The vast African desert stretches out behind the temples who face east to receive rays from the rising sun. It is still a mystery to archaeologists how the ancient Egyptians could have designed and built these miraculous structures. For instance, how did they know that they could dig 60 meters into the rock without encountering any faults in the stone?
The alignment of sacred structures with the rising or setting sun, or with the position of the sun at the solstices, was common throughout the ancient world, but the sanctuary of The Great Temple differs from these other sites in that the statue of the god Ptah, who stands among the others, is carefully positioned so that it is never illuminated at any time. As Ptah was associated with the Egyptian underworld, his image was kept in perpetual darkness.
This outstanding archaeological area contains such magnificent monuments as the Temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel and the Sanctuary of Isis at Philae, which were saved from the rising waters of the Nile.