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17th April 2004
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Abu Simbel

Best time to go: Egypt is warm year-round, and rarely experiences rain. Intensely hot and dry during June to October

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Craig Doyle
Abu Simbel's temples, built some 3000 years ago, came in at number 48.

The amazing, the extraordinary, the mystical Abu Simbel. The two temples at Abu Simbel, close to the Egyptian border with the Sudan and were built for Pharaoh Rameses II as a symbol of his power. He dedicated one to himself and one to his wife, Nefertari.

The temples are actually carved out of the mountain on the west bank of the Nile, and unbelievably, the whole thing was moved 60 metres to higher ground in the 1960's to prevent it from being flooded from a nearby dam.

Four colossal statues of Rameses himself, almost 70 feet high have been guarding the entrance of his temple for over 3000 years. Each statue is accompanied by smaller statues of the King's mother, Tuya, his wife Nefertari, and some of his children.

The splendour is not limited to the temple facade. Inside the temple you will find yourself surrounded by more spectacular carvings until you come to The Sacred Sanctuary, the innermost chamber of the temple where carvings of the four gods of the Great Temple are enthroned.

Queen Nefertari's temple, the Temple of Hathor is fronted by four more statues of Rameses and two statues of Nefertari, all flanked by smaller statues representing their children.

Of the numerous awe-inspiring sights that the ancient Egyptians have left as their legacy, being face to face with the colossal statues of Rameses must be the most intimidating and spell-binding experience, and the sheer scale and majesty of the temples at Abu Simbel have to be seen to be believed.


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Price: Flights to Luxor around £350 return

Approx flight time: About 5 and a half hours to Luxor from London, then onward to Abu Simbel with a Nile cruise, road transport or internal flight

  • the Temples at Abu Simbel were lost to the outside world until they were rediscovered in 1813 by a Swiss explorer
  • the temple is decorated with carvings of baboons which were apparently symbols of wisdom
  • the Temple of Hathor was named after the goddess Hathor who was often depicted as a cow
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