Friday, February 22, 2013

ABU SIMBEL: Sunbeams inside The Sun Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel

Ramses the bold, Ramses the fair, Ramses the great, Ramses who lived to be 96 had 200 wives and concubines, 96 sons and 60 daughters are but a few descriptions of this ruler of Ancient Egypt. Ramses was also known for his ingenious accomplishments in blending architectural and natural phenomena. The Abu Simbel Sun Festival is one of the worlds most tremendous and unique events to date.

Of the several buildings King Ramses II built, Abu Simbel is considered the most impressive. The Sun Temple has been sitting along the Niles banks since 1250 BC in southern Egypt, carved into the sandstone cliffs facing eastwards.

The first thing you will notice is the facade of the temple with the four 108 feethigh colossal statues of Ramsesguarding the entrance way, which leads into a grand hall separating into two smaller treasury rooms. Further into this labyrinth will take you to the Hypostyle hall filled with flowered pillars and scenes of the Kings family, deeper still leads you to where the natural phenomenon takes place. The inner most chapel is where stands the statues of the four main universal gods Ra, Amun, Ptah and Ramses II to whom the temple is dedicated.

It was oriented by King Ramses II so that the rays of the rising sun would light up the statues of the gods twice a year. The Solstices’ occurrence commemorates Ramses II’s ascension to the throne (22nd February )and his birthday (22nd October).

Crowds pack into the chapel before the dawn breaks and watch the shafts of lightslowly creep 200 feet inside the temple to eventually illuminate the statues in an awe-inspiring display. Funnily enough all but the statue of Ptah is lit up in golden rays, who was after all the god of darkness. After the spectacle the crowds join in celebrations outside of music, dancing, eating, drinking, markets and fun. Of course this is not the high point of the day, as it would be almost impossible to top natures synthesis with human ingenuity, but a nice way to mingle with a culture as ancient as the suns warming rays. 

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