The solar alignment that occurs twice a year in the temple of Abu Simbel

Three millennia ago Egypt was at the height of its Empire. After the war campaigns of Sesostris III and a period of splendor and Egyptian pax during the government of Amenhotep III, and having saved a phase of weakness and decadence led by pharaohs like Akhnaton and Tutankhamen, returned the times of splendor of the hand of a new dynasty.

Ramses II was a pharaoh warrior who turned to war campaigns with which to maintain the dominion of the empire and stop the increasingly daring Hittite penetrations. The battle of Kadesh between the two armies should have been the turning point but ended practically in stalemates. However the capacity of Ramses for the autobombo was proverbial and not only was attributed a crushing victory but also sowed the country with monuments commemorating the feat. The temple of Abu Simbel is perhaps the most spectacular.

It is a hemispeo, that is to say, excavated in the rock (in fact the name means pure mountain), which was endowed with an imposing facade of 34 meters high and 38 meters wide with four giant statues of the pharaoh himself (22 meters, measure).

It took 20 years to build (1284-1264 B.C.) on the border with Nubia because it was there that the flooding of the Nile entered Egyptian soil and the bellicose local inhabitants were impressed. All the more so considering that another temple (dedicated to the goddess Hathor and to the favorite wife of Ramses, Nefertari) was built next door, also great although somewhat smaller.

Abu Simbel, which remained forgotten for centuries after being buried by tons of desert sand, was rediscovered in 1813 but entered Art History in capital letters as early as the 20th century, when the Aswan Dam project threatened to flood it under the waters of Lake Nasser along with many other monuments.

UNESCO launched an initiative to save it in 1959 and, with the funds raised, proceeded to dismantle it stone by stone to rebuild 210 meters beyond, at 65 meters high, safe from any flood. Thanks to this, today it is a World Heritage Site and Spain, which collaborated in the work, received as a reward the Temple of Debod, installed in Madrid.

One of the peculiarities of this temple is that twice a year it is crossed by the rays of the sun from the entrance to the sancta-sanctórum, passing through the pronaos and the halls of colossus and hypostyle and, at the end, illuminating for 20 minutes the statues of the gods Amon, Ra-Heractates and the pharaoh himself divinized, leaving the statue of Ptah dark because it represents darkness.

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