CAIRO: More than 850 foreign tourists and over 2,000 Egyptians flocked early Wednesday to the town of Abu Simbel, 260 kilometers south of Aswan, and stood by the façade of Abu Simbel temple to witness the biannual phenomenon of the solar alignment on the temple’s shrine, according to Hossam el-Din Aboud, the director of the archaeological site.
“At 2:30 a.m., tourists started to reserve their seats at the sound and light show’s open theatre facing the temple while at 5:35, the sun’s rays struck the temple’s sanctuary and illuminated the faces of the statues of Ramses II, God Ra-Horakhty and God Amon-Ra and leaving the statue of Ptah, the God of darkness in darkness,” Aboud told The Cairo Post Wednesday.
The sanctuary went dark again at 5:55 a.m., he added.
“It is definitely a rare astronomical miracle and engineering phenomenon as it happens twice a year; on Oct. 22, which marks the birthday of Ramses II, and on Feb. 22, which marks the pharaohs’ coronation day,” archaeologist Ahmed Saleh, General Director of Saving the Nubian Monuments Fund told The Cairo Post Wednesday.
Abu Simbel is the seat of two rock-cut temples that were built by Ramses II (1279B.C.–1213 B.C.); the great temple which was basically dedicated to God Amon-Ra and the temple of Queen Nefertari, the pharaoh’s wife, Dean of Minya University’s Faculty of Tourism and Hotels archaeologist Sherif el-Sabban told The Cairo Post.
“In the 1960s and during the construction of the High Dam in Aswan, UNESCO launched a universal campaign to rescue the twin temples along with other Nubian monuments to avoid their being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, a massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the dam,” said Sabban.
The Abu Simbel temples are among seven archaeological sites in Egypt on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, he added.