Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae
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 thanks to the International Campaign launched by UNESCO, in 1960 to 1980.
The open-air Museum of Nubia and Aswan brings together cultural properties closely associated with the unfolding of a long sequence of Egyptian Pharaonic history. In addition to the complexes of Abu Simbel and Philae the site includes the temples of Amada, of Derr, those of Ouadi Es Sebouah, Dakka and Maharraqah, the temple of Talmis, and the kiosk of ak-Kartassi, the temple of Beit el Ouali which are both rare and ancient. To these must be added the astonishing granite quarries of Aswan, exploited by pharaohs from early antiquity, where colossal unfinished obelisk-like monuments have been discovered.
An archaeological zone of primary importance extends from Aswan to the Sudanese border. Aswan, situated north of the First Cataract, was an essential strategic point where, since prehistoric times, victorious expeditions had been mounted leading to a lasting domination of Nubia, the country to the south, rich in gold and other minerals, in ivory and in precious wood. To each of the great periods of Egyptian history there corresponds, if only partially, a seizure of Nubia, which enjoyed the role of a natural annex to the kingdom. The sovereignty of the pharaohs was solidly established during the New Empire. After the military conquest, towards 1550 BC, Nubia virtually became a colony, administered by a governor, whose fiscal and commercial income was transferred to Aswan. With the fall of the New Empire (c. 1070 BC) Nubia again entered a period of prosperity during the Graeco-Roman period and during the first years of the Christian era, until the triumph of Islam.
Abu Simbel is a temple built by Ramesses II in ancient Nubia; he chose to build the temple dedicated to himself on the site where there were two grottoes consecrated to the cult of the local divinities. The sovereign in this way reaffirmed the fact that Nubia belonged to the Egyptian Empire. The Great Temple has four colossal statues carved out of the living rock, fastened to the cliff wall, which depict Ramesses II, seated with the double crown of Lower and Upper Egypt. Standing between and on either side of the pharaoh's legs were depicted princes, princesses and Queen Nefertari, much smaller in size and standing erect.
The temple faces east, and Re-Horakhty, one manifestation of the Sun God, is shown inside the niche directly above the entrance. The alignment of the temple is such that twice a year the Sun's rays reach into the innermost sanctuary to illuminate the seated statues of Ptah, Amun-Re, Ramesses II and Re-Horakhty. The facade is crowned by a row of statues of baboons, considered to be the protectors of water. Inside the temple there is a great hall, whose ceiling is supported by eight colossal pillars in the shape of statues of the king, a smaller hall with simple pillars, a vestibule and a sanctuary. There are reliefs on the walls of the halls in which Ramesses is depicted in different ways but always fighting against his enemies.
When the High Dam was being constructed in the early 1960s, international cooperation assembled funds and technical expertise to move this temple to higher ground so that it would not be inundated by the waters of Lake Nasser.
Not far off stands the Little Temple dedicated to the Goddess Hathor in memory of the king's wife Nefertari, who was later venerated as the goddess of love and fertility. In the facade six statues are carved in the rock. They represent the pharaoh and his wife, assimilated to the divinity and therefore depicted with the divinity's attributes, a Sun disk between the horns of a cow.
The interior is subdivided into a hall supported by pillars decorated with reliefs depicting the goddess, a vestibule with side rooms, and the sanctuary, which contained the statue of a goddess in the form of a cow. The interior walls are decorated with magnificent reliefs showing the presentation of offerings and festive processions in honour of the pharaoh and his wife.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC