Abu Simbel is
- a) a small village 280km south of Aswan and 40km north of the Sudanese border;
- b) a former Nubian village of the same name on the Nile in Southern Egypt which was inundated by Lake Nasser during the creation of the Aswan High Dam (which also involved the relocation of 100,000 Nubians to parts of Egypt and Sudan);
- c) the site of two temples built by Rameses II between 1274 and 1244 B.CE, now moved to higher ground, adjoining the present-day village of Abu Simbel and overlooking Lake Nasser.
The airport was built to bring visitors to the monuments. A road runs from the airport through the village main street (Ramsis) to the temples, passing a petrol station, fire station, hospital, market square and commercial banks. A courtesy shuttle runs from the airport directly to the monuments.
Hotel locations and monuments
Abu Simbel has five hotels, all situated on or near Ramsis road. A further one (Tuya) isalmost completed.
As the airport road bends to the right across the first main bridge and joins Ramsis, it passes a petrol station on the right. Set back from the road, Abu Simbel Tourist Village (known locally as Hotel Abbas, with 30 rooms) is opposite the petrol station, offering the village’s cheapest accommodation.
After passing the new hospital, a turning to the left opposite the fire station marks the northern edge of the village and is the location of Eskaleh Nubian EcoLodge, a boutique hotel built from mudbricks with traditional methods and offering about six rooms.
A few yards after the fire station, the Nobaleh Ramsis Hotel on the right-hand side of the main road reasonable rooms at a modest price and marks the beginning of the village proper. To the left is the market square and souk. A few yards further on is the village centre, a popular gathering spot on Friday evenings. There are several shops and small cafes in this area.
The road passes across a long bridge with fishing boats to the right and a brightly painted frieze with viewing portals. On the far side is a junction with several commercial banks where currency can be exchanged. There are a couple of small cafes here as a road forking to the right leads to the Seti Abu Simbel Lake Resort Hotel (6 suites and 136 rooms). The elegant Seti hotel is on one of two promontories, the other being occupied by the more functional Nefertari and the monuments complex.
The main road continues on the left fork on a gentle hill to the monuments. At the top of the rise, a long access road off to the right leads to the Nefertari Hotel. There are two long bays of market stalls selling tourist items. Behind the beginning of the market stalls, facing the Nefertari, is a small café selling items such as water and ice cream at tourist prices.
Passing through the entrance to the Abu Simbel monuments area, a small exhibition area is viewable just before the ticket office. There is a circular path leading from the ticket office, at the rear of the monuments, around the two artificial mountains which house the main temple, dedicated to Ra-Herakhte and Rameses II, and a smaller one dedicated to Hathor and Rameses’ wife. Nefertari. Both temples face outwards to Lake Nasser and are not overlooked by the mainland.
The 66-foot (20-metre) seated figures of Ramses are set against the recessed face of the cliff, two on either side of the entrance to the main temple. Carved around their feet are small figures representing Ramses’ children, his queen, Nefertari, and his mother, Muttuy (Mut-tuy, or Queen Ti). Graffiti inscribed on the southern pair by Greek mercenaries serving Egypt in the 6th century BCE have provided important evidence of the early history of the Greek alphabet. The temple itself, dedicated to the sun gods Amon-Re and Re-Horakhte, consists of three consecutive halls extending 185 feet (56 metres) into the cliff, decorated with more Osiride statues of the king and with painted scenes of his purported victory at the Battle of Kadesh. On two days of the year (about February 22 and October 22), the first rays of the morning sun penetrate the whole length of the temple and illuminate the shrine in its innermost sanctuary.