Abu Simbel is one of the most visited sites by tourists in Egypt. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, along with the Nubia and Aswan Open Air Museum. It houses two temples carved directly into the rock during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II (13th century BC). The larger one is a monument to himself and the smaller one is dedicated to his favorite wife, Nefertari.


Abu Simbel represents two fundamental features that characterize Egypt in its thousands of years of history: the archaeological richness of a unique empire and the development impetus of a country for the creation of a monumental hydrographic work. Currently, all the temples that make up this archaeological site are not in their original location, but very close, and have been reconstructed exactly as they were and with their original materials. The reason? When the Aswan High Dam, that gave rise to the Lake Nasser, There were serious risks of this jewel being flooded, so it was decided to move it, initiating an unprecedented relocation work in the country where hundreds of experts from different disciplines were involved to ensure that everything was carried out respecting the authenticity. It is believed that the fundamental purpose of the construction of the temple, in addition to demonstrating his power as pharaoh and claiming his deity status (as the Egyptian emperors conceived themselves), was to commemorate his victory at the battle of Kadesh against the Hittites. In addition to extolling his own figure, there are tributes to three gods of Ancient Egypt: Amun, Ra and Ptah. At Abu Simbel, Ramses II is represented as a fourth god. The construction of the temple took 20 years, from 1284 BC to 1264 BC, and the idea was to impress the Nubian peoples and ratify Egyptian power in the region. For many centuries it was abandoned and hidden, covered by successive sandstorms in the desert, until in 1813, the Swiss Johann Ludwig Burckhardt decided to explore the area and found the temple but without being able to access it. He told the Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni about his discovery. He discovered an entrance in 1817 and managed to enter, taking with him all the valuables he could carry and initiating interest in this jewel that today is visited by millions of tourists.

Details of the architecture of the temples of Abu Simbel

  • The facade. It is 33 meters high by 38 meters wide, with the custody of four statues all representing Ramses II, seated on his throne and with the typical double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. Each statue is 20 meters high.
  • At the foot of the statues. Near the feet of the four giants, there are several statues that do not reach the height of the pharaoh’s knees and represent different members of his family: the main wife Nefertari, Tuya (the queen mother), Amenherjepeshef and Ramses (his first two sons) and Bintanat, Baketmut, Nefertari, Meritamon, Nebtaui and Isetnofret (his first six daughters).
  • A solar phenomenon. The orientation of the temple was designed so that on October 21 and February 21 (i.e. 61 days before and 61 days after the winter solstice) the sun’s rays penetrate the sanctuary at the back of the temple and illuminate three of the four seated statues, except for that of the god Ptah, which was always in semi-darkness as it was the god related to the underworld. After the reconstruction of the temple, this solar phenomenon has been moved one day in the calendar and happens every October 22 and February 20.
  • The minor temple. Nefertari, Ramses II’s favorite wife, has her own temple at Abu Simbel, north of the main temple and also carved into the rock. Its façade is decorated with six statues: four represent Ramses II and two Nefertari, in this case, all of the same size.

How to get to Abu Simbel

Usually the visit to Abu Simbel is part of the Nile cruises as an optional package, but we recommend that you hire the excursion because it is very worthwhile. Once you finish the boat tour in Aswan, from there you will depart by bus to visit Abu Simbel. Another option is to travel by plane, but it is more expensive and not as worthwhile. And in case you have booked a cruise on Lake Nasser, you will arrive by boat.


The best time to visit Abu Simbel is in the early morning or late afternoon, a few hours before the night show. Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the intense desert heat can make the minimum 2 hours required to visit the temples unbearable. From 6 am to 9 am is the best option, but if you can’t make it in the morning, the other option is from 3 pm to 6 pm. Abu Simbel’s opening hours are from 5:00 am to 6:00 pm. Remember to bring a hat, water and sun protection, three essential items.

Visit prices

If you go on your own, the entrance fee is around 160 EGP for adults and 80 EGP for students and senior citizens. If you want to take pictures, the price is increased to 100 EGP (it is not possible to photograph anything without buying a ticket that allows you to do so). And you can also hire the nightly sound and light show, which costs around 480 EGP.

Pictures of Abu Simbel Temple - Ramses II

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