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Abu Simbel – home to a great complex of temples among the most famous and majestic of all the temples of Ancient Egypt – is a small village located 280 km south of Aswan, and just north of the Egypt/Sudan border.

The Great facade of Abu Simbel Temple by Mohamed El-Gayar

When to Go

Visiting the Temples of Abu Simbel will leave you breathless with awe any time you go. If you don’t mind the crowds and like a bit of extra excitement, plan your trip around the bi-annual Sun Festival – that time of year when the sunlight snakes back to the deepest chamber and illuminate the gods. The festival on 22 February is thought to coincide with Ramses II’s ascension to the throne, and the festival on 22 October with his birthday. The festivals begin right before sunrise, and showcase musicians and folkloric dancers. Thousands of visitors come each year for the party!

See & Do

The temples date back to 1257 BCE, when Pharaoh Ramses II ordered them carved and dedicated to the sun gods Amun-Re and Re-Horakhte. Because of their remote location, they remained unknown until their rediscovery in 1813.

The Temple of Abu Simbel’s 30-meters-high façade, featuring the four imposing figures of seated Ramses, is one of the most iconic image of Ancient Egypt. The inside of the temple is a man-made cave cut out of the inside of the cliff, reaching back 56 meters and dividing into lateral chambers. In a small room at the very end of the cave, visitors discover the shrine to the gods Ptah, Amon-Re, the deified Ramses II, and Ra- Horakhte. Twice each year, on 22 February and 22 October, the rays of the rising sun shine down the entire length of the cave and illuminate three of these figures with a sublime, other-worldly glow. (The statue of Ptah – goddess of darkness – remains shadowed.)

In the 1960s, the Aswan High Dam project threatened to submerge these ancient treasures. Therefore the temples were carefully sawed into blocks and reassembled at a new site in the same relative position to the Nile, farther uphill and safe from any floods.

Day trips from Aswan are the most common ways visitors come to see the temples of Abu Simbel, but a handful of hotels are available to those wishing to spend more time amidst this colossus of history. In the evening, a sound and light show plays three-times daily (6, 7, and 8 pm), narrating the story of Ramses II’s rule over Egypt, and adds to the spectacle of the temples.

Need to Know

  • Official Language: Arabic. English is widely spoken
  • Time Zone: IUTC +02:00
  • Currency: Egyptian Pound (LE).
  • Dialing Code: 097 from inside Egypt. Add country code +2 to call from outside Egypt.
  • Driving: Driving to Abu Simbel is only possible by registering with and joining a police-escorted convoy. Travelers who chose to rent a car locally should make sure that theirs is a licensed and official agency, as only licensed cars given advance police-clearance can join the convoy. Hiring a car and driver can cost upwards of 500-600 LE.
  • Alternatively, travelers can reach Abu Simbel by coach or minibus from Aswan. There is at least one daily, police-escorted convoy each way (travel time of 3 hours). Daily convoys leave from Aswan at 4 am and 11 am, and leave Abu Simbel at 4 pm. The cost per round trip is around 100LE, not including entrance fees, but may include travel to additional sights in Aswan. Trips can be arranged at hotels and travel agencies in Aswan. Make sure your minibus has air-conditioning, and try to sit on the left hand side of the bus as you will see the sunrise in the morning (if awake) and be treated to shade on the way back.

    There is also one public bus leaving from the Aswan bus station at 8 am, which costs 20 LE. The public bus returns at 1:00 pm. The Abu Simbel bus stop is within walking distance of the temple, but if it’s too hot you can take a taxi for 5-10 LE.

    Abu Simbel Airport - ABS

    The Abu Simbel Airport is a small, regional airport serviced by Egypt Air. Flights leave from both Aswan and Cairo several times a day. It’s only a 45 minute flight from Abu Simbel to Aswan; flights from Cairo stopover in Aswan (after about a 95 minute flight from Cairo to Aswan).

    • Food/Beverage/Facilities: Terminal facilities at Abu Simbel Airport include a few shops, a mosque, and internet access.
    • Car Hire: Local car service available..

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