Rare event at Ramses’ temple in Egypt draws crowds

Rare event at Ramses’ temple in Egypt draws crowds
A front view of the Abu Simbel Temples in Egypt. (Creative Commons: youssef_alam)
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Updated 23 October 2022

Rare event at Ramses’ temple in Egypt draws crowds

Rare event at Ramses’ temple in Egypt draws crowds
  • The campaign involved moving the temple in parts

CAIRO: Nearly 4,000 visitors assembled at southern Egypt’s Abu Simbel on Saturday to witness a rare astronomical event as the sun was perpendicular to the face of King Ramses II in his great temple, the Holy of Holies.

The sun’s rays, after rising behind the waters of Lake Nasser, crept into the temple, entering through the passage between four giant statues of the Egyptian pharaoh.

The rays extended for more than 60 meters until they reached the Council of Ramses in the Holy of Holies to register an astronomical phenomenon that occurs twice every year on Oct. 22 and Feb. 22, and lasts 20 minutes.

Director of Aswan and Nubia Antiquities Abdel Moneim Saeed said the event heralded the start of the planting and germination season for ancient Egyptians.

A number of folk artists performed in the courtyard of the temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the presence of Aswan Gov. Ashraf Attia and Amr El-Qadi, head of the General Authority for Tourism Promotion.

There are two theories regarding the reason for the sun’s perpendicularity. The first is that ancient Egyptians designed the temple based on the movement of the ark to determine the start and fertilization of the agricultural season; the second that the two days synchronize with the day of the birth of King Ramses II and the day he sat on the throne.

The area was flooded following the construction of the High Dam and as a result of the formation of Lake Nasser, prompting an international campaign to save the monuments of Abu Simbel and Nubia from 1964 to 1968, costing about $40 million.

The campaign involved moving the temple in parts. Statues were reinstalled at their new location, 65 meters above river level, to preserve them.

The phenomenon was celebrated before 1964 on Feb. 21 and Oct. 21. With the transfer of the temple to its new location, these dates changed to their current ones.

It is likely that the Abu Simbel complex was built between 1265 B.C. and 1244 B.C. It was discovered in August 1817 by the Italian explorer Giovanni Pelonzi.

The phenomenon of the perpendicularity of the sun was discovered in 1874 by Amelia Edwards, and she recorded it in her book published in 1899 entitled “A Thousand Miles Up the Nile.”