Abu Simbel is still one of the premier antiquities in all of Egypt. Two temples dedicated to Rameses II and his wife Queen Nefertari. The entrance was built so that, twice a year, the sun would shine a beam into the inner sanctuary, illuminating the three statues there and leaving Ptah, the god of the underworld, in darkness. So precise was the design of the temple that this phenomenon occurred on the same two dates each year in October 21 and February 21 ( believed to be the Pharaoh’s birthday , coronation and respectively ).
The Sun Festival
When the Egyptian government wanted to damn Lake Nasser in the mid 20th century, Abu Simbel was due to be swallowed up by the river. So the authorities actually moved the temple to a new location, cutting the monument into blocks weighing up to 30 tonnes (and you thought moving house was a pain). The Sun Festival still takes place though, the dates just shifted a day forward (due to some complex maths involving the sun, the earth and a protractor).
Each year you can go to Abu Simbel, on October 22 and February 22 and see the light spear through the darkness, illuminating the statues carved inside. It’s one of the cooler, more Indiana Jones-style things you can actually do in a world of pop-tarts and microwaves and Miley Cyrus.
The locals still celebrate the Sun Festival twice a year, and it’s an amazing time to visit Egypt. There’s traditional Nubian dances being performed, street food everywhere (save stomach space for some fresh koshari) and live music outside the temple.
Highlights of this itinerary
Tour starts on October 21 and February 21
Each year you can go to Abu Simbel, on October 22 and February 22 and see the light spear through the darkness, illuminating the statues carved inside.