The amazing Abu Simbel Temples are among the largest attractions in Egypt, both by popularity and by sheer size. These two temples are an amazing sight, towering towards the blue sky!
 
The Temples of Abu Simbel
 
The Egyptians are well-known for revering and vigorously protecting their historical resources. In fact, when Lake Nasser was created to provide for improved water resources and the project threatened the Abu Simbel Temples, the Egyptians moved them. Given the scale of the temples, this was no small feat.
There are two temples, constructed by Ramesses II in the 13th Century BC. They were intended to stand as monuments to he and his wife, the famous queen Nefertari. Of course, being constructed by the head of an empire, they were also intended to dissuade the nearby Nubians from taking any actions against Egypt. 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Today, far from intimidating foreigners, the Abu Simbel Temples are among Egypt's largest tourist draws.
The temples were lost to the sands of time for thousands of years, literally. They were buried, with only the topmost portions being visible, until the early 1800's when they were discovered by a Swiss explorer, JL Burckhardt. He managed to gain access to the temples in 1817 and, in a scene that happened far too often in Egypt's long history, he took everything that he could carry with him, essentially looting the temples. 
 
The name Abu Simbel comes from the boy who, according to local stories, led Burckhardt to the temples.
 
The Dam and the Moving of the Temples
 
The Egyptians have always had a delicate balance with the Nile River and when the waters were about to be raised by the Aswan High Dam, the Temples of Abu Simbel were again in peril. This time, the world responded with concern instead of greed.
 
The temples were moved, cut into blocks and relocated to a safe location beyond the rising waters. Today thousands of people come here every year to see the fruits of those labors.
 
 
The Great Temple and the Small Temple
 
 
 
The two temples themselves are known as the Great Temple and the Small Temple. The Great Temple is adorned with statues of Ramesses himself, over 60 feet high, that guard the entrance. Other important figures are represented in smaller statues by Ramesses.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The small temples are officially the temple of Hathor and Nefertari. This temple shows some of the regard that Ramesses had for his wife. Of the many statues of kings and their wives in Egypt, these are the only ones where they are represented in equal size.
 
 

 

The island of Elephantine sits midstream in the Nile, just above the first cataract, by modern Aswan. Anciently the capital of the 1st Upper Egyptian nome, the site was a true border between Egypt and the areas to the south and represented a point of primary strategic and commercial importance. But the region was also an area of considerable religious importance for the deities associated with the Nile and with the desert regions.

The main town and temple of area of Elephantine was located at the southern end of the island, and excavations by German archaeological team have found that this area was inhabited almost continuously from the Early Dynastic period. Many temple doubtless stood here over the millennia, and the existence of several is known, though none of these structures remains intact today. Some have vanished in only recent times, and a small temple of Amenophis III was virtually intact as late as 1820, as was a structure of Thutmosis III.

The main temple site of which anything can be seen is that of the temple of Khnum, ram-headed lord of Elephantine, which was oriented east to west from the direction of the Roman era quay near the southeast corner of the island. The surviving pavement of the front section of this structure was actually added in the late antiquity and built around the earlier columns of Ramesses II. Today only fragmentary examples of these survive, along with some altars, several of which are inscribed in Greek. The inner part of the temple is marked by a granite gateway which represents the only standing element of substance (most of the limestone of the walls having been burnt for lime), and the area beyond this is one of tangled remains with few recognizable features other than a large granite shrine begun in the 30th dynasty by Nectanebo II but never fully completed.

A little to the north, behind the Antiquities Museum, is the site of the temple of Satis, consort of Khnum. The New Kingdom temple of Thutmosis III has undergone reconstruction by the German Archaeological Institute in recent years, and this small site is of particular importance. Due to the restrictions in the topography of the site, the ancient builders sealed, under multiple floors, previous temples built on the same spot. First, beneath the 18th dynasty floor was found the remains of a structure of the 12th dynasty and another of the 11th dynasty. An Old Kingdom temple dating to the 6th dynasty them emerged. Beneath all these ancient structures the level of an even earlier shrine of the Early Dynastic period was eventually reached.

This structure represents one of the earliest temples to be found in Egypt and consisted of a small sanctuary area utilizing a natural niche in the surrounding rock and expanding from there through several small rooms from which many small votive objects were recovered. These artifacts do not make clear what deity or deities were worshipped here at this early period, but by the time of the 11th dynasty structure the three principal deities of the area, Khnum, Satis and Anuket, are all attested.

Behind the Satis temple site is that of a small Middle Kingdom chapel of Hekayib, the deified governor of the region, and near the southern tip of the island is a small Ptolemaic chapel which has been reconstructed from blocks built into the Roman temple of Kalabsha and only revealed when that structure was dismantled for relocation in the 20th century. The chapel is of historical interest as it received decoration of the Nubian ‘pharaoh’ Arkamani who ruled that region in the 3rd century BC. On the outer walls Caesar Augustus is depicted, showing that the Roman completed the decoration of the chapel before deciding to dismantle it.

 

 

The river escape of Aswan is dominated by the sand-covered hills of the West Bank which is strewn with rock-cut tombs of high-status officials of the Old and Middle Kingdom. At the crest of the hill is the domed tomb of a Muslim prophet which gives the hill its local name, Qubbet el-Hawa or ‘Dome of the Winds’.

The ticket office is to the northern end of the tomb area and a steep climb up several flights of stone steps leads to the upper level of the cemetery where there are around 6 or 7 tombs open to visitors. The guide will usually begin at the southern end of the upper level where the most interesting tombs can be seen. These ancient tombs are roughly cut from the natural rock, and though they are not as well preserved as some of those to be visited in the Luxor or Cairo areas they are well worth seeing. Tombs of this period are usually fairly inaccessible in most places south of Cairo and these show fine examples of hieroglyphic texts detailing the careers of their owners as well as scenes of daily life in the earlier periods. Many of the tombs are linked together as family members added their own chambers.

Tomb 31: Harkhuf: Harkhuf was an Overseer of Foreign Troops during the reigns of Pepy I, Merenre and Pepy II in Dynasty VI. This tomb is famous for Harkhuf’s biographical text and a copy of a letter from Pepy II requesting that Harkhuf should hurry to bring the young king a dancing pigmy from an expedition into Africa.

Tomb 35: Pepynakht (also called Heqa-ib): The owner of this tomb was another Overseer of Foreign Troops during the reign of Pepy II of Dynasty VI. The tomb has a columned façade, biographical texts and good reliefs showing hunting and bull-fighting scenes. Heqa-ib was the deified official whose cult chapel stood on Elephantine Island.

To get to the Tombs of the Nobles, there is a ferry which leaves from the northern end of the Corniche. Alternatively you can hire a felucca which will wait and bring you back. You could also combine a visit to the tombs with a longer felucca trip. 

 

 

The Aga Khan was the 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, one of the founders of the All-India Muslim League, and even briefly served as President of the League of Nations in 1937. Aga Khan was the spiritual leader of the Ismailis, a Shi’ite sect, which mostly developed in India. Though this spiritual leader died in 1957, his mausoleum still stands and can be seen above the white villa where he once lived. Aga Khan III was extremely wealthy. In fact, his people say that on his birthday in the year 1945 he was weighed in diamonds, which he then gave to his followers in a spirit of generosity.

The mausoleum was built according to his wife Yvette Blanche Labrousse’s wishes. She was also known as Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan and then eventually given the title Mata Salama. When Aga Khan knew it was his time to die he decided to build a location for his burial place; it would be somewhere along the West Bank of the Nile River. When her husband died, she oversaw the construction of the Aga Khan Mausoleum, and finished the project in 16 months with the help of famous architects and contractors.

The structure is recognizable by its elegance and by its special use of pink granite and calcareous sandstone. The interior of the building features light colors and gloriously red carpet that is still regularly maintained. The entrance to the mausoleum requires a hard climb on a stepped path, followed by an esplanade from which a flight of steps comes up. Etiquette requires that all visitors keep silent out of respect.

After Aga Khan’s death, his surviving widow continued to leave a red rose on his white Carrara marble tomb. Living in the villa, she managed to do this faithfully until her own death in 2000. Even to this day, as per request of Mata Salama, a red rose still finds its way to the sarcophagus. 

 

 

The Ptolemaic Dynasty was responsible for erecting numerous monuments. One of the most stunning is the double Kom Ombo Temple near ancient Aswan.
 
Kom Ombo, Egypt
 
The Temple of Kom Ombo is a very unusual double temple that was first built during the time of the Ptolemaic Dynasty. The temple still stands today and is found in the Egyptian town of Kom Ombo near Aswan.
 
Kom Ombo has a population of about 60,000 people and is located in the region of Upper Egypt on the east bank of the Nile River. Kom Ombo is well known for its agriculture, including the production of irrigated sugar cane and corn. 
 
The origins of Kom Ombo are mysterious, perhaps still buried for future generations to discover. Now, all we know about Kom Ombo we find in the famous Kom Ombo Temple. 
 
The Temple of Kom Ombo
 
The Temple of Kom Ombo is situated high on banks above the river Nile. The temple has a double entrance; one side of the temple is devoted to Sobek, the crocodile God. Sobek was believed to be the god of fertility and a repairer of evil in the world. The other side of the temple is devoted to the falcon god Haroeris, otherwise called Horus the Elder. This side of the temple is so perfectly symmetrical along the main axis it’s quite unusual and astounding. 
 
The History of the Temple
 
What is the history of the Kom Ombo Temple? We know that Ptolemy VI Philometor began construction of the temple at the beginning of his reign (from 180 to 145 BC), and was succeeded by other Ptolemys, including Ptolemy XIII, who were responsible for inner and outer hypostyle halls. 
 
Unfortunately, some of the temple has been destroyed by natural occurrences throughout the centuries, including the Nile River and various earthquakes. 
 
Additionally, some of the relics inside were actually defaced by members of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria (which is the largest Christian church in Egypt) so they could use the structure for their own worship. 
 
What to See Inside the Temple?
 
There are only a handful of pharaoh remains, but more to see of the crocodile mummies that were discovered in the vicinity. 
 
The earthquake of 1992 destroyed much of the temple’s structure and artifacts, so the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities closed down the exhibit for some renovation work until 1995. Now tourists can enjoy a restored Kom Ombo Temple as well as some accompanying museums and galleries that have been erected in addition to the temple itself. 
 
The Kom Ombo Temple was believed to have been a shrine for a “crocodile cult.” Sobek was perceived as an Egyptian God, but worship of him only seemed to take place in parts of Egypt where crocodiles were common. The Temple of Kom Ombo is a fascinating piece of history. 
 

 

The unfinished obelisk is the largest known ancient obelisk, located in the northern region of the stone quarries of ancient Egypt in Aswan (Assuan), Egypt. It is unknown which pharaoh created this structure . It is nearly one third larger than any ancient Egyptian obelisk ever erected. If finished it would have measured around 42 m (approximately 137 feet) and would have weighed nearly 1,200 tons.[1] Archeologists speculate that it was intended to complement the so-called Lateran Obelisk which was originally at Karnak and is now outside the Lateran Palace in Rome. (Thutmose III obelisk in Lateran, Rome: 105 ft)

The obelisk's creators began to carve it directly out of bedrock, but cracks appeared in the granite and the project was abandoned. Originally it was thought that the stone had an undetected flaw but it is also possible that the quarrying process allowed the cracking to develop by releasing the stress. The bottom side of the obelisk is still attached to the bedrock. The unfinished obelisk offers unusual insights into ancient Egyptian stone-working techniques, with marks from workers' tools still clearly visible as well as ocher-colored lines marking where they were working.

Besides the unfinished obelisk, an unfinished partly worked obelisk base was discovered in 2005 at the quarries of Aswan.[2] Also discovered were some rock carvings and remains that may correspond to the site where most of the famous obelisks were worked. All these quarries in Aswan and the unfinished objects are an open air museum and are officially protected by the Egyptian government as an archeological site. 

 

 

The Nubian Villages are situated at the bottom of Elephantine Island. As you will discover the simple and natural life of the very kind and hospitable Nubian people.

The Nubian are believed to be the first human race on earth, and most of their customs and traditions were adopted by the ancient Egyptians to the Greeks, they were known as Ethiopians and Nubia as the land of Punts.

Nubian are the people of northern Sudan and southern Egypt. With a history and traditions which can be traced to the dawn of civilization, the Nubian first settled along the banks of the Nile from Aswan Along this great river they developed one of the oldest and greatest civilizations in Africa. Until they lost their last kingdom (Christian Nubia) only five centuries back the Nubians remained as the main rivals to the other great African civilization of Egypt. 

 

 

Aswan High Dam was an engineering miracle when it was built during the reign of the Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1960 AD. The High Dam is a Reservoir which extends for 500 km along the Nile River and covers an area of 6,000 km2, of which northern two-thirds (known as Lake Nasser) is in Egypt and one-third (called Lake Nubia) in Sudan. Aswan High Dam Started work to be built in the January 9th, 1960 and has been completed the first phase in May 16th, in 1964 has been completed to implement the second phase in January 15th, 1971.

The dam, completely completed in 1971 at a distance of 7 km south of Aswan City, is a rock fill dam made of granite rocks and sands and provided with a vertical cut off wall consisting of very impermeable clay. The structure is 2,325 m long, 111 m high over the original river bed, and 40 m and 980 m wide, respectively, at its crest and bottom. Nile flow is allowed to pass only through the open-cut channel at the eastern side of the dam, where six tunnel inlets provided with steel gates are constructed for discharge control and water supply to power plants. An escape is also provided at the western side of the dam to permit excess water discharge.

In order to build the dam both people and artifacts had to be moved. Over 90,000 Nubians had to be relocated. Those who had been living in Egypt were moved about 28 miles (45 km) away but the Sudanese Nubians were relocated 370 miles (600 km) from their homes. The government was also forced to develop one of the largest Abu Simbel temples and dig for artifacts before the future lake would drown the land of the Nubians.

The Nile River and now the Aswan High Dam is Egypt’s lifeline. About 95% of Egypt’s population lives within twelve miles from the river. The High Dam increased the farmland 500% since 1970.The dam powers twelve generators each rated at 175 megawatts, producing a hydroelectric output of 2.1 gig watts. Power generation began in 1967. When the dam first reached peak output it produced around half of Egypt’s entire electricity production (about 15% by 1998) and allowed most Egyptian villages to use electricity for the first time. 

 

 

Originally located some 50 km (31 miles) south of the present High Dam at Aswan, the temple of Kalabsha, ancient Talmis, was dismantled in 1962-63 and its 13,000 blocks moved to a higher site just south of the new dam (New Kalabsha). The largest free-standing temple of Lower Nubia, the structure was built in the reign of the last Ptolemies and Augustus (though a temple may have stood on its site as early as New kingdom times) and dedicated to the Nubian god Horus-Mandulis and to Isis and Osiris.

Although never completed, Kalabsha is regarded as one of the finest examples of Egyptian architecture in Nubia. The temple was constructed entirely of sandstone and its interior skillfully decorated considering the difficulty of accomplishing fine work in this stone. It also contains several later inscriptions of historical interest, including one of the local king Silko which describes, in untutored Greek, his victory over nomadic tribes who threatened the area in the 5th century AD. The granite gate of the temple, which was found during the dismantling operations, was moved to the Agyptisches Museum in Berlin. This led to the pylon (which, oddly, was turned at somewhat of an angle from the rest of the structure), a peristyle court and then a hypostyle followed by three inner, twin-columned rooms – the innermost of which functioned as the sanctuary, later used as a Christian church. As in many temples of the Ptolemaic Period, gates at the sides of the hypostyle opened to an enclosed space which surrounded the inner part of the structure. Beyond this area, the temple precinct also enclosed a small birth house and an independent chapel which seems to have been constructed by Ptolemy IX. 

 

 

The island of Philae, famous for centuries for its rich heritage of temples, now lies submerged beneath the waters of Lake Nasser to the south of Aswan. Thankfully, however, when the Aswan High Dam was built in the 1960s the island’s temples were dismantled and then reconstructed on the higher terrain of nearby Agilkia Island, which was prepared and landscaped to look like the original Philae.

The ancient Egyptians saw in their name for Philae an etymology with the meaning “island of the time [of Re]” – i.e., creation; but the island’s history is a fairly late one. The earliest evidence of religious structures goes back only to the time of Taharqa (25th dynasty), and it was not still the Graeco-Roman Period that Philae rose to importance. Philae was, however, the cult centre par excellence of Isis who was revered throughout much of the Roman world; and the site survived as a last outpost of the old pagan religion well into the present era, not being officially closed till the reign of Justinian in AD 550.

The monuments of Philae are numerous. Beginning at the ancient quay where boats now land at the southwestern corner of the island, the first structure is the kiosk of Nectanebo I, the oldest structure still standing here. To the north, the processional way leads to the main temple of Isis. The western half of the colonnade is the more complete and is pierced with windows originally looking out toward the island of Biga; a nilometer descends the cliff from here.

The eastern side of the colonnade, which was never completed, reaches only to the destroyed temple just opposite. This was the temple of the rather obscure Nubian god Arensnuphis who was venerated here as the companion of Isis. Other structures also stand behind the eastern colonnade, notably the ruined chapel of Mandulis, another Nubian deity, at the southern end and the better-preserved chapel of Imhotep (the deified chief architect of Djoser) to the north.

The entrance to the main temple is fronted by the pylon of Ptolemy XII which is decorated with the canonical scenes of the king dispatching enemies and which contains both a main (earlier) portal and a subsidiary gate in the west tower leading into the birth house of Ptolemy VI and later rulers. The mammisi (birth house) is similar in plan and decoration to those of Dendarah and Edfu, but here shares roughly the same axis as the main temple. Its most notable scenes are those of Isis nusing the infant Horus in the marshes, carved on the outside of the back wall, and the triumphant Horus on the inner side of the same wall. A decorated colonnade with elegantly carved columns (as is the case with most of the columns of this temple) runs along the eastern side of the forecourt and fronts a number of chambers including a “library“ dedicated to Thoth. A Roman chapel stands in the court’s northeast corner before the second pylon which was built on a natural outcrop of rock and stands at an angle to the outer entrance. The second pylon opens to the hypostyle hall of the main temple, the first part of which is left open to so that it forms, in effect, a combined peristyle and hypostyle.

Beyond are the chambers of the inner temple – standard, if somewhat anomalously arranged – and the sanctuary, which still contains the pedestal, dedicated by Ptolemy III and his wife Berenike, of the barque of Isis (although the granite shrines were removed to European museums in the 19th century). As in other temples of the Graeco-Roman Period, the roof holds an Osiris room and other chambers, though here they are sunk well below the level of the roof at each of its four corners. The Osiris room has its own vestibule with scenes of the gods bewailing the dead Osiris, and the inner room contains scenes relating to the collection of the god’s scattered limbs.

A number of subsidiary pharaonic structures were built to the west of the Isis temple. A gateway of the emperor Hadrian, which stands before a stairway leading down to the river, contains several interesting scenes relating to the death and ultimate apotheosis of Osiris, including one of Isis who watches while a crocodile bears the body of her husband to an area representing the mound of Biga which rose from the Nile opposite this gateway. A little to the north are the ruins of the temple of Horus the Avenger (Harendotes), and yet further north are the remains of other structures, including a temple of Augustus and the quay and gateway of Diocletian.

To the east of the Isis temple stand the somewhat more substantial remains of a temple of Hathor, built by Ptolemies VI and VII, which preserves a number of scenes, including one of the king rejoicing before the goddess, along with figures of Bes, and an ape which plays a guitar-like instrument.

Just to the south is perhaps the most famous of Philae’s monuments, the kiosk of Trajan, nicknamed “pharaoh’s bed”. While the roof of this structure – presumably of wood – has long since disappeared, it is still imposing. Fourteen columns, connected by screen walls, support the great architraves over spanning this building, which once served as the formal entrance to the island. 

 

 

A spiritual experience awaits you on top of a hill opposite the south end of the Elephantine Island in Aswan. Reached by foot on the riverbank, the Coptic Monastery of St Simeon has been preserved from the 6th century, and is one of the largest Coptic monasteries in the world.

Its original name was "Anba Hatre Monastery", and due to a water shortage a century after it was built, it was abandoned and left untouched for many years.

There is a cliff that separates the monastery into two natural terraces on two levels. There is a relatively thin, six meter high trapezoid wall that encloses the terraces that occupy about a hectare of land, with two gates that give access to each terrace. This wall, with its lower portion made of rough stone and upper of unbaked brick, was equipped with towers and lookouts. Originally parts of the wall may have stood as high as ten meters, but today, most only the stone section of the wall remains intact, while the mudbrick is all but gone. The brown-ocher color of the brick contributes to the perfect harmonization of all the buildings with their desert surroundings.

There were a number of visible wall paintings in the main church that were still discernible at the end of the nineteenth century, but most of these are now badly damaged or even destroyed. It has been suggested that these paintings date to the eleventh or twelfth century, though below those that can still be seen are at least another layer of paintings in the apse of the church. In the eastern semi-dome their remains visible a scene of Christ enthroned within the mandorla, held by two angles, with flames rising to its base. Christ holds a book on one knee with his left hand, while his right hand is raised in blessing beyond the edge of the mandorla.

Take a look around the monastery and gaze at the view from the top of the hill: look down at the desert below; you’ll surely appreciate the wonders of nature and life.