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Abu Simbel Temples

Temples - Buildings - Builders & Buildings

The Mansions of Eternity for

Pharaoh Ramses II and his Great Royal Wife, Nefertari

What: Great Temple of Ramses II and Small Temple of his Chief Royal Wife Nefertari

When: The Temples were both constructed by being hewn out of the solid rock face between approx. 1264 – 1224 BC

Where: Edges of Upper Egypt in pharaonic times  – now in the south of Egypt in the Governorate of Aswan


The Great Temple of Pharaoh Ramses II

Built by Ramses II to show the might of his power to his neighbours in Nubia and to dissuade any thoughts of invasion; the Great Temple was dedicated to the Pharaoh himself and to the Gods RaHorakhty, Amun and Ptah. Apparently, the site was rediscovered by explorer Johann Burckhardt. He was allegedly taken to the site by a boy named Abu Simbel in 1813 and the site was then named after him. The site remained buried in sand until Giovanni Belzoni, acting on information from Johann Burckhardt, began to uncover the monument from the sand in 1817.

Layout of the Temple

The Facade

The 55-meter-long facade is finished at its top with a frieze of 22 sun worshipping Baboons

The Temple’s outer face has four colossal 20-meter Statues of Pharaoh Ramses II wearing the Double Crown of Lower and Upper Egypt. For more information about the Crowns of Egypt, click here.

The large statues are all of the Pharaoh with one which has been damaged by an earthquake


The statues in between the legs of Ramses II are:
1.) Chief Royal Wife, Nefertari
2.) Ramses’ mother, Mut-Tuya “Tuya”
3.)Amunherkhepeshef: Crown Prince and Commander of the Troops
4.) Ramses: Crown Prince after the death of his half-brother
5.) Princess Bintanath, Princess Baketmut, Princess Nefertari, Princess Meritamen, Princess Nebettawy & Princess Isetnofret

The First Hall

The Hypostyle Hall is 18m long and 16.7m wide

The middle walkway is graced with 8 Pillars depicting Osiris, the God of the Dead, Ruler the Underworld and the God of Resurrection

The 4 on the left-hand side shown with the White Crown of Upper Egypt and the 4 in the right-hand side shown with the Red Crown of Lower Egypt

Bas Reliefs

The Bas reliefs on the surrounding walls portray Pharaoh Ramses II defeating his enemies in Libya, Nubia and famously at Kadesh

Between the latter 2 of the Osiris statues is the record of the Peace Treaty which Ramses signed with his neighbours the Hittites after the battle of Kadesh

The Second Hall

Pillared with 4 columns represented with scenes of offerings to the Gods and Goddesses. These scenes include depictions of Nefertari and Ramses with the Sacred Boats of Amun and Rahorakhty.

The Inner Sanctum

The Inner Sanctum is the home of the Gods within the Temple. The Gods are all hewn out of the rock face

They are all seated figures:

  • Rahorakhty; main divinity for Heliopolis
  • Deified Ramses II
  • Amun Ra, main divinity for Thebes   and
  • God Ptah, main divinity for Memphis


On the right hand side of the sanctuary is the etched name of the Egyptologist who cleared the Temple in 1817, Giovanni Belzoni

Ramses’ Architects aligned the inner sanctum with the front of the Temple so the sun shines directly on to Rahorakhty, the Pharaoh and Amun Ra.

Allegedly to honour Ramses on the date of his birthday, 22nd October, and his coronation day, 22nd February.

The God Ptah remained in the shadow as he is connected to the Underworld and must remain there.

The Temple of Great Royal Wife Nefertari


“A Temple of Great and Mighty Monuments, for the Great Royal Wife Nefertari Meryetmut,
for whose sake the very sun does shine, given life and beloved”

Only the 2nd Temple in Egypt that was ever dedicated to a Great Royal Wife, and the only one which remains today.

 The whole temple, interior and exterior were hewn out of the Rock.The Facade has four 10 meter Statues of Pharaoh Ramses and Nefertari which is highly unusual as Pharaoh was always projected as larger and higher than his consort.

Depicted as the same height shows unprecedented respect and honouring of Ramses towards his Great  Royal Wife.

This gives countenance to the theory that Ramses and Nefertari married for love before Ramses became Pharaoh and took on the Throne. 

The Facade

The statues in between the legs of Ramses II and Nefertari are those of the Princes and Princesses. 

On the South side these are Prince Meryatum; Prince Meryre; Princess Meritamen; Princess Henuttawy; Prince Rahirwenemef; Prince Amunherkhepeshef. 

The North Side has the same figures in the reverse order.

Layout of the Temple 

The Hall

The Hypostyle Hall is graced with 6 Hathor headed Pillars depicting Nefertari playing the Sistrum with the Goddesses:

  • Hathor, Goddess of love & music, protector of women
    and who the Temple is dedicated to
  • Isis, Goddess of Life and Magic
  • Maat, Goddess of Truth and Justice
  • Mut, Goddess of the sky and queen of the god and goddesses
  • Satis, Goddess of Archery
  • Taweret, Goddess of Childbirth

And the Gods:

Horus, God of the Sky and Protector of the Pharaoh and Khnum, God of the Nile and Khonsu, God of the Moon and Thoth, God of Wisdom

Bas Reliefs

Many of the Reliefs show Nefertari making offerings to Goddess Hathor, to whom the Temple is dedicated. Again, some of the reliefs on the surrounding walls portray Pharaoh Ramses II defeating his enemies in Libya, Nubia and famously at Kadesh.

The next intersecting Hallway is accessed via three large doors. The walls are covered with Bas reliefs showing Nefertari and Ramses giving Papyrus Plants to the Goddess Hathor who is shown in her animal form as a cow sailing on a boat. 

To the left they are depicted with the God Horus and the divinities of the Nile Cataracts; Satis, Anubis and Khnum, where they make offerings to them.

Last is the Inner Sanctuary of the Temple which is inline with the axis of the Temple and shows scenes of The Goddesses Isis and Hathor, blessing Nefertari together