If you’re like me and have been fortunate enough to experience the ancient wonder that is Egypt, you will delight in this post as much as I did writing it.

Abu Simbel is a historically significant temple that has a long and involved history.

So, jump aboard with me and find out some fun facts about the place.


Abu Simbel
Does this Ancient Egyptian Temple make me look taller?

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #1

Who Built The Temples of Abu Simbel?

The two temples of Abu Simbel were built by the Pharoah Ramses II, he was also known as Ramses the Great.

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #2

How Do You Pronounce Abu Simbel?

Abu Simbel is pronounced (a, as in at – boo cymbal).

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #3

When Was It Built?

Remarkably, the two temples of Abu Simbel were built in and around 1244 B.C. Construction took approximately 20 years.

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #4

Why is It Important?

Today, Abu Simbel is one of the most iconic and easily recognizable ancient sites in Egypt. It’s massive and even more impressive in real life!

This is definitely one case of the photos not doing it any justice!


Abu Simbel entrance
The impressive Great Temple of Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #5

Thank You Jean-Louis Burckhardt

As far back as the 6th Century, the temples had become immersed in sand, over time.

The sand levels eventually reached around the knee height of the statues.

With the passing years, the temples became almost entirely hidden by sand.

All the while, they remained virtually forgotten.

Until 1813, when a Swiss explorer named Jean-Louis Burckhardt was led to the site only to discover the tops of the heads of the great temple.

Upon mentioning this find to his friend, fellow explorer and alleged circus strongman Giovanni Belzoni, it is believed that Belzoni returned to the site. There he did his own excavation work and it is believed he took all that he could with him.

Had it not been for Burckhardt, who know what would be of the original site of the Temples of Abu Simbel today?

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #6

What Do the Words Abu Simbel Mean?

It is believed that Abu Simbel was named in 1813, after the young boy who pointed explorer Burckhardt in the direction of the site.

I like to believe this to be the case.

Significantly, the original title of the temple will remain a mystery from history to this day.

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #7

Touring Abu Simbel

Day trips from Aswan are possible. This generally involves a 3-hour van ride from Aswan to Abu Simbel. When I made the journey years ago, we traveled in a police convoy from Aswan.

Probably about 20 or so vans or buses to the site and return in the evening.

I believe this was discontinued a few years ago now.

Return flights are also available an option from Aswan and back.

You can also fly from Cairo if that suits your plans, but will make for a longer transit time during the day.

Also, it is worth noting that day trips are not advisable from Luxor. This will require two flight changes and a total travel time of around 12 or more hours.

Check out tour options here.


sunrise from tour van to abu simbel
The view from the early morning van ride from Aswan

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #8


The aspect of Abu Simbel was such that on two occasions each year, the sun would shine through the entrance to illuminate three statues sitting inside.

However, rumor has it that these two dates: February 22 and October 22 were the Pharoah’s birth and coronation dates.

This is no doubt a massive tourist draw-card and even now, on two dates Feb 22 and Oct 22, the event is celebrated with the Abu Simbel Sun Festival.

During the Sun Festival, visitors have the opportunity to celebrate the occasion with markets, food and drink, and dance. Quite the spectacle to savour the ingenuity of the Ancient Egyptians.

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #9

The Original Location Was Somewhere Else?

The original location of Abu Simbel was a site sacred to Hathor (an ancient Egyptian Goddess) long before Ramses put his temples there.

But he was certainly aware of this fact when he chose the site.

The original location was placed in what was known as Nubia, which was independant from Egypt at many times.

Abu Simbel was built as a symbol of power and a warning to visitors who would arrive via the Nile and see it’s power and vast size. It certainly is a commanding site that earns respect upon viewing.

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #10

How Were These Massive Rock Temples Relocated?

During the 1960’s, the Egyptian Government intended to build a dam – the High Aswan Dam on the River Nile. This location would have seen both temples in their original location entirely submerged by the dam.

A decision was made to relocate.

It took 4 years between 1964 and 1968 to disassemble and relocate the two temples and the surrounding structures. This massive project was overseen by UNESCO.

A new site, over 200 feet higher and roughly 700 feet further north-west was identified and also built as a plateau to ensure that the structures would still look as if they were naturally carved into the land, as had been the case originally.

The temples also still retained the same aspect, and therefore, as I mentioned the sun still shines within Abu Simbel, twice each year.

Lake Nasser from Abu Simbel
Lake Nasser from Abu Simbel on a beautiful winter’s day

.Abu Simbel Fun Fact #11

The Battle of Kadesh

It is believed that the temples are built to commemorate somewhat Ramses’ victory in the Battle of Kadesh (or Qadesh) over the Hittities.

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #12

Graffiti (of course!)

There is graffiti on the left leg of one of the four figures in the temple. QUite historically vital graffiti, nonetheless.

It is written in Ancient Greek, not in Ancient Egyptian, as you might expect.

The graffiti has been dated back to 633B.C and describes a military campaign of the time involving both Greek and Egyptian soldiers.


hieroglyphics at Abu SImbel
The incredible hieroglyphics at Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #13

What’s Inside?

The inside of Abu Simbel is actually a man-made cave of sorts.

Coupled with numerous statues of Ramses himself, the cavernous caves are comprised of a group of long rooms.

Subsequently, tourists are prohibited from photography inside the temple.

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #14

For Nefertiti (the favorite wife of 6)

The second, smaller temple was believed to be built for Queen Nefertiti. It is still an impressive sight to take in. And features two statues of Nefertiti and four of Ramses.

Abu Simbel Fun Fact #15

Sun God Appreciation

As well as a symbol of impending power, it is also believed that Abu Simbel’s temples are a dedication to the sun gods Amon-Re and Re-Horakhte.

So, that was my quick user-friendly fun-facts edition, taking a brief and easy look at Abu Simbel. I hope to get back one day and do a more in-depth tour of Egypt.

Have you been to Abu Simbel? Let us know in the comments!


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