The Abu Simbel Festival

The Abu Simbel Festival

A 3000-year-old lightshow brings thousands of people from around the world

Near the Sudanese border of Egypt is one of its most remarkable archaeological and architectural wonders, the Sun Temple of King Ramses II. Built around 1250 BCE, it is considered by many to be the greatest achievement of the titular king’s legacy.  It was carved directly into the sandstone cliffs along the bank of the Nile River.  Two 100-foot tall statues of Ramses guard the entrance to the temple and more lay within.  The temples was constructed in such a way that on two specific days light floods into the main chamber and lights it up.  Twice a year, this famous location sees the coming of the Abu Simbel Festival to celebrate this natural phenomenon.

The two important dates are October the 22nd and February the 22nd.  These mark the anniversary of Ramses’ rise to the throne as well as his birthday.  People come from all over the world to witness the cleverly timed lighting of the interior statues of Ramses II and the Sun God.  A combination of natural elements and man-made precision, there 

is little like it elsewhere in the world.

Though the lighting of the temple is the highlight of the festival, afterwards is when the real festivities begin.  There is music, dancing, markets and plenty of food and drink.  All this is arranged by the locals and represents the best of what the region’s culture has to offer.

If you plan on going to Abu Simbel to see the light show, it’s best to get to the temple as early as possible.  Since so many people show up every year, it can get quite crowded and the best seats are taken hours before the actual event takes place.  The Abu Simbel Festival is a great way to experience both Egypt’s present culture and the remarkable achievements of its grand historical past.