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Abu Simbel, Egypt
Abu Simbel, lying in Nubia 280 km south of Aswan and 40 km north of the Sudan, is the site of two temples built by Ramses II (reigned 1279-13 BCE). The four colossal statues of Ramses are spectacular examples of ancient Egyptian art. Carved out of a sandstone cliff on the Nile's west bank, the temples were lost to the outside world until their rediscovery in 1813. The 20m seated figures of Ramses were set against the recessed face of the cliff. Around their feet are small figures representing Ramses' queen, Nefertari, and their children.
The temple itself, dedicated to the sun gods Amon-Re and Re-Horakhte, has three consecutive halls extending 56 m into the cliff, decorated with figures of the king and painted reliefs showing his life and achievements. It was built so that, on certain days of the year, the first rays of the morning sun would penetrate its whole length and even illuminate the shrine in its innermost sanctuary. The temples were salvaged from the rising waters of the Nile (caused by the Aswan High Dam) by a multi-national engineering feat in the 1960s.
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