Thursday, September 29 – Review of a Gratitude Journey through Egypt along the Nile
We were all called at 3 a.m. this morning with a breakfast package to travel in a convoy of busses to Abu Simbel Temple.
Abu Simbel Temple
Location: Shores of Lake Nasser 280 km south of Aswan
Above is a link presentation of the Temple.
While the pyramids of Giza are perhaps the most recognizable artifacts of the ancient Egyptian world, following closely behind are the Abu Simbel temples in Southern Egypt, commissioned over 3,000 years ago by Pharaoh Ramses II.
The Temples at Abu Simbel are located in Southern Egypt, at the second cataract of the Nile, close to the Sudanese border. Ramses II chose the site because it was already sacred to Hathor, goddess of motherhood, joy and love. This act strengthened his divinity in the eyes of the ancient Egyptians. It encouraged them to believe that he, too, was a god.
The history of the Abu Simbel temples begins with the twenty-year effort to build these impressive structures, along with four other rock temples built in Nubia during the reign of Ramses II. The construction of Abu Simbel started around 1244 BC and was finished around 1224 BC.
Many scholars believe that the two temples of Abu Simbel were an act of ego, pride and love on the side of Ramses II. He ordered these temples built to:
- Commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. To represent the battle, the base of the temple was carved with figures of bound captives.
- Intimidate Egypt’s neighbors, the Nubians. It was Ramses’ way of trying to make an impression upon Egypt’s neighbors, as well as to force Egypt’s religion upon these neighbors.
- Honor Nefertari: The Small Temple is a monument to his most beloved queen (out of his many wives), Nefretari. It is also dedicated to the ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor.
- Honor himself: The Great Temple Ramses had built to honor himself, dedicating it to the god Re-Horakhty.
The Great Temple
In ancient times, the Great Temple was known as “The Temple of Ramesses-Meryamun,” which means Ramses, beloved by Amun. It stands 30m (98ft) tall and 35 (115ft) long. The facade of this structure, the Great Temple of Abu Simbel, is 35 meters (115 feet) long and a full 30 meters (98 feet) high.
The entrance to the large temple of Abu Simbel is crowned by a carving of Ramses worshiping the falcon-headed god Re-Horakhty, usually referred to simply as Ra. Flanking the entrance are four seated colossal figures, each a towering 20 meters (65 feet) tall. Each of these large figures is a depiction of Ramses II, seated on his thrown, wearing his double crown. Around the figure’s knees there are small carvings of some of his wives and children. Beneath the colossi there are smaller figures that depict Ramses II and his conquered enemies including the Libyans, the Nubians and the Hittites. There are other statues that represent Ramses II’s family members as well as gods of protection.
Inside, the temple has a triangular layout, with rooms decreasing in size as one progresses into the temple; the rooms are filled with engravings of Ramses II and his beloved wife, Nefertari, paying homage to the gods.
The interior begins with an atrium consisting of eight pillars. One these pillars, Ramses II is depicted in disguise as the god Osiris. Hieroglyphs and images in this atrium depict in grand detail the king’s victory at the Battle of Kadesh.
Beyond the first atrium, a second atrium opens with four pillars decorated with images showing Ramses II embracing various gods. Beyond the second atrium is the inner sanctuary where statues of Ra, Amun, Ptah and Ramses II are all seated.
The Great Temple was constructed keeping in mind the position of the sun on February 22 and October 22. On these days, sunlight penetrates 55 meters (180 feet) into the inner sanctuary to illuminate the statues along the back wall. Only Ptah, the god of the Underworld, remains in darkness all year round. Why those specific dates were chosen remains a mystery and some believe they might represent Ramses II’s birthday or his coronation.
The Small Temple
The Small Temple, built for Queen Nefertari, marks the second time a ruler dedicated a temple to his wife (the first was built by Akenaten for Nefertiti). It was also the first time that the statue of the wife, Nefertari in this case, was carved the same size as the image of the Pharaoh himself, which is significant in revealing how Ramses II felt about his beloved queen. Usually, the wives’ statues never measured higher than the Pharaoh’s knees, but Nefertari’s statues was a full 10 meters (32 feet) high.
Nefertari’s temple is also aligned to the east. It is about 28 meters (92 feet) long by 12 meters (40 feet) high. The entrance is marked by six colossal figures. There are four figures of Ramses himself and two of Queen Nefertari. Along with the six colossi stand smaller statues that present Ramses’ and Nefertari’s children.
Just inside the entrance sits a large hall, supported by six pillars, each carved with the head of Hathor, as well as scenes showing the King and Queen making offerings to various other Egyptian gods. On the inner room’s back wall, reliefs show Nefertari being crowned by Isis and Hathor.
The interior of the Small Temple is not as complex as the Great Temple. At the end of the large hall there is a doorway, leading to another room decorated with scenes of Ramses II and Nefertari with various gods. Further rooms illustrate similar Egyptian scenes.
Discovery of Abu Simbel
Over time, the temples stopped being used, eventually becoming covered by the dessert sand. By the 6th century BC, the Great Temple was already covered in sand up to the knees of the statues, and both temples were eventually forgotten until rediscovered in the early nineteenth century.
Abu Simbel was reportedly rediscovered in 1813 by a Swiss scholar, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. History says that, as he was preparing to leave the area of Lake Nasser, by traveling down the Nile, Burckhardt came over the mountain and saw the front of the great temple, the rest of it having been buried in the sand up to the necks of the giant colossi. Burckhardt told his friend (Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni) about the discovery, and Belzoni joined him at the site to help with the preliminary excavation. Despite all of their effort, the two were unable to dig out the entrance of the temple at that time.
Belzoni returned in 1817, with the English explorer and Egyptologist William John Bankes, and was able to reveal the entrance and to enter the base of the monument, taking every small item of value with him when he left.
Abu Simbel, however, was not the name given to the site during antiquity. Many believe that Abu Simbel was the name of a young local boy who had seen the buried temples through the shifting sands and guided Burckhardt to the site. Four years later, Belzoni excavated the area and named it after the boy who led Burckhardt. Unfortunately, whatever the ancient Egyptians named the complex has now been lost.
Relocation – A Massive Undertaking
Abu Simbel was originally constructed just 280 km outside Aswan, on the western bank of Lake Nasser. In the 1960s, the Egyptian government decided to build the Aswan High Dam on the Nile River, and it was feared that this would result in flooding Lake Nasser to such levels that the temples of Abu Simbel would be submerged.
From 1964-1968, UNESCO set forth an initiative to move both the Great Temple and the Small Temple to a plateau on the cliffs. The temples were dismantled, moved 60 meters up the sandstone cliff that they originally stood on and were then reassembled. Great efforts were made to reconstruct the two temples in the exact, original orientation they had held to each other and the sun. They were even built into a man-made mountain to give the original impression of being cut into a rock cliff.
The Sun Festival is a biannual celebration that still takes place in Egypt today. It marks the highlight of the tourist season in Aswan. On February 22nd and October 22nd, when the sun illuminates the back wall, the statues there are washed in sunlight. Although the Great Temple is also dedicated to Ptah, god of the Underworld, Ptah remains appropriately hidden from the sun. The modern-day Sun Festival begins right before sunrise. Musicians and dancers are gathered to celebrate not just Ramses II and Nefertari, but of the remarkable technological and astronomical prowess exhibited by the ancient Egyptians.
The Abu Simbel Temples Today
Near the re-erected temples now stands a man-made dome, which houses an exhibit of photographs, detailing the entire relocation. Now one of Egypt’s most visited tourist attractions (complete with a sound and light show), this pair of temples have come to be called part of what is called the ‘Nubian Monuments’.
Thousands of tourists visit these temples daily, arriving by plane via a field constructed near the temples, and by guarded convoys that depart twice daily from the nearest city of Aswan.
Abu Simbel Small Temple
Abu Simbel is the location of two rock cut temples that Ramses II built in Nubia. The Great Temple was dedicated to Ramses II and several national gods. Images of Queen Nefertari and several of the royal children are on the temple. Scholars moved both temples, during the 1960s, to save them from flooding caused by the Aswan Dam.
Ramses II dedicated the Small Temple to Nefertari and the goddess Hathor. Two colossal statues of the queen and four of Ramses II were carved on the front of the temple. Smaller statues of the royal children are beside the colossal statues. Inside the temple is a large Hypostyle hall.
The Hypostyle columns have tops carved in the shape of Hathor’s head. Two small vestibules were on either side of the main hall on the end by the sanctuary. The sanctuary was opposite the front entrance of the temple. All the carvings in the sanctuary were completed. Scholars found two areas on the wall for doorways to other chambers that were not carved.
Abu Simbel’s construction began in the twenty-fourth year of Ramses II’s reign. Nefertari appears in the images depicting the beginning of the temples’ construction. Later images show her daughter Meritamen in her place. Scholars believe that this shows the queen was in ill health at this time. She likely died not long after the Abu Simbel’s construction began.
Temple of Nefertari at Abu Simbel
- The small temple at Abu Simbel was dedicated to Nefertari and Hathor of Ibshek. The dedication text on one of the buttresses states:
- ‘’ 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;’’ (Kitchen)
- While on other buttresses it says:
- ‘’ King of South and North Egypt, Usermaatre Setepenre; – he has made a Temple by excavation in the mountain, of eternal work(manship) in Nubia, which the King of South and North Egypt, Usermaatre Setepenre has made for the Great Royal Wife Nefertari Meryetmut, in Nubia, like Re forever and ever.’’ (Kitchen)
- The two colossal standing statues of Nefertari in front of the small temple are equal in size to those of Ramesses II. Nefertari is shown holding a sistrum. She wears a long sheet dress and she is depicted with a long wig, Hathoric cow horns, the solar disk and tall feathers mounted on a modius.
- In the interior of the temple, Nefertari appears in a variety of scenes. She is shown for instance offering to a cow (Hathor) in a papyrus thicket, offering before Khnum, Satis and Anuket, the triad of Elephantine, and offering to Mut and Hathor.
Queen Nefertari Facts
- Nefertari was the first queen of Pharaoh Ramses II.
- She died in the twenty-fourth year of his reign.
- Her tomb is the most beautiful found in the Valley of the Queens.
- Scholars found love poetry written by the king for his dead queen in Nefertari’s tomb.
- Ramses II dedicated the Small Temple at Abu Simbel to Nefertari and Hathor.
Period: New Kingdom / 19th Dynasty
Died: ca. 1256 BC
Spouse: Ramses II
Offspring: Amun-her-khepeshef Pareherwenemef Meryatum Meryre Meritamen Henuttawy
- Nefertari, also known as Nefertari Meritmut, was an Egyptian queen and the first of the Great Royal Wives (or principal wives) of Ramesses the Great. Nefertari means ‘beautiful companion’ and Meritmut means ‘Beloved of [the goddess] Mut’. She is one of the best known Egyptian queens, next to Cleopatra, Nefertiti and Hatshepsut. She was highly educated and able to both read and write hieroglyphs, a very rare skill at the time. She used these skills in her diplomatic work, corresponding with other prominent royalties of the time. Her lavishly decorated tomb, QV66, is one of the largest and most spectacular in the Valley of the Queens. Ramesses also constructed a temple for her at Abu Simbel next to his colossal monument there.
- Nefertari held many different titles, including: Great of Praises (wrt-hzwt), Sweet of Love (bnrt-mrwt), Lady of Grace (nbt-im3t), Great King’s Wife (hmt-niswt-wrt), Great King’s Wife, his beloved (hmt-niswt-wrt meryt.f), Lady of The Two Lands (nbt-t3wy), Lady of all Lands (hnwt-t3w-nbw), Wife of the Strong Bull (hmt-k3-nxt), god’s Wife (hmt-ntr), Mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt (hnwt-Shm’w-mhw). Ramesses II also named her ‘The one for whom the sun shines’.
- Although Nefertari’s family background is unknown, the discovery from her tomb of a knob inscribed with the cartouche of PharaohAy has led people to speculate she was related to him. The time between the reign of Ay and Ramesses II means that Nefertari could not be a daughter of Ay and if any relation exists at all, she would be a great-granddaughter. There is no conclusive evidence linking Nefertari to the royal family of the 18th dynasty however. Nefertari married Ramesses II before he ascended the throne. Nefertari had at least four sons and two daughters. Amun-her-khepeshef, the eldest was Crown Prince and Commander of the Troops, and Pareherwenemef would later serve in Ramesses II’s army. Prince Meryatum was elevated to the position of High Priest of Re in Heliopolis. Inscriptions mention he was a son of Nefertari. Prince Meryre is a fourth son mentioned on the façade of the small temple at Abu Simbel and is thought to be another son of Nefertari. Meritamen and Henuttawy are two royal daughters depicted on the façade of the small temple at Abu Simbel and are thought to be daughters of Nefertari.
- Princesses named Bak(et)mut, Nefertari, and Nebettawy are sometimes suggested as further daughters of Nefertari based on their presence in Abu Simbel, but there is no concrete evidence for this supposed family relation.
- Nefertari depicted offering sistrums to Hathor in her smaller temple of Abu Simbel.
- Nefertari first appears as the wife of Ramesses II in official scenes during the first year of Ramesses II. In the tomb of Nebwenenef, Nefertari is depicted behind her husband as he elevates Nebwenenef to the position of High Piests of Amun during a visit to Abydos. Nefertari also appears in a scene next to a year 1 stela. She is depicted shaking two sistra before Taweret, Thoth and Nut.
- Nefertari is an important presence in the scenes from Luxor and Karnak. In a scene from Luxor, Nefertari appears leading the royal children. Another scene shows Nefertari at the Festival of the Mast of Amun-Min-Kamephis. The king and the queen are said to worship in the new temple and are shown overseeing the Erection of the Mast before Amen-Re attended by standard bearers. Nefertari’s speech during this ceremony is recorded:
- “Your beloved son, the Lord of Both Lands, Usermaatre Setepenre, has come to see you in your beautiful manifestation. He has erected for you the mast of the (pavilion)-framework. May you grant him eternity as King, and victory over those rebellious (against) His Majesty, L.P.H.”’’
- Nefertari appears as Ramesses II’s consort on many statues in both Luxor and Karnak. In Western Thebes, Nefertari is mentioned on a statuary group from Deir el-BAhari, a stela and blocks from Deir el-Medina
- The greatest honor was bestowed on Nefertari however in Abu Simbel. Nefertari is depicted in statue form at the great temple, but the small temple is dedicated to Nefertari and the goddess Hathor. The building project was started earlier in the reign of Ramesses II, and seems to have been inaugurated by ca year 25 of his reign (but not completed until ten years later).
- Nefertari’s prominence at court is further supported by cuneiform tablets from the Hittite city of Hattusas (today Boghazkoy, Turkey), containing Nefertari’s correspondence with the king Hattusili III and his wife Puduhepa. She is mentioned in the letters as Naptera. Nefertari is known to have sent gifts to Puduhepa:
- The great Queen Naptera of the land of Egypt speaks thus: Speak to my sister Puduhepa, the Great Queen of the Hatti land. I, your sister, (also) be well!! May your country be well. Now, I have learned that you, my sister, have written to me asking after my health. … You have written to me because of the good friendship and brotherly relationship between your brother, the king of Egypt, The Great and the Storm god will bring about peace, and he will make the brotherly relationship between the Egyptian king, the Great King, and his brother, the Hatti King, the Great King, last forever… See, I have sent you a gift, in order to greet you, my sister… for your neck (a necklace) of pure gold, composed of 12 bands and weighing 88 shekels, colored linen maklalu-material, for one royal dress for the king… A total of 12 linen garments.
- Nefertari is shown at the inaugural festivities at Abu Simbel in year 24. Her daughter Meritamen is depicted taking part in place of her mother in some of the scenes. Nefertari may well have been in failing health at this point. After her death she was buried in tomb QV66 in the Valley of the Queens. Abu Simbel, great temple
- Nefertari beside a colossus of Ramesses II
- Nefertari appears twice as one of the royal women represented beside the colossal statues of Ramesses II that stand before the temple. To the left of the doorway, Nefertari, Queen-Mother Tuya and the king’s son Amun-her-khepeshef (still called Amunhirwenemef here) flank the colossal statue of the king. To the right of the doorway Nefertari, Baketmut and the king’s son Ramesses are shown with thePharaoh.
- Inside the temple Nefertari is depicted on one of the pillars in the great pillared hall worshipping Hathor of Ibshek.
- On the wall of the inner pillared hall Nefertari appears behind Ramesses II. They stand before the Braque of Amun, and Nefertari is shown playing the sistra. Elsewhere Nefertari and Ramesses II are shown before a Braque dedicated to a deified Ramesses II. Nefertari is shown twice accompanying her husband in Triumph scenes.
- Tomb 66 in the Valley of the Queens
- Goddess Hathor giving an Ankh to Nefertari
- The tomb of Nefertari, QV 66 is one of the largest in the Valley of the Queens. It is 520 square meters, and covered with pictures of Nefertari. Her husband the pharaoh is not represented in any of the pictures. Nefertari can be seen wearing Greek silver earrings in one of the portraits (see picture). These would have been sent to her as a gift for diplomatic reasons. The tomb was robbed in antiquity. In 1904 it was rediscovered and excavated by Ernesto Schiaparelli. Several items from the tomb, including parts of gold bracelets, shabti figures and a small piece of an earring or pendant are now in the Boston Musuem of Fine Arts. Additional shabti figures are in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo
· Who was Nefertari?
Her name, Nefertari Merytmut (meaning The Beautiful Companion, Beloved of Mut), embodied the majesty and stature of queen Nefertari. At the young age of 13 she married the 15 year old Ramses II, who would come to be famously known as Ramses the Great.
Nefertari was likely a noblewoman but not a member of the royal family. She uses the titles associated with a noblewoman but no titles calling herself a king’s daughters. Records say that Ramses II and Nefertari were married before he ascended the throne. Official records mention her from the first year of his reign.
Ramses II ruled Egypt for sixty-seven years and had seven different queens. The first of these was Queen Nefertari. Ramses II lived for over ninety years and fathered at least forty daughters and forty-five sons. Nefertari was the mother of at least four sons and two daughters.
- Artifacts help identify the mothers of some of Ramses II’s children. However, most of the time, scholars had to make assumptions about a child’s mother based on where his/her images have been found. The four princes believed to be Nefertari’s sons were Amun-her-khepeshef, Pareherwenemef, Meryatum and Meryre. Two princesses identified by scholars as Nefertari’s daughters were Meritamen and Henwttawy. Some scholars speculate that she may have had other children, but no evidence has proved this.
· Ramses II and Nefertari
- © Walwyn – Statue of Ramses II and Nefertari
- Nefertari was Ramses II’s wife for over 24 years. What was probably a politically inspired union would, over time, blossom into an amorous relationship wherein Ramses II celebrated his love for her with monuments and poetry dedicated to her honor. The many titles ascribed to her attest to the esteem Ramses held for her and the various roles she undertook in her function as queen. Designations such as Sweet of Love, Bride of God and Lady of the Two Lands, demonstrate her positions as lover, priestess and political functionary. She is known to have even accompanied Ramses, in some cases, on military campaigns.
- Egyptologists have found statues and images of Nefertari throughout Egypt. At Luxor, statues of the queen are at the foot of giant statues of Ramses II. Other images show her leading the royal children in rituals or during festivals. Images also show Nefertari with her husband honoring the gods or commemorating events.
- Scholars have found more evidence of Queen Nefertari’s importance in the capital city of the Hittites. Early in his reign, Ramses II was at war with the Hittites but a peace treaty was established during his reign. After they made peace, Nefertari wrote letters to the king and queen of the Hittites. She also sent gifts to the queen, including a gold necklace.
· Nefertari’s Tomb
- © Lucas – Depiction of Nefertari (left) on the wall of her tomb, with goddess Hathor
- Ramses II built a beautiful tomb for his wife in the Valley of the Queens near Thebes. It is now known as QV66 and is the largest and most beautiful tomb in the valley. Thieves stole all the queen’s grave goods in antiquity, including her sarcophagus and her mummy. Egyptologists only found fragments of Nefertari’s body and a few grave goods in the tomb.
- Nefertari’s tomb is known for the beautiful and well preserved wall paintings. Some of them depict the crown of Queen Nefertari. Often, she wears a crown associated with different goddesses like Isis and Hathor. In her tomb, the wall paintings show the queen honoring the gods and goddesses who would help her on her journey in the afterlife.
- The ceiling of the tomb is blue and has stars painted over the ceiling. Most of the wall paintings were well preserved and Egyptologists have worked to restore and protect them. Today, The Egyptian government controls and limits visitors to the cave. Hieroglyphics cover the walls and many are passages from the Book of the Dead. Most of the images are pictorial depictions of several chapters from the Book of the Dead.
- Queen Nefertari’s tomb represents a key cultural image for two reasons. The first is that the tomb’s preservation gives scholars a glimpse of the beauty and color that was a part of most royal tombs. Second, it demonstrates the building expertise of artisans during Ramses II’s reign. Some scholars regard her tomb as one of the greatest of the many works completed during his reign.
Personal Note: This Temple site is certainly one that makes a deep impression inside your Heart Center. It is of such beauty and elegance that melts a gentleness and determination to continue in what you are here for and what you wish for in the inner relationship of the Soul. This equality of honoring and respecting a balance of male and female vibrations within would certainly lead to Oneness where no competition or struggle would be needed in the outer world.
After we returned for a late lunch the boot cruised onwards to Esna for the evening.
Once again the clear star sky and the moon was a flow that followed me in dreams.