Abu Simbel, Egypt, Great Temple of Ramses II
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Great Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel iStock / Siempreverde22

Abu Simbel, Egypt

Abu Simbel Temple was created during the reign of Egypt's most well-known and one of the longest ruling pharaohs, Ramses II and Nefertari, his favorite wife. The town of about 5,000 people exists thanks entirely to the temples, which arrived to the current site in the mid-1960s as part of a worldwide effort to relocate the historic monuments that otherwise would have been lost to the depths of Lake Nasser after the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

What We Love

Special Site: The temples in their own right are an incredible sight to see. The entire experience is made even more compelling by the fact that they were relocated to their current home between 1964 and 1968 in a race against time as workers battled the rising waters to save antiquities throughout the region. The entire project, known as the Nubian Monuments UNESCO World Heritage site, extends from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae. Abu Simbel was the most publicized and well-known of the moves. The Temple of Ramses II has four statues rising more than 40 feet high, with amazingly preserved carvings inside telling stories of the greatness of the pharaoh, who reigned for nearly 70 years. Nefertari's temple has six 32-foot-tall statues at its entrance, four of Ramses II and two of the queen Nefertari.

Best Known For

Day and Night: The great temple, which was built between 1244 BC and 1224 BC, offers two different experiences. Go during the day to see the full scope of the ego of a the man who ruled Ancient Egypt from 1279 BC to 1213 BC and look out upon Lake Nasser. Then, at night, experience the popular sound and light show. The show features English narration of the story of Ramses II and how the temples were moved, combined with music and light-graphics cast upon the darkened mountainside. Abu Simbel also has a large marketplace with souvenir vendors.

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Who It's Best For

Ancient Appreciators: For Ancient Egypt history buffs, it's a top sight. Ramses II was a power player of Egyptian history and Abu Simbel is the ultimate symbol of his glorification. And, yes, Ramses II is the guy Yul Brynner played in the classic movie "The Ten Commandments."

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

No Paparazzi: Photos are not allowed inside the temples, and guards are there to keep a close watch. The site has little shade outside, and it gets hot. Bring water, a hat or umbrella, and sunscreen. Bug spray, too, will come in handy.

John Roberts

John Roberts is a New Jersey-based writer for ShermansCruise who worked at The Virginian-Pilot.

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