Nubian Monuments

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The Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae consists of the Temples of Ramses II at Abu Simbel and the Sanctuary of Isis at Philae.

Abu Simbel is an archaeological site comprising two massive rock temples in southern Egypt on the western bank of Lake Nasser about 290 km southwest of Aswan. The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his alleged victory at the Battle of Kadesh, and to intimidate his Nubian neighbors. However, the complex was relocated in its entirety in the 1960s, on an artificial hill made from a domed structure, high above the Aswan dam reservoir.

The relocation of the temples was necessary to avoid being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan dam on the Nile River.


Community Reviews

Jay T - August 2016

The Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae were the absolute highlight of my trip to Egypt in the fall of 2012. Over fifty years ago, the preservation and movement of these monuments became the first major cultural project undertaken by UNESCO, saving these treasures from submersion under Lake Nasser. Ever since I'd seen pictures of Egypt when I was younger, I'd wanted to see the Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, and even though Egypt Air did its best to complicate my visit by rescheduling my flights, I was not disappointed. The four statues of Ramses II outside the temple were colossal, and inside the temple two rows of slightly smaller statues of Ramses II led to the inner sanctuary. The walls were covered with hieroglyphs, and the temple was remarkably well-preserved; there was little to tell it had been relocated. After flying back to Aswan, I visited the beautiful Philae Temple at night and by day. The temple is on an island, and the approach by water was both memorable and aesthetically pleasing. I loved the hieroglyphs and carvings, like those of pharoah Neos Dionysos (Ptolemy XII) offering sacrifices to Horus and Hathor, which were amazingly detailed. To anyone traveling to Egypt, I highly recommend making time to see these treasures.

Logistics: When I visited, Abu Simbel was only accessible via a plane flight from Aswan or Cairo. Philae Temple is on an island outside the city of Aswan, and there are several tour operators in the city willing to arrange a visit.

Clyde - September 2012

I visited this WHS in March 2010. The Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel and the Sanctuary of Isis at Philae were saved from the rising waters of the Nile and both are immensely beautiful. Abu Simbel is surely one of Egypt's top WHS.

Indigo Newbery-Chunn - August 2012

The Nubian monuments are amazing and very intresting for primary students to learn about. I have been there many times and loved it

Claire Nicholas - April 2010

I have been lucky enough to visit Abu Simbel several times, and also managed to time one of these visits to coincide with the sunrise lighting up the statues at the back of the temple. I am as much in awe of the rescue of Abu Simbel as of its original construction. I also visited the monuments on Lake Nasser a few years ago, and plan to return in 2011.

The UNESCO campaign of the 1960's impressed me so much that I decided to base my dissertation for my MA in Egyptian Archaeology on the rescued Nubian monuments. I am using them as a case study, to measure to what extent the rescue - but subsequent removal to other countries - has enabled a wider understanding of the original culture.

As a tool to help me collect people's opinions, I have created my own website explaining my project, and including a blog. I would very much appreciate receiving your comments, and those of your readers. I also hope to publish a link to a survey soon on my website, but I need to increase readership first to make this worthwhile. The site is here www.whithernubia.co.uk

Keep up the good work!

stewart ayu - March 2009

Nubian Monuments: In 1988 I spent 18 days crossing the Nubian Desert of Sudan. Then I took the run down Sudanese barge crossing lake nasser ending in Aswan. The journey was on deck class with about 1000 Sudanese and took 48 hours. Remains of the other Sudanese ferry could be seen. Everyone drowned or were eaten by Nile crocodiles. Along the way was a magical glimpse of Abu Simbel in the distance. It was a timeless and powerful experience.

Christer Sundberg - February 2006

After having enjoyed the life in Cairo for a week - one of the truly most exciting cities in the world - I then took the train from the bustling Ramses station down through the Nile valley heading for Aswan in southern Egypt. Instead of catching a plane, this is a recommendable way to see some of the river landscape and rural Egypt, as the train slowly follows the river, downstream to Luxor and 14 hours later arrives in Aswan.

Aswan itself is a lush oasis and virtually the 'last stop' before Sudan and the Nubian deserts takes ove and is itself well worth a stop for a couple of days. A short, early morning flight, then took me the last 300 km down to the famous Ramses-statues in Abu Simbel, moved away from the rising water when the Aswan dam was constructed back in 1972. Once on site, you realise what a majestic project this must have been, almost more impressing than the actual statues themselves.

Later the evening, I also visited the temples of Philae, which was also moved away from the rising water and are now located on a small island not too far from the dam itself. Small boats takes you across the water and you can enjoy the beauty of the temple of Isis and Trajans Kiosk, the latter being one of the most photographed temples in Egypt, while having a tea or a drink in the small café.

Klaus Freisinger - June 2005

The area between Assuan and the Sudanese border is one of the greatest (and largest) archaeological areas in the world - unfortunately, much of it is located beneath Lake Assuan. However, the greatest temples - Abu Simbel and Philae -, have survived thanks to UNESCO's help and major feats of engineering, as well as smaller sites at islands like Elephantine. Philae is a very interesting and beautiful place, but there are few words to describe the magic of Abu Simbel, the temple built by one of Egypt's greatest rulers, Pharao Ramses II. Seeing the sun rise at Abu Simbel is an unforgettable experience, even after a four-hour busride from Assuan leaving at 3 am. Needless to say, flying is a lot quicker and easier. Assuan itself is a relatively pleasant town with a nice bazaar, a great botanical garden at Kitchener Island, and the Nubian Museum, which I unfortunately missed. The extreme south of Egypt is one of the most interesting parts of the country and must not be missed by any serious traveller.

Kelly K. Henry

Abu Simbel is just 40 km from the Sudan and 100 km from any decent sized Egyptian city. The best way to visit is to fly there from Luxor or Aswan. Return flights are less than US$80. The temple was completely dismantled and moved to a higher site when the Aswan High Dam was constructed. If that hadn't happened, the site would be 60m underwater right now. That action was UNESCO World Heritage's first big save at an expense of US$40M in the 1960's and 70's.

Abu Simbel is massive and is perched high on a cliff at the edge of Lake Nasser. The 4 statues of Ramses II at the entrance are more than 30ft high each. The interior is covered with exceptional carvings and paintings.

Philae is at the edge of Aswan also on Lake Nasser. You have to take a quick ferry to get there. This is considered the most beautiful temple in Egypt -- (sort of their Aphrodite). ALthough the structures are less intact that most other Egyptian temples, the island site is beautiful, especially at sunset.

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Site Info

Full name: Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae

Site History


The site has 10 locations.

  • Abu Simbel
  • Amada
  • Islamic Cemetery
  • Kalabsha
  • Monastery of St. Simeon
  • Old and Middle Kingdom Tombs
  • Philae (Island of Agilkia)
  • Ruins of town of Elephantine
  • Stone quarries and obelisk
  • Wadi Sebua


The site has 26 connections.



  • Chariots Relief of Ramses II located in Abu Simbel, depicted riding a chariot when fighting at the Battle of Kadesh
  • Domes The Concrete Dome of the Reconstructed Temples
  • Hypostyle Temple of Isis at Philae - "The striking Hypostyle Hall conisists of ten huge pillars. Once beautifully painted, the pillars symbolize the first plants, trees and flowers of the earth which began to grow on the Primeval Mound (symbolized by the temple floor). On the ceiling (representing the sky), are images of the Day Boat and the Night Boat, and of the vultures of Upper and Lower Egypt." See
  • Monumental Monoliths The 'Unfinished Obelisk' at the Stone Quarrries in Aswan. It broke in situ and was never moved. Its weight is estimated at 1200 tonnes.
  • Passage of the Sun Abu Simbel - "The axis of the temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that twice a year, on Oct 20 and Feb 20, the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculpture on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptah, the god connected with the Underworld, who always remained in the dark. These dates are allegedly the king's birthday and coronation day respectively, but there is no evidence to support this"



  • Hittites Abu Simbel: The inconclusive (?) battle of Kadesh between the forces of Egypt and the Hittites - Ramesses II ("The Great") and Muwatalli II - is represented in bombastic pro-Egyptian terms via a series of carvings in the hypostyle hall (N Wall) "Two Hittite spies are captured and beaten until they reveal the true whereabouts of Muwatalli, the Hittite king. Finally, the two sides engage in battle, the Egyptians charging in neat formation while the Hittites are in confusion, chariots crashing, horses bolting and soldiers falling into the River Orontes. In the text, Ramesses takes on the whole of the Hittite army single-handed, apart from support rendered by [the god] Amun who defends him in battle and finally hands him the victory."

Human Activity

Individual People

  • André Malraux Presided at the ceremony held at UNESCO HQ Paris in Mar 1960 to launch the International Campaign for the Preservation of the Monuments of Nubia which ultimately led to the preservation of Philae and Abu Simbel. Text of his speech
  • Emperor Trajan Philae - Trajan's Kiosk
  • Giovanni Belzoni Feb 1817 - discovered the Great Temple of Abu Simbel and cleared it of sand.
  • Johann Ludwig Burckhardt "rediscovered" Abu Simbel on 22 March 1813
  • Prince Pückler Abu Simbel ("Prince Pückler Muskau has engraved his and his "ordenskreuz" in huge letters on the naked breast of that August and pathetic giant who sits at Abu Simbel. I wish someone would kick him for his profanity." - Lady Duff Cooper in 1902) and Philae

Religion and Belief


  • Built in the 2nd Millennium BC The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BC, as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari, to commemorate his alleged victory at the Battle of Kadesh, and to intimidate his Nubian neighbors. (wiki)