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Sunrise festivals highlights architectural inspiration

The engineering feats of ancient Egypt are something to behold and few are more spectacular than the 3,000 year-old temple at Abu Simbel, built by Ramses the Great.

Egypt”s pharaohs were not known for their modesty and Ramses the Great was perhaps the most egotistical of all. He commissioned the temple at Abu Simbel to be so aligned that the inner sanctum of the temple would only be illuminated by sunlight twice a year: once on his birthday and once on the anniversary of his accession to power.

As if this wasn”t a sufficient demonstration of the skill of ancient Egyptian architects, the statue of the god of darkness Ptah is so positioned as to be left in the shade during the illumination.

The Abu Simbel Festival sees thousands of people gather in and around the temple at sunrise to see this incredible congregation of natural beauty, human precision and royal pomposity, before joining in the celebrations that take place throughout the event.

Were he alive today, Ramses himself might be more than a little dismayed in seeing that the temple has been moved from its original site after the area was flooded to make way the waters of Lake Nasser, meaning the sun now works its unique magic over the temple slightly later in the day than in ancient times.

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