Abu Simbel Festival
Abu Simbel © Angel Aroca Escamez
The Sun Festival at Abu Simbel takes place twice a year, in February and October, in celebration of Ramses II's birthday. When Ramses II built his temple he carefully positioned it so that on his birthday and the date of his ascension to the throne (the day he became a god to the ancient Egyptians) the inner sanctum would be lit up by the rising sun, which would gradually illuminate the statues of the sun gods, Ramses, Ra and Amun, while the god of darkness, Ptah, remains in shadow.
The Temple of Abu Simbel was moved upstream in the 1960s due to the flooding of the area and this relocation has meant that the impressive beam of sunlight illuminates the inner sanctum of the temple a day later than Ramses intended but this by no means detracts from the profundity of the experience. Before sunrise the temple becomes packed with people waiting to witness the spectacular show. The celebrations outside the temple are also worth experiencing and include music, dancing, markets, and food and drink stalls. Anyone who wants to see this ancient marvel must aim to arrive at Abu Simbel long before dawn.
Venue: The Temple of Abu Simbel
Date: 22 February and 22 October