Love Letters In The Sand

Everything about Abu Simbel is fabulous. The space is vast and remote. It is a three hour vehicle ride from the nearest city, Aswan, so most visitors get there by a short plane ride and then bus in from the airport.


The twin temple complex was built by Pharaoh Ramesses II, ruler of Egypt from 1279-1213BC. Ramesses II came to the throne of Upper and Lower Egypt as a young man and ruled well into his old age. He was the father of about 111 sons and 51 daughters. Sixty-seven years in power gave Ramesses II a serious amount of time to do all kinds of cool stuff like become a great military leader and devote his time and resources to an extensive building program. The dramatic Abu Simbel temples are superlative examples of his projects and one of the reasons Ramesses II is also known as Ramesses the Great.

 Originally, the two massive temples were carved into the side of a rock mountain between 1264-1244 BC, and for three thousand years they sat on the west bank of the Nile between the first and second cataracts facing Egyptian conquered Nubia.  No doubt, the ancient Nubians were intimidated by the  pharaoh’s  massive temples, but they had only to wait.  With the passage of time, the temples were abandoned and pharaohs died and were forgotten. The twin temples fell prey to disinterest and the cruelty of sand….until centuries later they were rescued and uncovered by an Italian explorer named Belzoni in 1817.

In 1960, with the construction of the new Aswan High Dam, the temples had to be rescued again. Their successful rescue is every bit as large and dramatic an achievement as the temples themselves. These enormous structures were painstakingly and lovingly deconstructed, stone by stone….. 

and relocated a safe distance from the Nile River that was about to be flooded to create Lake Nasser. (I found the above photo on the net.) Support from around the world made the the rescue possible. Without worldwide help, the temples would have been submerged forever.


Now, Abu Simbel faces a protected future as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The exteriors of both temples make it clear that Ramesses the Great had no rivals. The entrance to the temple dedicated to the pharaoh is adorned with colossal statues of himself. The four enormous seated statues of the pharaoh span his life time, with the youngest likeness being on the left and the oldest on the far right. See how the face on  the far right is a bit fuller with age than the one on the far left.

abul s1
abul s2

Inside, the walls are covered with testaments to the power and deeds of Ramesses II, and the hallways are full of more massive and mighty looking statues of himself.


Here Ramesses II is smiting his enemies. Note how large Ramesses is compared to his foes.


The temple next door is called the Small Temple and is dedicated to the major goddess, Hathor, and Nefertari, principal wife of Ramesses II. The name Nefertari means beautiful companion, but history records her as more than just a pretty face. She was highly educated and able to read and write. Even though Ramesses the Great dedicated this temple to his wife, his images are as prominent as hers. The face of the temple has four statues of Ramesses II and only two statues of Nefertari, leading some Egyptologists to believe that Ramesses II could not resist yet another opportunity to demonstrate that he was the most powerful man in the known world. One could even begin to doubt his love for his wife, but a little research on my part revealed that Hathor was the goddess of the sky, of women, of fertility, and of love. For me, a temple housing both this goddess and his principal wife can only be interpreted as Ramesses’ love letter in the sand.


On the walls of the Small Temple, visitors can see pictures of the pharaoh conquering his enemies and talking to the gods as well as Nefertari offering lotus flowers to the seated goddess, Hathor.

And then, at the back of the temple, the most charming of wall coverings can be found. Here, the pharaoh and Nefertari are seen bearing flower bouquet offerings to the seated goddess, Hathor. Suddenly, the most powerful man in the world becomes just a guy with his wife honoring an important female goddess of love. Amazing!!!

See you soon,

The Unseasoned Traveler

11 thoughts on “Love Letters In The Sand

  1. Oh, I am so thrilled you are back “traveling”. What a fabulous site and story. Hope all is well. Best wishes to you and to your special traveling partner.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Big HI to you, Donna…..hope all is well with you, too. Nothing of note at this end….sadly, I got was given some incorrect info that I used in the blog you just enjoyed. I had to do a rewrite, and if you look at the new version, you will see the changes….I hope you like the new version as well….say hi to Bruce for me and our pals in Canada…love to you…j


  2. Wow, your description of Ramesses before the love part sounds exactly like our president, Trump. He’d carve his own big image smiting his enemies on his wall and elsewhere if he could, I’m sure. At least he didn’t have that many children or else the RNC would still be going on! These pictures are awesome. Going to the current Abu Simbel site (usually by plane) is really impressive, and you captured it. But poor Nubia did not get the last laugh, as it was itself submerged by the Nile after the Aswan dam was built. Those who do not know history are bound to repeat it, they say. Keep these blogs coming, Jackie!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Maybe you should create one of those picture travel books. Your pictures and commentary are wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Cathy….I found that some of the info I learned on my tour was incorrect(proving that everything a guide says is not always true) and I had to do a rewrite. If you read it again, you will notice the changes….hope you still like the blog, and thanks for following….j


  4. Jackie! So wonderful to have another of your posts arrive. Earlier today I was reading Lonnie Bunch’s column in the latest Smithsonian. He says, “To send forth into the world the thrill of an unexpected discovery, the courage to have our assumptions challenged, and the tools to imagine and build something new.” That’s what you do in everyone of your posts. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Greetings, David….so good to hear your voice in your words. I have not been able to blog…for so many reasons….you could call it a general inability to function in this world we have been asked to live in….it took a lot to pull myself out of my latest funk….but here I am. How are you and Marcia and Henry??? I have been thinking about Italy and the good old days when you could get a pizza and eat it in the shadow of the Duomo…did that really happen?
      Incidentally, I had to revise my latest blog entry. If you read it again, you will see some changes. While on tour, my guide gave me some incorrect info that I used. Just by happenstance, several hours after the post went live, I found the correct info and did a quick rewrite….tomorrow, I may repost…we will see….I hate incorrect info. At any rate, I am catching up to the real deal….and I hope you can find some humor in this little bit of drama and still think kindly of the post…because words from Dr. Bunch…well…that’s high praise, indeed. I have met him several times, and he is every bit as genuine as one could hope. Stay healthy and safe…..and thank you, David.


  5. What a wonderful adventure you had.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Betsy….thanks for following….there are only two more posts for this trip….sadly….today’s post had some errors that needed correcting….you might want to look at the corrected version….I got some bad facts from my tour guide….and those facts needed fixing….see you


  6. You are so eloquent good job Jackie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My Friend….how are you? Thanks for the kind words. I am thankful that you saw the new and corrected version version of this blog…the older version had a few informational errors in it. I got some incorrect info in Egypt while we were there…I copied the bad info into my notes, and used it in the blog….I was pissed…tomorrow, I have to repost with an explanation. Just goes to show that even though people lead tours, it doesn’t mean that good info is given out….how is Queenie? Send my best greetings to her….Have you been at your new home all summer? I might be getting surgery on my shoulder…still trying to make up my mind about it…stay in touch….and you are soooooo classy….j


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