Protecting heritage in Egypt

Do you believe when you look at this picture of Rameses in Egypt above that has been restored, can you believe that the temple complex has been through much deterioration prior to restoration?
This is really efficient work done by about 3000 members were knowing well the value of Egyptian heritage during threats of the flooding of the Nile in the sixties. From time to time, it should be a reminder for the new generation and the current heritage responsible by this patriotic work done in the last century to conserve heritage. One of these archaeological sites is the Abu Simbel Temples (two temples; the second small temple for queen Nefertari, Rameses’s wife) that were hewn in the rock to reach about 210 feet – 64 meters for the King Rameses Il in the 12th Century (1303-1213 B.C.), in Lower Nubia. It consists of an outer façade and 14 rooms in the interior of the cliff.

The façade is dominated by four colossal statues of seated Rameses II, each about 20 m high. The biggest room, the Courtyard Hall, is 18 m long, 16 m wide and 8 m high. The innermost room, the Bark Sanctuary, is located about 60 m into the cliff, as counted from the original mountain surface. The walls, pillars and ceilings of the temple rooms are beautifully sculptured and painted 280 km south. (as shown left figure; general plan of Abu Simbel temple – design H. El-‘Ashiri)
In April 1959, national call  from the Egyptian Minister of Culture “Dr. Sarwat ‘Ukasha” to rescue the Nubian archaeological sites and monuments from Nile flood concluded with the relocation of the threatened temples with budget 33,000,000 $ from international sources to enable UNESCO Executive Board to give the start signal to Egypt.

Abu Simbel Temples
Image: Wkimedia Commons

This campaign tasks were divided into three categories:

1st category:

there was an urgent job to carry out systematic surveys and excavations for the archaeological and prehistoric sites in the threatened areas of both Egypt and Sudan.

2nd category:

This involved dismantling and the removal of ancient temples and other historic monuments to safety place beyond the flood area. The three temples of Kertassi, Debod and Taffeh were removed by the Egyptian team of the Documentation Center of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, while the Federal Republic of Germany has offered to participate in removing the great temple of Kalabsha, and France the temple of Amada. The last category included the two most important projects of the campaign that is the preservation in situ of the temples on the isle of Philae, and the Abu Simbel temples.

But Abu Simbel is a special case as ” it was one of, if not the largest, rock-cut temples in Egypt” as quoted by the Oriental Institute of Chicago member, and UNESCO has taken steps of preservation after the agreement and support of the Government of Egypt. Four proposals were given:

1) Raising the temples above the water level (as shown below).

2) Building earth and rock fill dam to protect the two temples.

3)Building protective concrete dam in front of each temple.

4) Building a large dome concrete dam to protect the two temples.

The temple moved back 690 feet (about 215 m), to its present site

3rd Category:

The most important step in this operation of relocation is the photogrammetric technical work, that my father was the head of Documentation Center team to make a complete record of architectural measurements and scientific panoramic photographs for all the monuments on the island and the island itself. Black and white and colour photographs, photogrammetric negatives from exact models of objects have been reconstituted, architects’ plans, and archaeologists’ copies of hieroglyphic texts, graffiti and inscriptions have gradually been combined. (as shown in fig. above – le môle sud et nord, Cl. CEDAE, M. F. Ibrahim)
And after 5 years of continuous hard work, the operation of dismantling and relocation have been done professionally to give us today the great image of Abu Simbel temple as it was, that attract a huge number of tourists along the year and especially when Sun shining on the face of the king Rameses II, twice a year in the 22nd of February “the King Rameses II’s birthday” and the 22nd of October “the day of his coronation”.

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