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Popular Destinations near Abu Simbel
Favourite Cities and Hotels in Egypt

The story of Abu Simbel’s deliverance from irreparable annihilation is a real-life heroic tale that overshadows any facile work of fiction. Millions of tourists who visit the peerless UNESCO World Heritage Site in Egypt may not realize it at first, but originally, the totality of the temple complex was miles away.

The waters of Lake Nasser, an artificial consequence of the massive Aswan High Dam project, had risen so rapidly by the late 1950s that an international team of consultants was summoned to brainstorm on how best to save the Nubia region ruins. After much consternation and debate over several years, USD $40 million was invested in what is still one of the most labour-intensive archaeological endeavours in history. By 1968, the entire Abu Simbel site had been meticulously re-located piece by piece to the western bank of Lake Nasser. A mere 230 km from the city of Aswan, Abu Simbel now stands as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Egypt. The official UNESCO World Heritage Site, the “Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae”, was inscribed at the same time as the Pyramids of Giza. In addition to the Temples of Pharaoh Ramses II at Abu Simbel, the entry includes the Sanctuary of Isis at Philae, yet another must-see attraction in Egypt.

  • Great Temple of Ramses II
  • Temple of Hathor
  • Abu Simbel Sound and Light Show
  • Nubian Oasis
  • Wadi el Nil
  • Toya

Predictably, Abu Simbel has a typical desert climate, with hot, arid weather throughout the year.

  • Winter (December to February) 10-23°C
  • Spring (March to May) 14-39°C
  • Summer (June to September) 25-42°C
  • Fall (October to November) 14-35°C

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, people come to Abu Simbel for one reason and one reason only. For late-night kicks, stick to Cairo and Aswan.

Abu Simbel Hotels


Abu Simbel Rundown

What a job it must have been to relocate the temples of Abu Simbel, bit by precious bit, and save the peerless ancient monnuments of Nubia from the brink of a Nile deluge. The epic deliverance of the Abu Simbel temples from the Aswan High Dam casualty list began in 1964 by a crack multinational unit of archaeologists, engineers and heavy machinery operators under the charge of UNESCO. Without precedent or prototype, the salvage took four years, $40 million and, one can assume, a lot of blood, sweat and tears! ... Read more »

One can also assume that many of the millions who visit Abu Simbel every year have no idea that were it not for a few strident advocates decades ago, they would need to strap on a scuba kit to see the complex. Indeed, it is hard to imagine tourism in Egypt today without the venerable temples. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, the “Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae”, was made official in 1979 at the same time as the ensemble at Memphis and Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur. While the trip from Aswan is a speedy in and out for most, more and more intrepid travellers have come to embrace Egypt below the Tropic of Cancer. The recent ascent of the “Archaeological Sites of the Island of Meroe”, just over the border in north Sudan, to the UNESCO World Heritage family is a surefire signal that the former bosom of Nubia and the Kingdom of Kush has inherent treasures galore!

Abu Simbel History

  • Great Temple of Ramses II – The most eminent and fascinating temple built during the reign of Ramses.
  • Temple of Nefetari – The mind-blowing temple was built by Ramses to honour Hathor and was dedicated to his favourite wife, Nefetari.
  • Qasr Ibrim – It is believed that it dates back to the old kingdom. It was also the last Christian stronghold that fell under the Islam regime.
  • Unfinished Obelisk – The biggest known ancient obelisk carved entirely out of bedrock.
  • Monastery of St Simeon – The Christian monastery dates back to the 7th century.

Abu Simbel Art & Culture

  • The Sound and Light Show – It literally lights up the majestic temples as awesome lighting, sounds and artists take you back in time as they narrate the story of Ramses the Great.
  • Nubian Museum – It contains Nubian treasures and artefacts that were recovered before Nubia was flooded.
  • Aswan International Sculpture Park – It houses art sculptures crafted by artists from all over the world.
  • Aswan Souk – You can experience the amazing culture in the souk, and locals can tell you pretty much everything about their town.
  • Sun Festival – Every 22nd of February and October, people gather before sunrise as they watch the sunlight sneak through the statues of Ramses, Ra and Amun.

Abu Simbel Shopping

  • Sharia as-Souq – Unlike the souks in the big cities, this one is rather charming. You can find basically anything here.
  • Om Elnor Jewelry – You can get replicas of the large cartouches found on the walls of temples in either silver or gold.
  • Mint Tea – A must-try in the countless teashops; local shop keepers are fascinating.
  • Temple of Abu Simbel – You can find exquisite textiles and silk here.
  • Spice Market – A feast for the senses.

Gay & Lesbian Abu Simbel

Homosexual rights are not officially recognized in Egypt. Gays and lesbians should use discretion and caution, as discrimination and police scrutiny can occur.

  • Venture Out – This gay tour company offers a multiday Nile cruise through Abu Simbel on a traditional dahabiya.
  • Hermes Tours – A gay tour company that offers an extensive look at Abu Simbel and other major Egyptian attractions.
  • Seti Abu Simbel – This hotel offers rooms overlooking Lake Nasser and is usually on the itineraries of gay tours.
  • Wadi el Nil – A popular, albeit touristy, place to sample local Egyptian fare.
  • Aswan Corniche al-Nil – This promenade in nearby Aswan is a favourite strolling and gathering spot at all hours of the day.

Abu Simbel Outdoor

  • Aswan botanical Gardens – It is filled with different species of birds. There is also a diverse collection of plants and different palm trees here.
  • Sehel Island – You can see the cliff, which has about 200 inscriptions from the 18th dynasty here. Intricately crafted beaded jewellery is also available.
  • Aswan High Dam – This 3.83km-long and 111m-high dam is a major tourist attraction.
  • Elephantine Island – There is just so much to see on the island, such as the amazing Nubian villages and the famous Nilometers.
  • Ferial Gardens – Take a breath of fresh air as you stroll along the park. You will definitely feel relaxed and rejuvenated after.

Abu Simbel Sport

  • Cycle or jog along the riverbank in Abu Simbel.
  • Navigate the surrounding desert on a camel ride.
  • Enjoy the tranquil scenery as you sail on a felucca from nearby towns.
  • Angle for tiger fish in Lake Nasser.
  • Take a dip in the pool at the Seti Abu Simbel Lake Resort.

When To Go

If Aswan is a furnace, Abu Simbel, hours to the south, is even more so. A temporary respite from the oppressive swelter between December and February makes the short desert winter a popular time for tourists. With balmy and comfortable weather between 50°F (10°C) and 79°F (26°C), it makes a lot of sense to visit sometime before or after the Christmas holidays, despite the crowds!

If you do come between June and September, prepare for temperatures in the 75°F (24°C) to 111°F (44°C) range. Needless to say, drink a lot of water and stay out of the sun!

Getting Around

Aswan International Airport serves Cairo, Luxor, London-Gatwick and operates shuttles to tiny Abu Simbel Airport, which offers service to and from the likes of Copenhagen, Dubai, Doha and Jakarta!

Security concerns make Abu Simbel inaccessible by private car. For now, foreign nationals must take a special tourist bus or taxi from Aswan, with police escort, to navigate the three hour trip. For speed and convenience, a plane is the best bet. Some, however, prefer to take a leisurely cruise from Aswan on Lake Nasser!

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Seti Hotel Abu Simbel
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Touristik Village Abou Simbel

Seti Hotel Abu Simbel provides travellers to this remote region with fairly luxurious accommodations... More hotel details


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