Hundreds of towns and villages have perished due to massive earth-moving projects such as the construction of dams. But the temples at Abu Simbel, in Egypt, were historically and culturally far too important to let that happen. So when the newly built Aswan High Dam and reservoir threatened to swallow the 3,300-year-old temples, the international community banded together for an extraordinary salvage operation.
The Abu Simbel temples were originally located along the Nile river, carved out of the solid mountain rock. They were commissioned by Ramesses II, the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt, who is often regarded as the greatest and the most powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom. During his reign, Ramesses II built many temples throughout Egypt and Nubia, particularly Nubia, in order to impress upon the Nubian people the might of the Egyptians. The most famous of these are the rock-cut temples near the modern village of Abu Simbel.
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The Great Temple of Abu Simbel. Photo: Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock.com