Thursday, April 19, 2007

Abu Simbel

My collection of stamps issued in 1966 is growing more and more every week. My last purchase in this matter is a set of stamps from Syria among which these two stamps.

They have been issued on the 15th of March 1966 to celebrate the “Save the Nubian monuments” philatelic week. For this reason, they fall also into another of my collections : stamps related to Ancient Egypt. I have always been fascinated by Ancient Egypt. I had the luck to go to Egypt in 1997 to visit some of the wonderful places that you can see there, among which Abu Simbel that let me an unforgettable souvenir.
Abu Simbel is an archaeological site located in the southern Egypt on the west bank of Lake Nasser. It contains two massive rock temples and is a part of the UNESCO world heritage site known as “the Nubian monuments” (
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/88).
The construction of the temples of Abu Simbel started in approximately 1284 BC and lasted for 20 years. They were originally carved out of the mountains during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II as a lasting monument to himself and his queen Nefertari (the big temple is dedicated to Ramses II and the small one to Nefertari).
What makes this place exceptional apart from the colossal statues that are placed at the entry of the temples, is the fact that the complete complex was moved because of the Aswan dam construction ! In 1959 started an international donations campaign to save the monuments of Nubia because they were under the threat from rising waters of the Nile that were about to result from the construction of the dam. The salvage of Abu Simbel began in 1964 and was completed around 1968. To be moved, the temples were actually cut in pieces, and reconstructed somewhere else, higher in the mountain. Very impressive ! This campaign to save Abu Simbel (and other Nubian monuments) has been celebrated and supported by philatelic issues from various countries, like the two stamps from Syria.
The stamps picture two the four 20 meter statues of Ramses II that decorate the entry of the main temple. Only three of the statues are intact, the fourth one has been damaged during an earthquake.
The legend that is spread by the tour guides when you visit the site is that the name Abu Simbel comes from the name of a young boy who was the guide of the Italian explorer who rediscovered the site at the beginning of the 19th century.

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