It’s not every day that you are happy to see a queue this long.
For just two mornings a year, the statues deep in the heart of Abu Simbel have their moment in the sun.
At dawn on October 22 and February 22, hundreds of visitors pour into the great temple to witness one of ancient Egypt’s engineering marvels. In reverent silence they watch as the rising sun sends a beam of light deep into the temple’s dark inner sanctuary.
For ten minutes, the statues of the main divinities of the time, Ra-Horakhty, Amun-Ra and the deified king Ramesses glow from the morning sun's first rays. The creator god of Memphis, Ptah, being associated with the underworld in one of his guises, remains partially in the shadows.
This solar alignment used to occur a day earlier; however the remarkable moving of the temple to higher ground in the 1960s saw the solar event occurring one day later than it did originally. The two temples at Abu Simbel were relocated, block-by-block, to save them from the rising waters of the new Aswan High Dam’s reservoir, Lake Nasser.
The original dates, October 21 and February 21 are often cited as being chosen to acknowledge Ramesses' birthday and coronation days, however there is no evidence at all to support the idea. It is probably more likely that the dates have an important religious significance. This photo was taken this time last year by Ibrahim Zayed during the October 2014 Sun Festival. With tourist numbers hard hit by the revolution and political troubles, it is actually a welcome sight to see so many visitors descend on Abu Simbel.