The great temple of Abu Simbel, dedicated to the glory of King Ramsses II. Though the temple is officially dedicated to the triad Amon-Ra, Ptah and Ra-Harakhte, its front is dominated by four gigantic statues of the great pharaoh himself. Because of their remote location near the Sudanese border in southern Egypt, the temples were unknown until their rediscovery in 1813. They were first explored in 1817 by the Egyptologist Giovanni Battista Belzoni.
He had this temple built in this otherwise desolate area on the actual site of a much older shrine of a local personification of the god Horus. The facade is one 119 feet wide and 100 feet high, while the colossal statues are 67 feet in height wearing the characteristic nemes head cloth and the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.
The king is accompanied by some of his wives, sons and daughters who appear in much smaller size beside his legs. Right above the entrance stands a figure of the god Re-Harakhte in a small niche. The top of the facade is crowned by a row of baboons.
The central entrance leads into a large hall with massive pillars fronted by Osiris figures of the king. The most striking feature of the site is that the axis of the temple is specially tilted in such a way so that twice every year, on 22 February and 22 October, the first rays of the morning sun shine down the entire length of the temple-cave to illuminate the back wall of the innermost shrine and the statues of the four Gods seated there. With the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, the temples were threatened with submersion under the rising waters of the reservoir (Lake Nasser). Between 1964 and 1966, a project sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Egyptian government disassembled both temples and reconstructed them on top of the cliff 200 feet above the original site.