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The Story Behind the Egyptian Sun Festival

If you’re very lucky, you could visit Abu Simbel, the Great Temple of Ramses II, on just the right day and at just the right time to enjoy one Egypt’s most majestic sights.

As dawn breaks on the western bank of Lake Nasser, the first beams of sunlight gradually illuminate the colossal statues guarding the temple’s gateway, before creeping into its darkened innards – an event that only happens two mornings of the year.

The Great Temple of Ramses II was constructed to align with the sun twice every year


To this day locals flock to the monument for the bi-annual Sun Festival to remember the iconic Pharaoh.

Image: “Ramses II in Luxor Temple” by Mohammed Moussa.

The solar phenomenon sheds light on three of four sculptures on the rear wall, which spends the rest of the year plunged in darkness


Ramses II, with Amen-Re to his left and Re-Harkhiti enjoy a rare chance to work their tan.

Image: “Abu Simbel – Allerheiligstes” by Man77.

While the fourth statue remains in darkness all year round


This is no accident either – the fourth statue depicts Ptah, the god of darkness.

Image by Robven.

The first sun festival takes place on February 22, the anniversary of Ramses’ ascension to the throne


Ramses II took to the throne at a tender age of 20 years old and people to this day celebrate his rise to the throne.

Image by Speedster.

Ramses II is widely regarded as the greatest Egyptian leader and warrior in history


Mural illustrating the Siege of Dapur, one of Ramses’ many victories throughout his 67-year rule.

Image under public domain.

However, the ‘Pharaoh Warrior’ also signed the first ever peace treaty


Treaty tablet between Ramses II and Hattusili III of Hatti.

Image by deror avi.

The second sun festival takes place on October 22nd, the birthday of Ramses II


Ancient Egyptian celebrations were off the hook.

Image under public domain.

And rumour has it he managed to celebrate 90 birthdays before he died


Got to hand it to the guy, he doesn’t look bad for over 3,000 years old!

Image by ThutmoseIII.

And just like the sun festival, there are two temples at Abu Simbel


The Great Temple of Ramses II for the great man himself…

Image by Angel Aroca Escámez.

…and the Temple of Nefertari, Egyptian queen and the first of Ramses’ Great Royal Wives.


Why hello there, ladies.

Image by Angel Aroca Escámez.

Abu Simbel remains one of Egypt’s most prized monuments, and it’s easy to see why.


The site that brings crowds of locals and tourists together on a bi-annual basis.

Image by By Karelj.