Solar alignment celebrated at Egypt's Abu Simbel temple

Biannual event marked with live music and the release of dozens of sky lanterns

The sun illuminates the temple's inner sanctuary only twice a year with a wide belief among archaeologists that the two days mark the pharaoh's birthday and day of coronation.  AFP
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Thousands visited the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan on Tuesday for the solar alignment phenomenon which takes place at the city’s famed Abu Simbel temple twice a year.

The Egyptian tourism ministry organised large-scale festivities on Monday night to mark the occasion, which were enjoyed by local and foreign tourists, as well as some of the country’s top officials.

A large screen displayed a historical documentary detailing the discovery of Abu Simbel temple in 1813 by a Swiss Egyptologist. The film also told the story of how the entire temple was dismantled in the 1960s to save it from the rising waters of the nearby Lake Nasser.

The temple was then reassembled 60 metres from its original location.

The event was marked by live music performances. Photos shared by the antiquities ministry showed dozens of sky lanterns being released to illuminate the night sky above the four gargantuan statues of Ramses II at Abu Simbel.

Widely regarded as a feat of pharaonic engineering, the biannual solar alignment sees the sun passing over the face of the statue of Rameses II at Abu Simbel for about 20 minutes, once on February 22 and again on October 22.

Egyptologists believe the location for the temple of Abu Simbel was chosen by the ancient Egyptians so that the sun would pass over Ramses’ face once at the start of the harvest season in February and again to mark the start of the flooding season in October.

The Aswan solar alignments draw attention to the city and its pharaonic landmarks.

This year, the alignment took place in the middle of Aswan’s annual arts and culture festival. The festival, in its ninth year, is another of the city’s celebrated events.

One of the festival’s most popular folkloric events was performed at Abu Simbel on Monday night in celebration of the solar alignment.

The solar alignment previously took place on the 21st days of both February and October, before Abu Simbel's relocation in the 1960s.

Updated: February 22, 2022, 2:07 PM