Tourists watch solar illumination of King Ramses II at Aswan's Abu Simbel

Ahram Online , Wednesday 22 Feb 2017

The 3,200-year-old solar alignment ceremony occurs twice a year, to mark the anniversary of the pharaoh's birth and ascension to the throne

Abu Simbel
Tourists gather outside the temple of Abu Simbel, south of Aswan in upper Egypt, to witness the sun illuminate the inner sanctuary on October 22, 2016 (Photo: AFP)

Hundreds gathered on Wednesday at Aswan’s Abu Simbel Temple to watch the bi-yearly phenomenon of the sun illuminating a statue of King Ramsses II -- this month, to mark the pharaoh's birthday -- Ahram Arabic news website reported.

The 3,200-year-old solar alignment ceremony drew dozens of foreign, and hundreds of Egyptian tourists who came to see the sun light up the ancient temple's dark inner chamber at dawn, around 6:22am for nearly 20 minutes.

One of Egypt's most powerful pharaohs, Ramsess II had the temple carved into a sandstone mountain on the banks of the Nile to align with the sun twice a year -- in February and October--to celebrate his birthday and ascension to the throne.

Egypt's ministers of antiquities, tourism and culture attended the celebration, which draws thousands of visitors most years. 

Over a dozen folklore troupes from across Egypt performed songs and dances with regional costumes during the celebration.

The spectacle at Abu Simbel, one of the most popular remnants of the Pharaonic era, witnessed heightened security measures this year.

The UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its four colossal statues at the entrance, was partially buried in the sands before being rediscovered in the 1800s.

In the 1960s, it was relocated to make way for Lake Nasser, the man-made reservoir of the Aswan High Dam. The solar alignment has since occurred on the 22nd of February and October every year -- one day later than the original date.

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