File photo: Dawn breaks on statues of Pharoah Ramses II (R) and Amun, the God of Light (L), in the inner sanctum of the temple of Abu Simbel (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt on Sunday is set to mark the bi-yearly occasion when the sun illuminates the statue of King Ramses II in his temple near Aswan, state-news agency MENA reported.
Hundreds of tourists and dignitaries are expected to gather at the 3,200-year-old temple to watch the dawn event, when the sun aligns with the temple such that its rays penetrate its sanctuary, located 48-metres inside the temple, and light up the king’s face.
This year’s event is scheduled to begin at 5:52am and last for 20-25 minutes.
One of Egypt's most powerful pharaohs, Ramses II completed the Great Temple at Abu Simbel in approximately 1265 BC. The temple is carved into a mountainside on the banks of the Nile, and the solar alignment which allows the sun’s rays to penetrate the structure occurs in Feburary and October each year, dates believed to mark the pharaoh’s birthday and coronation.
This year's spectacle will mark 200 years since the UNESCO World Heritage site was rediscovered by Swiss researcher Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.
The antiquities ministry is expected to organise a ceremony soon to celebrate this occasion.