Abu Simbel – The 2 great temples of Abu Simbel, with their Colossal Guardian Statues, have become synonymous with Egypt`s ancient heritage. Built by Ramses Second, ruler of most of the 12th century B.C, they are Masterpieces of Pharaonic architecture. However, were it not for a monumental modern engineering effort, they may have been lost forever.
In 1954, planning began on second project to dam the Nile at Aswan, the completion of which would create the world`s largest artificial lake, Lake Nasser. This Expansion of the Nile would submerge an area peppered with ancient monuments including the two rock-cut Temples at Abu Simbel.
At the request of the Egyptian and Sudanese Governments. From 1959 to 1980 thousands of archeologists, engineers, architects and laborers work day and night to relocate 22 monuments and architectural complexes between Aswan, Egypt and Khartoum, Sudan, away from the rising water.
The temples were under threat from the rising of waters of the Nile because of constructions of high dam. Every day, the water moved closer and closer to submerging these structures, which were cut into the mountainside. The first task at Abu Simbel was to build a temporary cofferdam around the two temples to keep the water from entering the site.
Next iron scaffolding was erected inside the temples to support the roof, which was covered with a protective layer to ensure no damage was done to the ornate decoration. The temple facades ere then covered with sand to protect them while the mountain around them was been excavated. During this time large culvert pipes allowed workers to pass into the temples and any excess water to be pumped out.
Bulldozers began carving away the mountain, but they stopped eight meters from the temple roofs and walls, for fear of a collapse. Engineers used lighter, handheld drills to get within 70 centimeters of the temple structure before using electric saw and finally handsaws for the last 10 centimeters.
The same fine saws were then used to carefully cut the temples into hundreds of blocks weighing between 20 and 30 tons each. The blocks were numbered and two holes drills into each one, into which steel bars were attached with epoxy resin for easy transport.
Each piece was carefully lifted by crane and transported by truck to nine Feddan storage areas to a wait reconstruction. The detailed carvings in the ancient stones were wrapped in rubber to protect them during the transportation. Following through analysis of the ground and orientation to the sun, a new location was chosen on a plateau 70 meters higher and set 200 meters back from the water.
The most important element of the entire project was to align the temples so that the sun would touch the face of Ramses second inside the sanctuary of the temple on February 21 and October 21, just as it had done in the original location(in the end, the temples had to be aligned so that the solstice occurred one day later, on February 22 and October 22). After surveyors had determined the precise orientation and a reinforced concrete foundation had been laid, workers started to reassemble the temples walls, followed by ceilings, using the block numbers as a guide. Once the interiors had been reconstructed, the outer surface of the blocks were covered with 80 centimeters of reinforced concrete.
UNESCO team set about building a reinforced concrete dome, on top of which a man-made hill could be created to mimic the original. The dome is one of the largest such structure in the world:65 meters in diameter, 25 meters high, 1.4 meters thick at the top and 2.1 meters thick along the foundations.
At the end, the seams in the temple facades and inner walls were filled in with a mixture of epoxy resin and rock collected during the carving process, giving the surface a natural uncut look. In fact anyone who visits the temple today will find it difficult to identify the original fissures. more info: http://www.egyptealacarte.com