For almost the entire year, the inner sanctum of the main temple at Abu Simbel lies in darkness. On two days though, the anniversary of the birthday and the coronation of pharaoh Ramses II, a shaft of sunlight illuminates statues of gods and the king in the temple’s inner sanctum.
On February 22, a day celebrating the pharaoh’s birth and again on October 22, a day commemorating his coronation, sunlight illuminates seated statues of the sun gods Re-Horakhte and Amon-Re, as well as a statue of Pharaoh Ramses II. The statues sit in the company of the God of darkness, Ptah (who remains in the shadows).
The biannual phenomenon, which has endured more than 3,200 years of Egyptian history draws thousands of tourists to Abu Simbel to watch this ancient tribute to a pharaoh whose name is still known up and down the Nile Valley for his military exploits and monumental building projects.