A timeless treasure, nearly lost forever. Without the UNESCO‘s unprecedented rescue operation, future generations might have only seen the stunning temples of Ramses II and Cleopatra in the pages of history books. Majestic stone colossi rising from the desert sands, structures like these kept their secrets for generations.
For centuries, Abu Simbel, Dendur, Amada and other monuments faced threats from looters, earthquakes, and floods. Ultimately, it was the waters of the Aswan Dam that nearly sealed their fate. In 1960, then Egyptian President Nasser ordered the dam‘s construction. In order to save the temples of Ramses II and Cleopatra, among others, UNESCO reached out to over 50 countries, and raised $80 million.
After receiving multiple proposals to save the structure, it was one from Sweden that proved successful. The plan: dismantling the complex and rebuilding it on higher ground. Between November 1963 and September 1968, saws were used to cut the two temples into 1,036 blocks, each weighing between seven and 30 tons.
Their new location was 64 meters above the old site and 180 meters further inland. After five years of construction, this major undertaking was completed on September 22, 1968. The Nubian temples of Abu Simbel are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.