Wadi al-Sebua (‘The Valley of the Lions’) lies on the west coast of Lake Nasser—the man-made lake created between 1958 and 1970 by the damming of the Nile at Aswan in Upper Egypt—and about 140 kilometers south of Aswan.
There were originally two 18th dynasty, New Kingdom temples associated with the site: One built by Amenhotep III and restored by Rameses II (1279-1212 B.C.); and another speos (or ‘cave’) temple built by Rameses II.
The temple of Amenhotep—dedicated to a Nubian version of the god Horus, and later to the god Amun—was not saved from the rising waters of the lake, but the temple of Ramses, seen in the distance here, was moved about 4 kilometers west of its original position between 1961 and 1965.
The Rameside temple was built under the supervision of the viceroy of Kush, Setau, who held that post between the 35th and 50th years of the great king’s reign, and is most notable for its avenue of sphinxes (the ‘lions’, which give the site its Arabic name).
The front of the temple—dedicated to Re-Harakhty, Amun-Re and the deified Rameses—is free-standing and the rear is rock-cut (hence the ‘cave’ or ‘speos’). The whole was originally enclosed by a mud-brick wall which could not be saved.
The temple originally consisted of three pylons fronted by colossal statues of the king, and carvings of Ramses smiting his enemies and making offerings (including to himself) on the stone pylon seen here (the first two pylons were also made of mud-brick and have crumbled away).
The rear rock-cut part of the temple was converted into a Christian temple by the 5th century, and, ironically, while many of the statues were hacked away in religious fervor, the plasterwork of the church protected other carvings.
In a somewhat bizarre juxtaposition, it is possible at Wadi al-Sebua to see Ramses II offering gifts to Saint Peter.
Perhaps equally strangely, I chose to show the temple here in its new location, but in an antiqued image dominated by the working, almost ageless, Lake Nasser ships which were docked nearby.
May 10th, 2017
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