The mighty rock temples of Abu Simbel were built for one of Egypt's most powerful and celebrated pharaohs, Rameses II - or Rameses The Great. He ruled Egypt for 66 years, led military expeditions into Nubia and was a prolific temple builder.
At Abu Simbel, Rameses created a temple for his queen, Nefertari, alongside the much larger Temple of the Sun, guarded by four colossal statues of himself. Carved out of the mountainside, the colossi were 21 metres tall and a clear demonstration of the pharaoh's might to anyone entering Egypt from the south.
Abu Simbel lay buried beneath the desert sand for centuries before being discovered by the Swiss orientalist Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1813. He'd previously found the lost city of Petra in Jordan, but was unable to dig through the sand at Abu Simbel. Four years later the Italian explorer the Great Belzoni did find a way through and in doing so became the first person to see the temples for more than 2,000 years.
When the Aswan High Dam was built the Abu Simbel temples were carefully cut into blocks and reassembled 65 metres higher and 200 metres back from the Nile. They now overlook Lake Nasser, created by the Dam, where Nile crocodiles and migrating birds can often be seen.