National Geographic : 1969 May
Abu Simbel's Ancient Temples Reborn Article and photographs by GEORG GERSTER, Ph.D. ROM ALOFT, the two enormous pits that yawned in the cliffs of Abu Simbel looked like gaps left by the extraction of giant teeth. As my plane wheeled above Lake Nasser on a shimmeringly hot day last November, I felt an eerie sense of loss. It was hard to believe that there, scarcely four years ago, had stood those wonders of the world, the two colossal temples of the god-king Ramesses II, shaped from the living rock 13 centuries before Christ. Now, I noted, even the pits were disappearing. The Nile's waters were rising in them, and a few lonely fishermen rowed over newly created depths, search ing for catfish in precincts that had once been the scene of splendid ceremonies and processions. But when I turned my gaze to the plateau above, the sadness that had touched me vanished. There, as if by some gigantic feat of legerdemain, stood Ramesses' 3,200-year-old shrines, reborn, complete even to the cliffs surrounding them (page 727). I had made many visits to Abu Simbel while the temples were being moved, and so I had seen the machinery behind this magic, but, far from disillusioning me, it only in creased my awe. The dismantling and reassembly of Ramesses' an cient temples ranks as the most spectacular moving job ever achieved by man. It began on November 16, Immortality once again assured: Three colos sal statues of god-king Ramesses II gaze serenely across Lake Nasser after one of the most dramatic rescues in history. Threatened by the Nile's waters rising behind Sadd el Aali-the Aswan High Dam -two 3,200-year-old rock temples were cut into 1,050 blocks and reassembled on higher ground. Here restorers in safety harnesses remove gauze bandages that protected delicate edges from dam age while the cuts were being made. 724 KODACHROME© N.G.S.