6,000 tourists watch sun rise on Ramses II

On Thursday, some 6,000 tourists looked on as the first rays of the morning sun shone down the entire length of Pharaoh Ramses II’s temple-cave in Abu Simbel, illuminating the back wall of the temple’s innermost shrine.

The phenomenon takes place only twice a year: on 22 February, when it marks the pharaoh’s coronation; and on 22 October, when it marks the beginning of the ancient Egyptian agricultural season.

"The sun came in at precisely 5:55am through the 60-meter gangway and illuminated the shrine for a full 23 minutes," said Archeologist Ahmed Hassan. "It first lit up the Pharaoh’s statue before moving left to illuminate the statues of Re-Horakhte, the sun god, and part of the god Amun-Ra."

Several high-ranking Egyptian officials attended the event in southern Egypt, which also included folkloric dance performances.

Many of the tourists in attendance, especially those from Japan, wore surgical face masks for fear of contracting the H1N1 virus, of swine flu.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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