The Google doodle today shows the moment that the sun shines on the faces of the statues, drawing the attention of the world to this intriguing phenomena and highlighting the treasures that Egypt has to offer to its visitors.
Every year on February 22nd and then again on October 22nd, the sun creeps into the inner sanctum of the carefully aligned Temple of Ramesses II, lighting up the statues of the sun gods Re-Horakhte and Amon-Re, as well as a statue of the pharaoh himself. Only one seated figure remains in the shadows at all times, Ptah, the God of Darkness. The magical Solar Festival happens twice a year, once to celebrate Ramesses II birthday and then again to celebrate his coronation. The Abu Simbel temples have been moved from their original location after they were put under the threat of submersion by the water’s of the Aswan Dam. The holy mountain that was their home now lies under water. The relocation by UNESCO and the Egyptian Government in the 1960’s was almost as monumental as the temples themselves. Ramesses’ temple and a smaller temple built for his favorite wife Nefertari were both moved to the new site. The move to higher ground caused the solar festival to take place one day after the actual anniversary of the king’s birthday and coronation. Now instead of celebrating the Sun Festival on the 21st of February and October we celebrate on the 22nd. At sunrise crowds gather in the temple to watch this magical spectacle then head outside where festivities and dancing are taking place. For thousands of years these two days have been celebrated with merriment and wonder which is exactly what Ramesses would have hoped for!