The interior of the Great Temple of Ramesses II, Abu Simbel, Egypt
© Nick Brundle Photography/Getty Image
It's not always sunny in Abu Simbel…
This tiny lakeside settlement's Great Temple of Ramesses II was positioned on the orders of that powerful pharaoh so the inner sanctum (in this picture, that's the small room at the very back) is lit by the sun only twice a year. On February 22 and October 22 (thought to be Ramesses' coronation and birth dates, respectively), the first light of dawn illuminates the sanctuary and three statues within: one of Ramesses, one of the sun god Ra, and one of the chief god Amun. A fourth statue depicting the underworld figure Ptah is permanently shrouded in shadow.
The temple is one of a pair resting on the man-made Lake Nasser's shores, the other honouring the pharaoh's wife Nefertari. When the Nile was dammed to create the lake in the 1960s, the whole complex was painstakingly moved to higher ground. While it's unclear if the relocation slightly altered the original timing of the Great Temple's solar alignment, tourists still descend in droves on the site every six months to witness the luminous event.