thumbnail It s not always sunny in Abu Simbel…
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It s not always sunny in Abu Simbel… © Nick Brundle Photography/Getty Images
…but when it is, it"s pretty spectacular. 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.