There is no lack of adjectives that may be applied to the great Nubian Company, in ancient Egypt, source of fascination and admiration which continues to unveil its treasures of a millenary history, treasures that risked being “swallowed” forever by the Great Nile.
Exclusively local workforce of over 2,000, 150 specialised technicians of various nationalities, 50 families and 20 children. More than 40 million man-hours without one single fatal accident.
In 1954, the Egyptian government decided to build a huge high dam to the south of the city of Aswan, so as to enhance the country’s economy. However, the project put dozens of buildings and archaeological sites at risk of being submerged by the enormous reservoir created, including the Temples of Abu Simbel and Philae. It was this very risk that, in 1959, prompted the Egyptian and Sudanese governments to ask for Unesco’s help. Help in the form of a material, technical and scientific project to salvage the monuments of ancient Nubia. Unesco’s reply took the form of a two-part appeal: the first made in March of 1960 was along general lines; the second, in November, 1968, was more specific and appealed for the salvaging of the Philae temples. The campaign set the following objectives: • to make an Inventory and documentation of the Nubian monuments • the identification of the monuments at risk of flooding • the set up of salvaging operations for the monuments at risk, by their relocation at a higher level in areas that would not be menaced by the rising waters of the Nile Waters, that, as from 1964 had constantly and steadily risen to a projected maximum level of 60 meters over and above the previous one, creating the reservoir known as lake Nasser.
Over 40 million man hours, more than 5 years work, over 4,000 blocks of some tons were relocated 65 metres higher, about 2,000 metres inland, back from the river, by an almost exclusively local workforce of over 2,000, 150 specialised technicians of different nationalities, 50 families and 20 children. More than 40 million man-hours without one single fatal accident. These are just a few statistics of the great feat accomplished by man from 1964 to 1968, when the Egyptian Abu Simbel Temples, otherwise destined to be flooded and lost forever during the construction of the great Aswan dam Saad El Aali, were salvaged. Promoted by UNESCO, with the cooperation of 119 nations, the salvaging of the Nubian monuments took place and, in 1979, was declared a World Heritage Site, known as the “Nubian Monuments” by UNESCO.
Many great Pharaohs have left in the land of Egypt a mark that cannot be erased: Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure will always be famous for the three great pyramids, built more than three thousand years ago. The aim of this exhibition is to illustrate how, thanks to the appeal launched by U.N.E.S.C.O., more than 2000 men of the twentieth century have been able to prove their great brotherhood, enthusiasm and competence in saving Abu Simbel's Temples. After the discovery of the sites in 1813 by the English archaeologist BURCKARDT and later in 1817 by the Italian explorer G. B. BELZONI, there was a growing interest of many academics for Abu Simbel temples. The most significant data of their history are:
• The Great Temple dedicated to Ramses II and the Small Temple dedicated to Nefertari, wife of the Pharaoh, were erected in the Nineteenth Dynasty, around 1400 BC.
• These are rocky Temples, built for the will of the Pharaoh, in particular to celebrate his victory against the Hittites in the battle of Kadesh (now Syria).
• The choice of the place to build the Temples was made with special attention to create the right orientation where, upon the rise of the Sun and twice a year (October 20 and February 20), its rays would have reached and illuminated, in the west wall of the inner Sanctuary, 3 of the 4 statues depicting the Pharaoh and other gods.
The Egyptian Academy of Fine Arts in Rome represents a corner of the Egyptian land in the heart of Rome, a window from which the Italian public can see and admire the different sides of Egyptian civilization and share with the artistic Egyptian world the only language of Art that becomes word. Through its conferences, concerts, broadcastings and art exhibitions, the Academy reflects its spirit and opens its doors. Comparison and cultural exchange are the main goals of this representation of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture in Italy. Director of the Academy of Egypt in Rome has been Prof. Gihane Zaki since 2012.