Were you one of those school children fascinated by Ancient Egypt? If you answer yes, and you happen to be on holiday near Marbella this summer, you have a treat in store: Ancient Egypt is coming to Spain!
Thirty three centuries ago, in southern Egypt and on the shores of the River Nile, Rameses II ordered a colossal temple to be built to commemorate his victory in the battle of Kadesh against the Hittites. This confrontation ended in a treaty of peace between the two sides but even so, within the walls of Abu Simbel and other Egyptian temples, the pharaoh boasted of having won the fight.
Now, 3,300 years later, Hany Mostafa, an Egyptian who is a professional in the metal industry but who is fascinated by the architectural jewels of his ancestors, has created a replica which is exact in all but the dimensions, as it is smaller, and the materials used. This temple can now be seen at the Palacio de Congresos exhibition centre in Marbella.
The original work was carried out in excavated stone, but Mostafa has used fibre, although he has not skimped on the finer detail: the architecture, the reliefs, the drawings, the sphinxes… everything is exactly the same as in the original temple built by Rameses.
While it took the Pharoah’s workers two decades to build his version, Mostafa has spent five years on the project, together with a group of eight artisans. And even though his team has not had to work from sunrise to sunset transporting heavy stones, it has not been easy. The artist says he had to visit the original temple more than 100 times to take detailed notes, because photography is not permitted inside the monument.
In 2011, Hany Mostafa finished his project and decided that the moment had come to show it to the world. It was first put on display in Portugal, where it was seen by more than 25,000 people. However, achieving that was not easy, either. Mostafa spent a year travelling to different European capital cities to plan his travelling exhibition, battling not only with bureaucracy but also with the language barrier.
After Portugal, the cities of Seville and Jerez de la Frontera have hosted the exhibition of the temple. Now it will remain in Marbella until 21st September. The craftsman and his team have set up the exhibition on the second floor of the building, and after its sojourn on the Golden Mile it will go on display in France.
This journey is also strangely parallel to that of the first temple. Although the original was obviously not designed to be moved, the construction of the Aswan dam in 1964 jeopardised the survival of the temple in the form that Rameses had ordered it to be built in honour of his wife, Nefertari. UNESCO came to its aid and both constructions were cut into blocks so they could be transported and rebuilt in an area 65 metres higher up and about 200 metres further away from the original site.
The temple that can now be seen in Marbella consists of four rooms and is dedicated to the worship of Rameses and the great deities of Ancient Egypt, Amun, Ra and Ptah. Music and lighting transport visitors to southern Egypt as soon as they set foot inside the monument, which is 24 metres long, 12 metres wide and six metres high.
The measurements may differ from those of the original (62 metres long by 38 wide and 33 high), but the visit is a way of immersing oneself in the history of a mysterious civilisation.