Abu Simbel is a historic site comprising two massive rock-cut temples in the village of Abu Simbel Aswan Governorate, Upper Egypt, near the border with Sudan. It is situated on the western bank of Lake Nasser, about 230 km (140 mi) southwest of Aswan (about 300 km (190 mi) by road). The complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the "Nubian Monuments", which run from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae (near Aswan), and include Amada, Wadi es-Sebua, and other Nubian sites. The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century BC, during the 19th Dynasty reign of the Pharaoh Ramesses II. They serve as a lasting monument to the king Ramesses II. His wife Nefertari and children can be seen in smaller figures by his feet, considered to be of lesser importance and were not given the same position of scale. This commemorates his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. Their huge external rock relief figures have become iconic.
During his reign, Ramesses II embarked on an extensive building program throughout Egypt and Nubia, which Egypt controlled. Nubia was very important to the Egyptians because it was a source of gold and many other precious trade goods. He, therefore, built several grand temples there in order to impress upon the Nubians Egypt's might and Egyptianize the people of Nubia. The most prominent temples are the rock-cut temples near the modern village of Abu Simbel, at the Second Nile Cataract, the border between Lower Nubia and Upper Nubia. There are two temples, the Great Temple, dedicated to Ramesses II himself, and the Small Temple, dedicated to his chief wife Queen Nefertari.
Construction of the temple complex started in approximately 1264 BC and lasted for about 20 years, until 1244 BC. It was known as the "Temple of Ramesses, beloved by Amun".