TEXTS IN FREEDOM: Egypt: from the temples of Ramses to the Nasser Dam

Jose Antonio Aspiros Villagomez

For the Master of Law Elizabeth Rembis Rubio,

president of the National Academy of History and Geography,

who honored me five years ago by inviting me to enter

(5-X-2017) to that institution sponsored by UNAM

An outstanding member of the Mexican Foreign Service and director of the international affairs commission of the National Academy of History and Geography, Dr. Luis García y Erdmann recently presented his book Nasser. The man of his timeabout the life of one of the most important characters in the world at the time and for history, the president of Egypt between 1954 and 1970, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

In an article for the magazine ADE (#83, July-September 2022), of the Association of Diplomatic Writers, the author expresses the admiration he felt from his adolescence for Nasser, who transformed Egypt after the triumph of the revolution led by him and General Mohamed Naguib to overthrow King Farouk in 1952. “He fought against the corrupt monarchy, against the English and in order to get his country out of the feudalism in which it was struggling.”

Nasser (1918-1970) ruled from 1954 until his death due to a heart attack, and which marks the 52nd anniversary of this September 28. In the text of him for ADE (Ambassador friend Antonio Pérez Manzano heads the magazine and the association), Dr. García y Erdmann highlights the importance of the Egyptian statesman in his historical moment.

He created the United Arab Republic made up of Egypt and Syria, headed the Organization of African Unity, was “one of the fathers” of the Non-Aligned Movement and supported the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which he was Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1994, Yasser Arafat.

“With due distance,” the author equates Nasser with Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas, because while he nationalized oil because “it was in the hands and benefit of foreigners,” the Egyptian leader nationalized the Suez Canal and resisted the “aggressive reaction” Anglo-Franco-Israeli tripartite generated by that media that, on the other hand, “allowed the construction of the pharaonic Aswan dam, to irrigate the barren fields of the wonderful land of El Niño”. A previous dam was no longer effective.

And here we want to stop. To make this dam in the heart of the Nubian land, where Lake Nasser is now located in a section of the Nile River, it was necessary to rescue two immense temples carved into the rock in the time of Pharaoh Ramses II, that is, more than 3,200 years ago. years.

It is, say connoisseurs, one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt. They are in a place called Abu Simbel and one of them is the only one dedicated to a woman, Queen Nefertari, wife of Ramses II.

By the way, this pharaoh was putative brother and later antagonist of Moses, the Jew who -as he says Exodusone of the books Old Testament– caused the seven plagues, parted the waters of the Red Sea to bring his people to “the promised land” and broke the Tablets of the Law. The movie Exodus: gods and kings (dir. Ridley Scott, 2014), which deals with the exploits of Moses, is banned in Egypt, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

The Great Temple is dedicated to the gods Amun, Ra and Ptah, whose colossal statues ten meters high alternate on the façade with that of Ramses II deified, while in the Small Temple the statues represent Ramses, Nefertari, some of his children and the goddess Hathor.

Ramses II is considered the most powerful of the pharaohs, the winner of the Hittites (present-day Turkey) and whose reign spanned from Syria in the east to Nubia, present-day Sudan, in the south. His mummy was one of the 22 that paraded last year from Tahrir Square – where there were bloody riots in 2011 – to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, where there must also be a giant statue of the emperor himself, which had been placed in Cairo under Nasser.

The temples saved in Abu Simbel between 1963 and 1968 had been abandoned and buried by sand until they were discovered by chance in 1813 by the Swiss explorer Johan Ludwig Burckhardt and in 1817 Giovanni Belzoni began his rescue with the first of several excavations in the following decades. .

When work began on the dam in 1960, the need arose to protect these wonders of antiquity. The plan to move the 150,000 cubic meters of rock that the temples consist of was sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) and the sponsorship of several nations, which in return received some of the minor temples rescued.

The Soviet Union financed a third of the cost, since the United States and England boycotted a loan from the World Bank, and that was when Nasser, a Third Worlder who was not willing to fall into the orbit of capitalism, nationalized the Suez Canal.

Despite this, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, boasts among its main attractions the Temple of Dendur, granted by the Egyptian government in 1965, when Nasser was still in power.

The great temples of Abu Simbel, cut into blocks and transported by cranes 210 meters away and 65 meters high, were inaugurated for the second time, now on artificial hills more than three millennia later, on Sunday, September 22, 1968, the day that in Mexico the student movement held a rally in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas (Tlatelolco), prior to the very bloody one on the following October 2.

(Our one and only previous work on the Aswan High Dam was published in issue 178-179 of the magazine in all AmericaSeptember-October 1983).



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TEXTS IN FREEDOM: Egypt: from the temples of Ramses to the Nasser Dam