Egypt and Sweden celebrate 50th anniversary of joint rescue of Abu Simbel temples

21 Oct 2018

To mark the 50th anniversary of the historic rescue of the Temples of Abu Simbel in Aswan Governorate, Egypt, the Ambassador of Sweden to Egypt, H.E. Mr. Jan Thesleff, will be joining the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, H.E. Dr. Khaled El-Enany, in a commemoration event from the 21st – 22nd of October. The rescue was a bold mission conducted by Swedish engineers during the 1960s.

The move of Abu Simbel symbolizes the long-standing ties that Sweden has with Egypt, which continue in a variety of fields, including in archeology as well as in engineering. Sweden has many world leading technological firms active in Egypt, providing Egypt with world class engineering solutions and innovation. Swedish companies are actively participating in the many Egyptian economic development projects underway within telecom, energy and manufacturing. The rescue of the temples is an iconic example of Swedish-Egyptian cooperation in protecting world heritage.


The majestic temples of Abu Simbel in Aswan, Egypt were built during the time of King Ramses II, in memory of the King and his wife Nefertari. The building of the temples resulted in four, 20-meter-high, colossal statues of Ramses II.

In 1960, the construction of the new Aswan dam started, aiming to control flooding and providing increased water storage for irrigation. This meant that the water level would rise about 60 meters, threatening the temples of Abu Simbel with the sudden possibility of being submerged. A rescue campaign started, initiated by the government of Egypt, UNESCO and archeologists around the world.

This challenging mission was handed to a Swedish consortium of companies led by Vattenbyggnadsbyrån (VBB), today Sweco. Among the Swedish companies who participated in the rescue action were Atlas Copco, Sandvik AB, Skånska cementgjuteriet (Skanska) and Svenska Entreprenadaktiebolaget (Sentab). The consortium initiated the bold idea to cut the temples into several blocks and transport them to a new location above water level. It took more than 8 years to move the temples and Swedish experts managed to solve most of the technical hurdles facing the mission by using innovative engineering ideas and solutions. All the while being under time pressure, as the water level kept rising.

On September 22th in 1968, the temples were inaugurated at their new location. This year is the 50th anniversary of this historic move.

Photos by Sweco.

Abu Simbel - photo by Sweco

Abu Simbel - photo by Sweco

Last updated 21 Oct 2018, 4.23 PM