How my grandfather and I split Abu Simbel (work in progress)

The Aswan Dam in Egypt was built in 1960 to secure energy supplies in the region. As a result, the water level in the Nile rose by approximately 60 metres, drowning all settlements along the banks. Ramses II and the Temple of Nephetari (c. 1244 BC) would have collapsed under the water, had not UNESCO and the Egyptian government  joined forces to save them. The Swedish Vattenbyggnadsbyrån (now Sweco) presented the solution: to saw the temples apart by hand and move them piece by piece. As an engineer at Vattenbyggnadsbyrån, it was my grandfather's (Birger Steby, 1920-2016) job to calculate how the temples should be sawn; with as few cuts as possible and without each piece being too heavy.

Material from Sweco's archives merges with letters, pictures and notes from my grandfather's private collection, my mother's stories about her father's travels and finally my own childhood memories of my grandfather's fairy tales. The factual documentation from Sweco, the French IGN - Institut Géographique National and Unesco is contrasted with a child's imagination and dreams of the mythical temple.

With the support of the Swedish Arts Grants Committee, Längmanska Kulturfonden & Helge Ax:son Johnsons Stiftelse. As well as very generous help from the archive at Sweco.

Images by Birger Steby & Mikaela Steby Stenfalk


© Mikaela Steby Stenfalk