TURIN, February 4, 2019 – "I left Carrara when I was 26, and I was the youngest stone-cutter on the Abu Simbel worksite,” recalls Luciano Paoli. Aged 78, he is one of the protagonists with first-hand experience of this international adventure: the rescue of the Ramesses II temples in Egypt from the rising waters of the Aswan High Dam.
A recruit from the marble caves of Carrara to help cut the temples of Abu Simbel into blocks, Paoli attended the event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the adventure, hosted by Salini Impregilo and the Museo Egizio (Egypt Museum) in Turin.
His story is that of an incredible enterprise as well as that of Italy of the economic miracle. “They gave the job to the marble-cutters of Carrara because we were considered the best in the world.”
On February 4, the rescue of the world heritage site was commemorated at an event held at the museum with Chief Executive Pietro Salini, Museo Egizio Director Christian Greco and UNESCO Regional Director Ana Luiza Thompson Flores in attendance.
“Dismantling two temples, reassembling them elsewhere and perfectly reconstructing the landforms around them was a visionary idea and represented a new frontier for our sector,” said Salini. “It also showed the world that progress did not have to come at the expense of a world heritage site. Today, 50 years after this incredible operation, we remember with great admiration all those people from different countries and cultures, who, with their unique skills, achieved this remarkable feat for future generations.”
The dismantling and reassembling of the temples, of which Impregilo took part, was done with the support of 50 countries, some 2,000 people and 40 million hours in little more than 1,100 days.
The temples, which weighed 265,000 and 55,000 tonnes, respectively, were cut into blocks and organised across an enormous area of 44,000 square metres before being reassembled 280 metres inland and 65 metres higher than the original site.
This unique operation is also being celebrated with the publication of “Nubiana”, a multimedia tome that tells the story of the temples erected more than 3,000 years ago in honour of the great Pharaoh Ramesse II. It also describes the engineering challenge of their rescue by an international consortium.
Sponsored by Salini Impregilo and curated in collaboration with the museum, the tome has contributions from experts from the museum such as Greco, as well as Beppe Moiso and Tommaso Montonati and other ancient Egyptian experts of world fame such as Willeke Wendrich of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The tome, published by Rizzoli, is divided in two parts and decorated by the watercolours by artist Stefano Faravelli from his travels to Egypt. The first section is dedicated to the history of the temples and the reign of Ramesses II and his wife Nefertari. The second explains the delicate dismantling and reassembling of the temples.
The tome contains 250 images and offers access to augmented reality material – most of which comes from the archives of Salini Impregilo. The opportunity to follow and relive every moment of the rescue is made possible thanks to the unique archive that the Group has developed over decades. From 1906 with the first photos of this century-old history to today exist 1,250,000 photos and 700 videos by directors such as Ermanno Olmi, who did one about the dam built by Edison in first half of last century.
“Nubiana” represents the latest work made possible thanks to the library (www.salini-impregilo-library.com).
Salini Impregilo, a global leader in the large, complex civil infrastructure, has often leant its support to the conservation and construction of important cultural and historical heritage sites, such as the cultural center in Athens with a new library and opera house and the Auditorium Parco dell Musica in Rome. In Thessaloniki, Greece, it is working with archaeologists to safeguard, among other discoveries, an important road of ancient Rome known as “decumanus maximum” that it unearthed during the construction of the city’s first metro line. It did the same along the B1 Line in Rome where it uncovered relics of the ancient city. It has also worked on the renovation of some of the most famous museums such as Palazzo Pitti and the Uffizi Galleries in Florence and the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.