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Egypt

Main attractions

Giza Pyramids at night, Egypt
Giza Pyramids at night / John Robinson, , CC BY 2.0

Egypt is home to many of the most important and impressive archaeological monuments in the world. Here, in the valley of Nile developed one of the first and greatest civilization – Ancient Egypt (3150 – 332 BC), leaving countless larger and smaller monuments.

Some of the greatest Egyptian landmarks are Great Pyramids of Giza, tombs of pharaohs in the Valley of Kings, Saqqara necropolis with the most ancient worked stone buildings in the world, ruins of Luxor.

The powerful roots of Egyptian civilization though go deeper in the past and last up to this day – there are numerous interesting prehistoric monuments and even more Roman, Christian and Islamic landmarks, e.g. the oldest Christian monasteries in the world (Paromeos Monastery, Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Monastery of Saint Anthony and many others).

The enormous Egypt has many interesting natural landmarks as well – but these are overshadowed by the numerous amazing man made landmarks.

Natural landmarks

Dorudon atrox skeleton in Wadi Al-Hitan, Egypt
Dorudon atrox skeleton in Wadi Al-Hitan / Tom Horton, , CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Dahab Blue Hole – South Sinai. Approximately 130 m deep underwater sinkhole. At the depth of 56 m there is a 26 m long tunnel – The Arch, leading out to the open sea. This unusual natural location has experienced many fatalities, bringing gruesome fame to the site.
  • Gebel Elba – Red Sea. 1,435 m tall mountains – mist oasis, the only natural woodland in Egypt. This is biodiversity hotspot with 458 plant species and numerous animal species. In many locations in the mountains is dense cover of acacias and shrubs. At least one endemic species of plants - Biscutella elbensis.
  • Kamil Crater – New Valley. Well preserved, less than 5,000 years old impact crater. Width is 44.8 m, depth – 15.8 m. Around the crater still is visible the rayed structure created by the blast.
  • Silica Glass Valley – New Valley. In the western side of the Great Sand Sea can be found pieces of pure, transparent silica glass (Libyan Glass) – the only such find in the world. Largest pieces are up to 26 kg heavy. It has been used as a jewel already in Ancient Egypt. Possibly created by the impact of large meteorite.
  • Wadi Al-Hitan – Faiyum. Flobally important find of fossils of extinct suborder of whales – Archaeoceti. These animals marked the change from land based animals to ocean-going animals. Well preserved fossils are located in attractive desert landscape.
  • Wadi El Rayan Falls – Faiyum. Largest waterfall in Egypt, group of cascades on some 6 – 10 m wide river. Total height less than 10 m.
  • Wadi Sannur Cave – Red Sea. The most beautiful known cave in Egypt, adorned with speleothems. Cave is some 700 m long.

Man made landmarks

Prehistoric landmarks

  • Nabta stone circle – New Valley. Stone setting in a form of circle, from around 4800 BC, possibly the oldest archaeoastronomical monument in world.
  • Cave of Swimmers – New Valley. Contains some 10,000 years old cave art showing swimming people. Since its discovery serves as a proof for existance of climate changes. Next to it stands Cave of the Archers, with drawings of archers from 5000 – 2500 BC.

Ancient Egyptian cities

Temple of Seti I in Abydos, Egypt
Temple of Seti I in Abydos, Egypt / Steve F. E. Cameron, / CC BY 3.0
  • Abydos – Sohag. Ancient city, established more than 5000 years ago. One of the most important ancient metropolises in Upper Egypt, important cult centre. Contains ruins of numerous magnificent buildings, such as the temple of Seti I.
  • Amarna – Minya. Capital city which was established by Pharaoh Akhenaten around 1353 BC and soon abandoned. City was devoted to the new religion established by Akhenaten. Thanks to its short history, the planning of the city has been well preserved. Contains rich array of artworks in Amarna style, which is more realistic than the traditional Egyptian art.
  • Memphis – Cairo. The first capital of Lower Egypt in the times of Old Kingdom. Established around 3000 BC and declined roughly at 1300 BC, was one of the first metropolises in the world. Contains remnants of numerous valuable structures, including several Temples of Ptah and many other temples, Saqqara necropolis, royal palaces.
  • Thebes – Egypt, Luxor. Former capital of Egypt in the times of Middle and New Kingdoms, one of the earliest metropolises in the world. Inhabited around 3200 BC – 84 BC. City contains ruins of numerous buildings of world importance, including the Temple of Ramses III, Ramesseum, Luxor Temple, Temple of Hatshepsut, Columns of Memnon.

Ancient Egyptian temples

Karnak Temple in Thebes, Egypt
Karnak Temple in Thebes / Michael Caven, / CC BY 2.0
  • Dendera Temple (Temple of Hathor) – Qena. One of the best preserved Ancient Egyptian temples in Egypt. Current building was built in Ptolemaic times, but stands on the fundament from the 26th – 25th century BC. Here was found zodiac depiction.
  • Edfu Temple – Aswan. Well preserved temple, built between 237 and 57 BC, the best preserved Ancient Egyptian temple.
  • Hout-ka-Ptah (Huta-Ka-Pta, Great Temple of Ptah) – Giza. The most important temple of Ancient Egypt, devoted to the god of creative forces. This was enormous temple in the centre of Memphis. Now remain just scarce ruins, but here were discovered important statues, e.g. magnificent statue of sphinx (around 1400 BC), different giant statues. Especially large was the 11 m high and 83 tons heavy statue of Ramesses II.
  • Karnak Temple Complex – Luxor. Ruins of one of the main temples in the capital of Ancient Egypt, largest ancient temple complex in the world. Consists of four major parts, where the Precinct of Mut, Precinct of Montu, Temple of Amenhotep IV and the best known – Precinct of Amun-Re. Temple was active for millenia. Contains numerous outstanding details, e.g. Hypostyle Hall with 134 massive columns, where 12 columns are 21 m tall, with a diameter over three meters. On the top of these columns are 70 tons heavy architraves.
  • Luxor Temple – Luxor. Impressive ruins of an ancient temple, which was founded sometimes around 1400 BC. One of the main temples in the capital of Ancient Egypt.
  • Serabit el-Khadim (Temple of Hathor) – South Sinai. Ancient Egyptian turquoise mines and location of the Temple of Hathor. Here have been found inscriptions of Proto-Sinaitic script – possibly the first alphabet in the world.
  • Temple of Amada – New Valley. The oldest Egyptian temple in Nubia, constructed sometimes around 1450 BC. Contains gorgeous painted reliefs. Temple is moved away some 2.5 km from its original location due to Aswan Dam.
  • Temple of Dakka – Aswan. Greco-Roman temple, dedicated to Toth, started in the 3rd century BC by Nubians and Egyptians. Extended by Romans, who built a stone wall around it. Used also as a Christian church. Moved to a new place to avoid the flooding by Aswan Dam.
  • Temple of Derr – New Valley. This rock-cut temple was built in the times of Ramesses II in Lower Nubia. Contains gorgeous painted reliefs. Relocated to a new place in 1964 to avoid the flooding.
  • Temple of Isis on Philae – Red Sea. Ancient Egyptian temple at the First Cataract of Nile near Aswan, between Egypt and Nubia. Constructed some centuries BC and operated until the 6th century AD. With the building of Aswan Dam was transported to the nearby Island of Agilkia.
  • Temple of Kalabsha – Aswan. Unfinished temple, built around 30 BC. One of the finest Egyptian structures in Nubia, devoted to Mandulis – Nubian god of Sun. Contains fine stone carvings. Relocated.
  • Wadi es-Sebua (Ouadi Es Sebouah) – Aswan. Large Egyptian temple, built in the times of Amenhotep III in Lower Nubia, extended by Ramesses II. Converted into a Christian church in the 5th century AD. Relocated to avoid the flooding by Aswan Dam, contains valuable reliefs.

Ancient Egyptian mortuary temples

Abu Simbel temples, Egypt
Abu Simbel temples / Dennis Jarvis, , / CC BY-SA 2.0

This list includes temples built to venerate the deceased pharaohs of Egypt.

  • Abu Simbel temples – Aswan. Two enormous rock-cut temples, built by pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th century BC. Relocated in the 1960s on an artifical hill to save from the waters of Aswan Dam reservoir.
  • Deir el-Bahari (includes Hatshepsut’s Temple) – New Valley. Complex of mortuary temples, built around 2100 – 1300 BC. Includes partly rock-cut, partly built, enormous structures. Especially impressive and beautiful is the Hatshepsut’s Temple (sometimes around 1450 BC), one of the great achievements of architecture in the history of architecture.
  • Ramesseum – Luxor. Mortuary temple of Pharaoh Ramesses II. Remnants of statue of enthroned pharaoh, 19 m high and weighing more than 1000 tons. Largest transported ancient stone monolith, transported overland 275 km to Luxor. This feat was done in the 13th century BC.

Ancient Egyptian necropolises

Painting of women from Hawara, Egypt
Painting of women from Hawara - 1800 years old art / Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup, , / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Beni Hasan necropolis – Minya. Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom necropolis with hundreds of rock cut tombs, used mainly in the 21st – 17th century BC. Tombs are decorated with amazing frescoes.
  • Giza Necropolis – Giza. One of major cultural monuments of the world, with three giant pyramids (Khufu’s , Khafre’s and Menkaure’s), Great Sphinx, cemeteries and worker’s villages. Built mainly in the 26th century BC and served as burial and mortuary temple complex of the great pharaohs of Egypt.
  • Hawara – Faiyum. Important archaeological monument – large pyramid and necropolis next to it. On the coffins in this necropolis were found 146 realistic portraits on boards – some of the best paintings from Classical Antiquity, from the 2nd century AD. The pyramid had interesting set of up to 20 tons heavy trapdoors and many other devices aimed to prevent looting.
  • Saqqara – Cairo. Very old royal necropolis of Ancient Egypt, the oldest burials are some 5000 years old. Contains one of the oldest complete cut stone buildings in the world – Stepped Pyramid of Djoser and Gisr el-Mudir – the oldest cut stone structure, made sometimes around 2690 BC.
  • Tunal el-Gebel – Minya. Necropolis of the ancient Hermopolis city. Rock cut tombs – catacombs – used to have thousands of mummies of people but also – falcons, baboons, ibises. Important are Tomb and Chapel of Isidora (the 2nd century AD), Boundary Stelae of Akhenaten (sometimes around 1350 BC).
  • Valley of the Kings with KV5, KV17 and other rock-cut tombs – Luxor. In total in Valley of Kings are known 63 tombs and chambers. KV5 is the largest rock-cut tomb in the wast necropolis of ancient Egyptian noble families. Belonged to sons of Ramesses II. In KV5 thus far have been discovered 121 rooms or chambers and it is expected that more will be discovered, this complex was made in the 13th – 12th century BC. KV17 – the tomb of pharaoh Seti I – is one of the best decorated tombs and the longest in the valley, 137 m long.
  • Valley of the Queens – New Valley. Necropolis of the queens, princesses and princes of Egypt. Contains more than 70 tombs, many of them very ornate and lavishly decorated, e.g. tomb of Queen Nefertari.

Ancient Egyptian pyramids

Pyramid of Djoser, Egypt
Pyramid of Djoser / horax zeigt hier, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Bent Pyramid (Rhomboid Pyramid) – Giza. One of large pyramids in Dahshur necropolis. Giant pyramid, built sometimes around 2600 BC. The 101.1 m tall pyramid starts with a steep angle , then it becomes shallower, creating a bent appearance. The polished limestone casing remains intact what is unique.
  • Khafre’s Pyramid (Pyramid of Chefren) – Giza. Second largest pyramid of Giza, originally 143.5 m tall, now 136.6 m tall. Built sometimes around 2500 BC.
  • Khufu’s Pyramid (Great Pyramid of Giza) – Giza. Tallest ancient pyramid and ancient structure in the world, built sometimes around 2500 BC. Originally was 146.5 m tall, now – 138.8 m. The incredible size and precision of this structure is rarely surpassed today. Contains three chambers, most likely built as a burial and mortuary temple.
  • Pyramid of Amenemhat I (Black Pyramid) – Giza. One of the major pyramids in Dahshur necropolis, originally some 75 m tall, now just impressive ruins remain. Extensive underground passage network and structural weakness of the construction create danger of collapse.
  • Pyramid of Djoser – Cairo. The oldest cut stone building in the world, built in the 27th century BC for the burial of pharaoh Djoser. This giant, stepped pyramid originally was 62 m tall. This structure marks major innovations in the history of world architecture and culture. Under the pyramid is a maze of underground passages and chambers with a total length of 5.6 km.
  • Pyramid of Meidum – Beni Suef. Enormous step pyramid, originally 93.5 m tall, now – 65 m tall. Built in the 26th century BC. Most likely it experienced catastrophic collapse during its construction.
  • Pyramid of Menkaure – Giza. Third pyramid of Giza, the smallest one. Nevertheless this is giant, 61 m tall structure (originally – 65.5 m). Built in the 26th century BC.
  • Red Pyramid – Giza. One of the major pyramids in Dahshur necropolis, 104 m tall. Third largest Egyptian pyramid. Possibly the first true pyramid in Egypt, the tallest structure of the world at its construction. Constructed approximately in 2580 BC.

Other Ancient Egyptian monuments

Unfinished obelisk near Aswan, Egypt
The unfinished obelisk near Aswan / Dan Lundberg, , / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Al-Masalla obelisk (Re-Atum obelisk) – Cairo. The largest visible remnant of the great ancient city city of Heliopolis, 20.73 m tall and 120 tons heavy.
  • Colossi of Memnon – Luxor. Two colossal rock statues, carved sometimes around 1350 BC and depicting pharahoh Amenhotep III. Together with their platforms statues are 18 m high, each 720 tons heavy. Legendary site of tourist interest since Roman times, partly due to unusual sound emited by the eastern colossus before the sunrise. Sound has not been heard since 196 AD.
  • Great Sphinx of Giza – Giza. Largest monolithic statue in the world, built sometimes around 2550 BC. 73.5 m long and up to 20.22 m high, one of the most iconic sculptures in the world, central object of numerous legends and stories.
  • Unfinished obelisk in Aswan stone quarries – Aswan. Largest known ancient obelisk, left unfinished in quarry due to cracks in it. The finished obelisk would be 42 m high, som 1100 tons heavy.

Roman monuments

  • Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa – Alexandria. Unique medieval necropolis, cut in the rock in the 2nd – 4th centuries AD. Contain important artwork uniting art of Ancient Egypt, Hellenic art and early Roman art styles.
  • Kiosk of Qertassi (ak-Kartassi) – Aswan. Small but architecturally imposing structure, built in the early Roman period. Relocated.
  • Pompey’s Pillar – Alexandria. Largest Roman triumphal column outside Rome and Constantinopole, one of the largest monolithic columns ever erected. Column is 20.46 m tall (with pedestal – 30 m), 2.71 m wide at its base, some 285 - 390 t heavy. Built in 297 AD.

Christian monasteries and churches

Saint Catherine's Monastery, Egypt
Saint Catherine's Monastery / Vyacheslav Argenberg, , / CC BY 2.0
  • Abu Mena – Alexandria. Ruins of ancient Christian holy city and pilgrimage site. Burial of St. Menas of Alexandria. City evolved in the 3rd century and was destroyed by Muslims in the middle of the 7th century. Remains of enormous early Christian basilicas – Thermal Basilica (the 5th century) and Basilica of Arcadius (the 5th century).
  • Monastery of Saint Anthony – Red Sea. Coptic monastery, oldest continuously operating Christian monastery in world, built in 356, with important artwork and library.
  • Paromeos Monastery – Beheira. Coptic monastery, possibly the oldest monastery in world, founded in 335 AD, destroyed several times but rebuilt and active. Contains numerous historical and art values.
  • Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai – South Sinai. Ancient, continuously operating Christian monastery, active since around 381 AD. Monastery built between 527 – 565, hosts very important library of ancient writings.
  • The Hanging Church – Cairo. Ancient Coptic church built over a passage of Roman fortress. Built probably in 690 – 692 AD, rebuilt numerous times. Contains 110 very valuable icons.

Mosques

  • Al-Azhar Mosque – Cairo. Impressive mosque from 970 AD, here developed the most significant Islamic university in world. Nowadays one of influential centres in Islamic world.
  • Al-Hakim Mosque – Cairo. Large, old mosque, built in 992. Minarets of mosque resemble propylon to a pharaonic temple.
  • Mosque of Ibn Tulun – Cairo. Oldest mosque in Cairo, built in 876 – 879. Interesting detail is the spiral minaret.

Medieval cities and towns

Old Siwa, Egypt
Old Siwa / Vyacheslav Argenberg, , / CC BY 2.0
  • Old Cairo – Cairo. One of the oldest and most important Islamic metropolises with numerous valuable buildings – mosques, madrasas, hammams. Established in the 10th century AD and flourished in the 14th century, when it was one of the most magnificent cities of the world. More than 600 very valuable historical structures.
  • Old Siwa (Shali) – Matruh. Very old, remote desert oasis with unusual mud buildings, forming a maze. Local Berberians have preserved many ancient, unusual traditions.

Fortifications

  • Citadel of Qaitbay – Alexandria. Enormous fortress at the Mediterranean, built in the 15th century AD over the ruins of the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
  • Pharaoh's Island – South Sinai. Small island in the Gulf of Aqaba with impressive fortifications, built by crusaders and Saladin in the 12th century.

Museums

  • Coptic Museum – Cairo. World’s most important collection of Coptic art and history values. Museum traces the history of Christianity in Egypt.
  • Egyptian Museum – Cairo. One of major archaeological museums of the world, devoted to Ancient Egypt. Contains numerous artefacts of huge importance, including 27 royal mummies, Gold Mask of Tutankhamun and many others.
Al-Haramlik Palace in Alexandria, Egypt
Al-Haramlik Palace in Alexandria / Dan Lundberg, , / CC BY-SA 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Montaza Palace and Al-Haramlik Palace – Alexandria. Montaza Palace was built in 1892 by Khedive Abbas II as a hunting lodge. The enormous, ornate Al-Haramlik Palace was built in 1932 by King Fuad I as his summer palace. Used as a presidential palace until recent times.
  • Mount Sinai – South Sinai. This 2,285 m high mountain is sacred in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. It is mentioned numerous times in sacred scripts of different religions as the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

List of described attractions by governorates

Egypt is divided into 27 governorates.

Alexandria
Aswan
Asyut
Beheira
Beni Suef
Cairo
Dakahlia
Damietta
Faiyum
ArrowWadi El Rayan FallsWaterfalls
Gharbia
Giza
ArrowGreat Sphinx of GizaAncient monuments and memorials
Ismailia
Kafr-el-Sheikh
Luxor
Matruh
Minya
Monufia
New Valley
ArrowKamil craterImpact craters
North Sinai
Port Said
Qalyubia
Qena
Red Sea
Sharqia
Sohag
South Sinai
Suez

Map of Egypt

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