Ancient Egypt has always held a special place in the imaginations of people in the modern world. Today you can still visit ancient Egyptian monuments that are a testament to the advanced sophistication of a civilization dating as far back as 5000 BC.
The Giza Necropolis
On the outskirts of the Egypt’s capital, Cairo, lies the Giza Necropolis, also known as the Pyramids of Giza. This complex of ancient structures and monuments encapsulates the three pyramid complexes known collectively as the Great Pyramids and the enormous sculpture known as the Great Sphinx, as well as several cemeteries, a worker’s village and an industrial complex. The three pyramids that make up the Great Pyramids are the Pyramid of Cheops, the slightly smaller pyramid of Khafre and the smaller still Pyramid of Menkaure, each of them arranged in a south-westerly line a few hundred meters away from one another.
Various theories speculate about the meaning of the accurate and almost equidistant placement of the three pyramids. The smallest pyramid is just a few degrees off the south-west line so that together, the three pyramids are very similar in placement to the three stars of the belt in the constellation of Orion. So one possibility is that the pyramids were built to correspond to these stars.
The origins of the Sphinx are also somewhat mysterious. No one can say for sure when it was built or by whom. Curiously, the name we use for it has its roots in a Greek mythological beast with a lion’s body and the head of the man. We don’t know how the Egyptians themselves referred to this creature.
The Abu Simbel Temples
The Abu Simbel Temples were originally carved out of a mountainside during the reign of pharaoh Ramesses II in the 13th Century BCE. The larger of the two temples, The Great Temple, took around 24 years to build, beginning in the fourth year of the reign of Ramesses the Great. This enormous elongated pyramid was dedicated to the gods Amon, Ra-Horakhty and Ptah, as well as to Ramesses himself. The smaller of the two temples is dedicated to Ramesses’ wife Nefertari, who was believed to personify the goddess Hathor.
In 1964, the temples were relocated due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam. In a feat of archaeological brilliance, the entire temple complex was cut into large cubes, dismantled, lifted and reassembled 65 meters higher and 200 meters back from its original position.
The Karnak Temple Complex
Usually referred to as simply “Karnak”, this mix of chapels, temples, pylons and other structures dates from the New Kingdom, a period falling anywhere between the 11th and 16th centuries BC. Karnak is part of the monumental ancient city of Thebes, situated in what Egyptians called Ipet-isut, or “The Most Selected of Places.”
It is the largest ancient religious site in the world, and is now a sprawling open-air museum. It consists of four main parts – the Precinct of Amen-Re, the Precinct of Montu, the Precinct of Mut, and the now dismantled Temple of Amenhotep IV. Only the largest one of these parts – the Precinct of Amen-Re – is open to the public.