There’s More to Egypt Than the Pyramids
Egypt is a country with one of the richest and most fascinating histories on Earth. It was once home to one of the most advanced civilizations on the planet and became known, among others, for its striking and unique architecture. Most of these amazing ancient constructions have weathered the millennia quite well and have now become popular tourist attractions. However, so many people limit their knowledge of Egypt to the Sphinx, the Great Pyramids of Giza and, if there’s time, maybe Tut’s Tomb. There are so many other fascinating sites to see so be sure to pay these landmarks a visit if you’re ever in Egypt.
1. Colossi of Memnon
These two 3,400-year old statues can be found next to the modern city of Luxor. They both represent a depiction of pharaoh Amenhotep III, one of the greatest pharaohs in Egypt’s history. His reign was marked by tremendous prosperity and cultural growth so he is often remembered as Amenhotep the Magnificent. Fun facts: He is also the father of Amenhotep IV (later known as Akhenaten), the pharaoh who institutionalized a monotheistic religion, and grandfather of Tutankhamun.
The statues once stood guard at Amenhotep’s Mortuary Temple which, at the time, was the largest and most astonishing temple in all of Egypt. Unfortunately, it is all but gone and only the two guards are left standing.
2. Abu Simbel
There are two giant temples at Abu Simbel which were built in the 13th century BC dedicated to the most powerful and most beloved pharaoh in history, Ramesses II who is more commonly known as Ramesses the Great. One of the temples, simply known as the Giant Temple of Abu Simbel, is dedicated to Ramesses while the other, much smaller one is dedicated to his queen Nefertari. They have been preserved in excellent condition because they had been buried in sand for about 2,500 years until they were rediscovered in the 19th century.
In the 1960s, the whole structures were moved piece by piece because an artificial water reservoir was being built in the area. That’s part of the reason why the temples look so well-preserved today. Parts of them that were too decayed were left behind during the relocation.
3. Temple of Hatshepsut
Officially named Dayr el-Bahari (The Northern Monastery), this complex of mortuary temples is far better known as the Temple of Hatshepsut. The oldest temple located at the site dates from around 15th century BC and was actually dedicated to Mentuhotep II. However, the area is completely dominated by the Djeser-Djeseru (Holy of Holies), the temple of Hatshepsut. Unfortunately, this marvelous archaeological landmark has a dark recent history as it was the site of a massive terrorist attack in 1997 that left 62 people dead.
Hatshepsut actually ruled as pharaoh and is considered to be one of the greatest pharaohs in history (and certainly is the longest-reigning female pharaoh). As the wife of Thutmose II, she took the throne jointly (and without incident) with his son, Thutmose III. The two ruled together for 21 years until Hatshepsut died. Afterwards Thutmose would go on a long conquering campaign that would see the Egyptian empire become larger than ever before.
4. Temple of Edfu
Compared to the other structures, the Temple of Edfu is much younger, being only around 2,100 years old. Its construction took almost 200 years between 237 and 57 BC. It is also one of the largest temples in Egypt and one of the best preserved. It was built in honor of Horus, the falcon-headed god of the sky and one of the most important deities in the ancient Egyptian religion.
Like the temples at Abu Simbel, the Temple of Edfu has spent most of its existence buried in sand which is part of the reason why it is so well-preserved today. It wasn’t until the mid 19th century that efforts began to dig it up again which was made more difficult by the fact that the locals had built new homes on top of the temple.
5. Medinet Habu
Although the name is sometimes used to refer to a general archaeological region, more often than not it refers strictly to the mortuary temple of Ramesses III located at that site. In terms of size, the temple is very big, but it’s by no means the biggest. The Ramesseum (mortuary temple of Ramesses II) located nearby is bigger. However, Medinet Habu does feature around 75,000 sq ft (7,000 sq m) of inscribed and decorated walls in relatively good shape.
Due to its state of preservation, the inscriptions on the walls provided us with tons of information about ancient Egypt, mostly having to do with the reign of Ramesses III, particularly his victory over the raiding Sea Peoples.
Featured image courtesy of Olaf Tausch via Wiki Commons.