Pop singer Stafford was famous for her romantic ballad about seeing the pyramids along the Nile. Long before her hit single, however, the pyramids were a must-see for any traveler to Egypt; they still are. But the Great Pyramid isn’t the only must-see for travelers to this Middle Eastern country. You’ll also marvel at other ancient landmarks in Egypt such as the Sphinx and Karnak Temple, and gaze in awe at the spectacular rock formations found in the White Desert. But don’t spend all your time immersed in ancient Egypt. Take time out to sample lamb kebab and shop at Cairo’s Khan al-Khalili, one of the largest bazaars in the Middle East.
1. Great Sphinx
In ancient Greece, a sphinx was a mythical creature with the head of a human and a lion’s body. It was deemed to be terrifying and cruel. The Great Sphinx of Giza certainly embodies this concept. This sphinx, carved out of limestone, is believed to have been built more than 2,500 years before the birth of Christ. Sitting on the west bank of the Nile River, the Sphinx is said to resemble the Pharaoh Khafre, Egyptian ruler at the time. The Sphinx is 238 feet long and 68 feet high. It is considered the oldest huge sculpture in Egypt. The Sphinx was carved from rocks that were used in the Great Pyramid.
2. Karnak Temple
The name Karnak Temple may be a misnomer since it’s really a city of temples within one complex. Construction started around 2000 BC and eventually resulted in the largest religious building ever built. The detail the ancient Egyptians created in this complex is simply amazing. The main hall, Hypostyle, features 134 carved columns, and is the largest single religious room in the world. Dedicated to several Egyptian gods, the complex has several smaller temples and a sacred lake that was surrounded by the priests’ living quarters and an aviary. Karnak Temple was a pilgrimage destination for 2,000 years. The temple is in ruins now, but its former greatness still shines through.
3. Abu Simbel
Ramesses II left his legacy, Abu Simbel, on the banks of the Nile River more than 1,200 years BC. Abu Simbel consists of two temples, Great and Small, that are carved into a cliff. Many historians believe Abu Simbel was built to celebrate Ramesses’ 1274 BC victory over the Hittites. Others think it was built after his 1244 BC victory over the Nubians. Scholars agree it took 20 years to build. The Great Temple is dedicated to Ramesses II and various gods while the Small Temple is dedicated to his favorite wife, Nefertari. Abu Simbel was named in 1813 for the youngster who took an explorer there.
4. Great Pyramid
A visit to the Great Pyramid of Giza is your chance to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Until the Eiffel Tower was built, this pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world. Located near Cairo, the Great Pyramid was built during the 2589 – 2566 BC reign of King Khufu, also known as Cheops. With a base of 754 feet, the Great Pyramid rises 474 feet into the air. It may have been the Rubik’s Cube of the day since it involved precisely placing more than two million stone blocks. Even by modern standards, the engineering involved in this is awesome.
5. Suez Canal
Opening in 1869, the Suez Canal offered passenger and cargo ships a shorter route to Asia, since it connected the Mediterranean and Red seas across Egypt’s isthmus of Suez. Egypt has been building canals since the days of Ramesses II, but none have ever been as famous as the Suez Canal. Napoleon Bonaparte originally considered building such a canal, but failed to implement his plan. Several decades later, the 101-mile long waterway became reality. It took 15 years of forced labor for Egyptian peasants to dig the canal with picks and shovels. In the 20th century, Egypt and Israel fought wars over the canal.
6. Colossi of Memnon
If you like ancient things, you’ll find them at 3,400-year-old Colossi of Memnon across the Nile River from Luxor. When it was built by Amenhotep III, it was the most opulent and largest temple complex in Erupt, surpassing even Karnak Temple. Designed as a memorial to Amenhotep, it was named after Ethiopian King Memnon, a Trojan War hero. The Colossi of Memnon consists of two large statues of Amenhotep looking at the Nile and the sun. Smaller statues in front of his throne represent his wife and mother. All statues are made from quartzite sandstone. The Colossi of Memnon are in ruins today, but are still impressive landmarks.
7. White Desert
A drive through the White Desert is like driving through an alien landscape, perhaps like you’d find on a different planet. Wind erosion created the giant “mushrooms” and “pebbles” that arise eerily out of the ground. No wonder it’s Egypt’s most favorite desert destination. It took Mother Nature thousands of years to create these marvelous snow-white chalk formations. You’ll have fun imagining what some of the formations resemble – hey! Is that one a duck? Farafia is closest to the White Desert, but more people leave from Bahariya because the selection of tours is better.
8. Temple of Kom Ombo
If you’re intrigued by temples dedicated to crocodile and falcon gods, you can satisfy your curiosity at the Temple of Kom Ombo. This unique temple is actually two temples joined as one, each having separate entrances and chapels. The temples are deducted to Sobek, the crocodile god, and Horus, a god with a falcon for a head; they were enemies. The temple was built during the Greco-Roman period, which started in 332 BC. Temple of Kom Ombo is built on the site of a much earlier structure. At one time, crocodiles were kept in the temple.