Places to see: wonderful Egypt
When dreaming of where would we go on our new adventure travel most of us can’t help but think at Egypt as our destination. And for good reason! For those who don’t yet know why they should travel to Egypt as well as for those that plan to go there but are not sure what exactly to visit, I will take you on a journey to see its famous wonders : the Great Pyramid, the intimidating Sphinx, the Museums and numerous Temples, and the heritage of Alexander the Great – the legendary Alexandria.
The History of Egypt
Born 5,000 years ago on the banks of the River Nile, the Egyptian civilization evolved and flourished longer than any civilization at that time, for 3,000 years. Located between Africa and the Middle East, Egypt is filled with remnants of ancient times, making it a huge tourist attraction. Its history started being recorded around 3300 BC, when Egyptian writing evolved enough to do it. In 3100 BC, King Menes the Pharaoh united Lower and Upper Egypt, creating a single Kingdom. He built Memphis in the North, and Abydos in the South, as the two capital cities. Under the rule of consecutive strong and able Pharaohs, Egypt established a well organized government. At the same time the calendar was introduced. The most beloved God was Ra, the Sun God. No civilization could compete with Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs, it had the greatest buildings, the greatest wealth, long centuries of peace. The pharaohs were considered gods, and no words were enough to express the Egyptians respect and adoration for them. They were given names like “Son of Ra” or the “Giver of Life”, and touching them, or even their crown or scepter by mistake, was punishable by death. The Pharaoh was in the service of the Gods; he would make offerings of food and water, and in return the Gods would feed the souls of the Egyptians after death. He was the one that helped the Sun rise in the morning and the Nile flood in the summer.
As time passed, authority began to weaken in Egypt, and foreign princes got in control. They introduced horses and chariots to Egypt. After numerous failed dynasties and deaths of great rulers during a 400 year period, the power got in the hands of priests and the Empire declined.
Then, Persians invaded Egypt. But after a few years, in 333 BC, pursuing them came the legend – Alexander the Great. He defeated the Persians, and entered Memphis in triumph, being hailed by the Egyptians and called the King of Egypt. A great diplomat, he showed great respect and veneration to the gods of Egypt. He decided to visit the Oracle of Amon to consult the seer and he stopped on his journey to rest in an old village, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Lake of Mariott. He decided to build a town here - Alexandria. He journeyed to Asia then, to fight the Persians, and died in Babylon in 323 BC, never seeing the city that bears his name. It is believed though that he is buried in Alexandria. After he died, his Empire got divided between his generals, and the Greeks ruled Egypt until the reign of Cleopatra VII. Along with her son, she ruled Egypt from Alexandria, which became a world center of Greek culture. Greek-speaking Pharaohs ruled over Egypt for the next 300 years, until it became a province of Rome. A division of power in Rome resulted in the abandonment of Egypt and after many years of war with foreign powers that took over for short periods of time, it finally became an independent country with a President.
The Pyramids and the Sphinx
No doubt, the most famous feature of Egypt are it’s Pyramids. Built as tombs for Kings and Queens, surrounded by myths and mystery, the Pyramids were the target of tons of movies and books, and attract a massive number of tourists to Egypt. The most famous of them all, are the three Pyramids of Giza: Khufu, Khafre - his son, and Menkaure – his grandson.
The Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops in Greek), also called the Great Pyramid, is the oldest, the largest, the tallest and most intact. Situated near Cairo, it is the last Wonder of the World still standing. Built over a 20 year period around 2560 BC, it is considered an architectural masterpiece. It has an angle of 52 degrees and its four sides face the four cardinal points precisely. It contains around 1,300,000 blocks ranging in weight from 2.5 tons to 15 tons and is built on a square base with sides measuring about 230m! The original height was 146.5m – only 137m in the present, due to the theft of the fine quality limestone covering, or casing stones. As almost every Pyramid in Egypt, its entrance lays at the northern side. There are actually 2 entrances: the original, 17m above ground level, and a forced entranced located below it, made by the stonemasons of Khalif El-Mamoun in the 9th Century A.D, who wanted to get his hands on the treasures kept hidden inside the Pyramid. They opened up an entrance, and cut it midway across the centre of the northern side. The tunnel they cut goes 35m into the Pyramid, and connects at the end with the original inner corridors. He found nothing inside, as it was plundered in antiquity. Today this entrance is considered a shortcut and is used by visitors. From the main entrance there is a descending corridor for about 100m, to an unfinished burial chamber, 24m below ground level, and inaccessible today. 20m in the descending corridor there’s a connected corridor, taking you up into the Pyramid’s heart. This corridor ends in the Grand Gallery, a large, long, rectangular hall, 49m long, and 15m high, with a long tunnel, at the bottom, leading to the 2nd chamber, called the “Queens Chamber”. It has nothing to do with a Queen though, it was given its name by the early Arabs, who entered the Pyramids.
At the end of the Grand Gallery lays the entrance to the real burial chamber of King Cheops, where his stone sarcophagus is found, made out of one block of granite. The chamber is made out of granite brought from Aswan, 1000km away, and it has a rectangular form, and a flat roof, made of 9 slabs of granite, each one about 50 tons in weight! The huge weight above could have caused the chamber to collapse, so to be able to sustain it the Ancient Egyptians build 5 small relieving chambers above the roof. These chambers are also made of granite, about 1m above each other. The tops of the first 4 are flat, while the 5th one has a pointed top to divert the enormous pressure away from the burial chamber. The northern and southern walls of the burial chamber have two small tunnels with rectangular entrances called “star shafts” that in the ancient cult were believed to connect the King with the stars.
The Great Sphinx
The Sphinx, or “the living image” as the ancients called it, is by far one of the most recognizable constructions in history. Made out of soft sandstone, it is believed that it would have disappeared long ago if it wasn’t buried for such long periods in the sand. He faces the sun, and the ancient Egyptians revered it so much that they built a temple in front of it. He is 60m long and 20m tall. Between his front paws, there is a stele installed by King Thutmose IV, describing how when he was young, he went hunting and fell asleep in the shade of the Sphinx’s head. He had a dream of Ra, the Sun God, telling him trough the Sphinx to clear away the sand because it was choking on it, and if he did that he would become the King of Egypt. He cleared away the sand, and after 2 years, as promised by the God, the Prince was made King of Egypt.
The Sinai Peninsula, is a 600 000 square mile peninsula situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea that forms a land bridge between Africa and Asia. Most of it is desert and the interior is an arid landscape of mountains and ranges. The most beautiful part of the peninsula is the south part, with exquisite coral reefs and best diving spots in the world. It is in the Sinai Peninsula that we find mount Sinai, the pilgrims route in ancient times, believed to be the place where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.
The Monastery of Saint Catherine
Mount Sinai hosts Sinai’s most famous archeological monument – the St. Catherine monastery. Built by the mother of Constantine the Great, Empress Helena, in 342 A.D, on the place where it is believed that Moses received the two tablets – the site of the Burning Bush – it includes a chapel known as Virgin Mary. Emperor Justinian ordered in the 6th century A.D the building of a church – the Church of Transfiguration - and of a high enclosure wall with protective towers to protect it against the attacks of the Bedouins. He also provided it with 200 Roman soldiers to defend it.
Saint Catherine lived in Alexandria during the reign of Maximinus in 305-313 A.D, during the persecution of Christians. When she converted to Christianity the Roman tortured her, and in 307 A.D. beheaded her. Five centuries later, a monk had a vision of her body carried by angels, placing her on the peak of the highest mountain in Sinai. Following this vision, the monks carried her relics to the Church of Transfiguration, next to the monastery called “The Virgin”. Since then, the monastery has been known as Saint Catherine. It lies in a breath taking site, on a high location, 480m above sea level, with a great climate and plenty of fresh water.
The Red Sea Coast
It runs from the Gulf of Suez, and it harbors one of the major attractions of the tourism of Egypt: the city of Hurghada. Visited by more than 2.5 million people every year, it’s yielding more than 3 billion dollars to Egypt’s economy. Located 550 Km from Cairo it stretches for 60Km along the coast. It has more than 170 hotels and its climate makes it possible to practice diving all year. The main tourist attraction is the marine life, consisting in lots of coral and colorful fish, very close to the shore. Hurghada is now a world centre for sea sports, and the offshore underwater gardens are famous amongst divers. There are glass bottom boats trough which you can observe the many varieties of rare fish and coral reefs that are developing on the ideal conditions and warm waters.
One of the most beautiful attractions of Egypt are its temples. While there are a lot of temples, more than you could hope to visit when you travel to Egypt, we will show you the most famous and beautiful ones are :• The Temple of Abu Simbel
• The Temple of Abydos
• The Temple of Deir El-Bahri
• The Temple of Dendara
• The Temple of Edfu
• The Temple of Esna
• The Temple of Luxor
• The Karnak Temple
• The Temple of Kom Ombo
• The Temple of Philae
• The Temple of The Ramesseum
The Egyptian National Museum in Cairo.In 1834 Mohamed Ali decreed an administration for the antiquities. He also ordered constituting the first museum in Al-Azbaquia. In 1858, August Mariette was in charge of the Egyptian Antiquities Institution and he built a museum in Bulaq, which opened in1863. The antiquities were transferred from Bulaq to the Palace of Giza in 1891. In 1902 the present museum was built. It has about 120,000 objects on display, and also several hundred thousand in the vaults. In Cairo you can also find the Coptic Museum, the Islamic Museum and the Greco-Roman Museum.
In Luxor you can find another beautiful museum that has some of the best displays of antiquities in Egypt. Opened in 1975 and housed within a modern building, it has a limited in number, but beautiful display of items. The museum prides itself on the quality of the pieces, the way in which they are displayed, and the clear multilingual labeling used.Some of the most striking items on show are grave goods from the tomb of Tutankhamun including a cow-goddess head from his tomb on the first floor and his funerary boats on the second floor and a collection of 26 exceptionally well preserved New Kingdom statues that were found buried in a cache in nearby Luxor Temple in 1989. It also has displayed the royal mummies of two pharaohs - Ahmose I and Ramesses I.
The legendary Alexandria
Built at the command of Alexander the Great, Alexandria was planned by the architect Dinocrates in squares, like a chessboard. Two main streets interlaced vertically and horizontally extending from east to west as well as from north to south. Alexandria had 5 districts, each one named after a letter of the first five letters in the Greek Alphabet: A (Alpha); B (Beta); G (Gamma); D (Delta) and E (Epsilon). These 5 letters represent the initial letters of the text: "Alexander the king, the descendent of the gods, erected the city".• Alpha was the royal district where the royal palaces, the main Temple, the museum, the libraries, and the gardens were built,
• Beta was the district of the Greek aristocracy.
• Gamma was dedicated to the settlement of the Greek commoners.
• Delta was the district of the foreign minorities such as the Syrians, the Persians, and the Jews.
• Epsilon was the district for the native Egyptians.
Among the fabulous monuments mentioned by ancient Greek books, are the Enclosure Walls and the Gates of the City, the Lighthouse, the Great Library, the Royal Necropolis including the Tomb of Alexander and the Museums.
Hoping you found good quality information here, I thank you for the time spent reading, and I wish you a beautiful holiday on the banks of River Nile.
If you would like to find more detailed info on Egypt, I invite you to visit my blog : Tourist Egypt .
Have a nice day ! N3o.
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