Discover Ancient Egypt
Names like Ramses, Cleopatra, Tutankhamun and Nefertiti, echo through the art and literature of so many different cultures. Religion was the backbone of life in Ancient Egypt and mythology its bloodline. Death and the afterlife were essential to Ancient Egyptian society.

5,000 years ago, the first Pharaoh, King Narmer, founded the world's first nation state, recording it in the world's first written script. The pharaohs were not just kings or queens, they were gods and they were worshipped as divine rulers. But they also commanded vast administrative armies, models of modern management and efficiency.

It was their sophisticated system of bureaucracy that enabled the construction of Egypt's greatest monuments, the pyramids of course and also the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, the great temples of Karnak, the ruins of Thebes not forgetting the Sphinx at Giza.

The relics of Ancient Egypt still survive to bear witness to the refinement and beauty of many golden ages.

Although the construction of the pyramids was only an episode in the long history of the pharaohs, this period has left us some of the most impressive monuments that can be seen. Besides the three giants of Gizeh, more than 70 pyramids can be counted along the Nile.

Al Giza Pyramids
Guarded by the familiar lone lion-bodied Sphinx are the three Great Pyramids of Giza. Over 4,000 years ago, the mummified bodies of Kings Cheops, Kefren and Mykerinos were ferried down the Nile to be buried and prepared for the journey to the afterlife within these massive monuments.
The largest, oldest and finest of all three is Cheop's Pyramid, simply known as the "Great Pyramid". It was the tallest structure in the world until the end of the nineteenth century (145 meters). But Kefren's Pyramid, Cheop's son and successor, makes a bigger first impression. On higher ground with its limestone cap still intact, it looks loftier even though it's 4 meters shorter.
The smallest of the three, Mykerinos' Pyramid, makes up for its size with its fine funerary and valley temples.
But the Giza necropolis is also the final resting place of the Pharaoh's family and high officials. Buried inside the mastabas and minor pyramids which dot the plateau are queens and royal courtiers. There are also tombs of the craftsmen and engineers who toiled over these epic edifices.

Dahshur Pyramids
There were originally 11 pyramids at Dahshur, although only the two Old Kingdom Pyramids, the Bent and the Red Pyramid, remain intact. Pharaoh Sneferu, father of Khufu and founder of the 4th Dynasty, built Egypt's first real pyramid, the Red Pyramid, here. It is a quiet place where you will be able to enjoy the monuments in peace.

Saqqara Pyramids
Time has all but erased the once mighty Memphis from the Egyptian landscape, however, the city of the dead has been excavated and exhumed from the desert sands, the vast necropolis of Saqqara. Memphis is some 23km south of central Cairo, in the center of the floodplain on the western side of the Nile. Memphis was traditionally founded in 3000 BC by Menes, the legendary figure credited with the creation of a politically unified Egypt. Memphis served as the effective administrative capital of the country during the Old Kingdom and partly in later times.
It's eleven pyramids, countless mastabas and lone Coptic monastery stretch over 7km from north to south, and span three and a half thousand years of Egyptian civilisation. At its centre sits King Djoser's "Stepped" Pyramid, the very first pyramid and the first great stone structure in the world. North of the pyramid, inside a stone "serdab", sits the Ancient Pharaoh himself.
Saqqara also includes the Serapeum, represented by a life-sized sculpture of limestone, the original of which is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and an astonishing collection of mummified Apis bulls in gargantuan granite coffins. Of its eleven pyramids, King Teti boasts the best preserved burial chamber, with pyramid text lined walls mapping out his journey to the afterlife. The walls of Mereruka's multichambered maze-like tomb are covered with exquisite murals, showing scenes of everyday life.

Life in Ancient Egypt revolved around religion. The pharaohs traced their ancestry back to the gods of the Egyptian pantheon. Different pharaohs allied themselves to different cults, and the elaborate temples they built cemented their own political status. With intricately painted walls, vast colonnaded courts and columned hypostyle halls, the temples of Ancient Egypt are among its greatest cultural triumphs.

The Temples of Abu Simbel (Nubia)
Of all the pharaohs, Ramses II was the most prolific builder of monuments and temples. Two of his greatest temples, the Great Temple of Abu Simbel and its smaller cousin, the Temple of Hathor are at Abu Simbel. Both temples originally sat some sixty metres below where you find them today. They were part of a massive UNESCO operation to save Egypt's Great Temples from Lake Nasser's rising waters. Embedded into the mountain itself, the temples had to be cut free from the rock and painstakingly dismantled and rebuilt.

The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut (Thebes)
At the base of a lofty limestone mountain in the desert at Thebes nestles Queen Hatshepsut's astonishing terraced temple. Hatshepsut was Egypt's greatest female Pharaoh. She fought off male pretenders to her throne for over 20 prosperous and peaceful years.
Partly embedded into the mountain itself, the temple is almost forty metres wide. Its honeycomb colonnades pick up the natural lines and recesses of its mountainous backdrop. Hatshepsut's temple is essentially an extension of Mentuhotep II's temple, though several times its size. The two blend in so well together, they are indistinguishable from a distance.

The Temple of Luxor
Though Ramses II's triumphant twin statues stand sentry at its entrance, it was Amenhotep III who built the bewildering Temple of Luxor.
Over the years, several of Egypt's legendary rulers added to the glory of the Temple of Luxor, from Tutankhamun to Alexander the Great.

The Temple of Karnak
The most important place of worship in all Egypt during Theban power. It was built, dismantled, restored, enlarged and decorated by several pharaohs. It's a complex of sanctuaries, obelisks and pylons, dedicated to the glory of the pharaohs. It's a gigantic site : 1.5km by 800m. Impossible to describe, this immense monument has to be seen, to be believed.
From the entrance to the Amun Temple Enclosure you pass down the processional avenue of ram-headed sphinxes that originally flanked a canal connecting the temple to the Nile.

The Temple of Horus (Edfu)
A very well preserved Egyptian temple, much newer than other temples. Its state of preservation helps to fill some historical gaps. The sanctuary of Horus contains the granite shrine that once housed the gold cult statue of Horus.

The Temple of Amada (Nubia)
Saved from the waters of Lake Nasser and moved to higher, drier land, the Temple of Amada boasts the most wonderfully preserved wall reliefs of the Nubian style. Dedicated to the gods of the New Kingdom, Amun-Ra and Ra-Hor-Akhty, it was a collaborative effort between Tuthmosis III and his son Amonhotep II. Ramses II also restored much of the temple that had suffered under Akhenaten's rule.

The Temple of Dakka (Nubia)
It takes fifteen minutes to walk through the desert to these sites from Wadi es-Sebua. The Temple of Dakka originally stood forty kilometres further north. Dedicated to Thot, god of wisdom, its construction lasted from the reign of the Nubian pharaoh, Arkamani, in the third century BC to that of Emperor Augustus. It is worth visiting in particular for its twelve-metre high pylon which offers a striking view over the lake. Maharraqa, the smallest of the three temples, is interesting for its spiral staircase, a rare feature in ancient Egypt.

The Temple of Isis (Aswan)
Small in scale, the temple was designed as an ode to Isis and the Nile, creator of all things. Legend relates that Isis had chosen to live on the island to grieve for Osiris, her brother and husband, murdered by Seth, and that it was on Philae that she found the heart of Osiris. Construction of the temple and its surrounding buildings dates back to the first centuries AD. The worship of Isis continued here until the closure of the temple in 537 and its transformation into a church.

The Temple of Hathor (Dendera)
The site of the Dendera temple may have been occupied since very ancient times but the temple itself dates “only” from the first century AD. Construction was started in the reign of Ptolemy IX and was completed by the Roman emperors. The temple was dedicated to Hathor, goddess of celebration, music and love, and was absorbed into the cult of Aphrodite by the Greeks.

Kom Ombo Temples (Kom Ombo)
The Temple of Sobek and Haroeris is visible from and overlooks the Nile at a wide bend in the river. Built during the Ptolemaic period, its stands on a rock rising out of the sands. It is unusual in that it is in fact two temples – one devoted to the crocodile-god, Sobek, and the other to Haroeris, the falcon-headed god (Horus the Great). The whole site is laid out along two parallel axes.

The Temple of Khnum (Esna)
The temple of the ram-god, Khnum, has withstood the ravages of time. This may be because it was buried beneath layers of silt deposited by successive Nile floods. The hypostyle hall is an excellent example of Graeco-Roman architecture.READY TO TRAVEL

Most of the Egyptian monuments are from the pharaohic era, but are also complemented by expressions of other cultures. Colossi and Sphinxes exist alongside amphitheatres, temples and Greco-Roman columns. A history book open to the heavens …

The Great Sphinx (Giza)
Like the broken arms of the Venus de Milo, the Great Sphinx's long lost nose has made it all the more iconic. Standing guard at the hallowed entrance to the Great Pyramids of Giza, the human-headed, lion-bodied Sphinx is the oldest of all Egypt's superhuman stone sculptures. It is also the most instantly recognizable. Originally hewn from a gigantic piece of limestone bedrock, it was covered in plaster and paint in its youth. But the winds, waters and sands of the Giza Plateau have taken their toll. Once upon a time, the Great Sphinx also wore a Pharaoh's royal beard. Part of it is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the other part is in the British Museum in London.
Though named by the Greeks after their riddle-loving mythological character, the Sphinx was actually built by the Pharaoh Kefren in his own image.

The Valley of the Kings (Thebes)
Inconspicuous and unassuming, the Valley of the Kings hides its secrets well. The grand pyramids of the earlier pharaohs proved too tempting to grave robbers, so from the eighteenth to twentieth Dynasties, 26 pharaohs opted to build their tombs in the valley. Carving them deep into the mountains, far from reach, Tutankhamun, Ramses the Great and Tuthmosis III's tombs lie in this single, sprawling necropolis.
There are interesting tombs to see in the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Nobles as well.

Colossi of Memnon (Luxor)
These are the first ruins visible when arriving by ferry. They are the sole surviving remains of the funerary temple of Amenhotep III which, according to recent discoveries, was more vast than the complex of Karnak. Even with a great deal of imagination, it is difficult to picture.
The faceless giants stand in front of the first pylon with their backs to the mountain. They represent the pharaoh’s sovereign majesty seated on his throne. The funerary complex, of which nothing remains, was the biggest on the west bank.

The Colossus of Ramses the Great (Memphis)
A colossal statue of Ramesses II found on the site is now housed in a museum.

The Ramesseum (Luxor)
The funerary temple of Ramesses II has lost much of its splendour over the centuries. Poets sang of its glory in antiquity but the dream of self-glorification of Ramesses II, already responsible for the construction of Abu Simbel, has not survived the passing of time or successive pillaging. The broken columns and thorny trees create a romantic and moving sight particularly at sunrise when the first rays brush the gigantic statue of Ramesses II lying in pieces in the ground. Calculations indicate that the statue must have measured at least 17 m high and weighed around one thousand tons.

Monuments of the Graeco-Roman era:
From Alexander the Great's grand entrance in 332 BC to Cleopatra's tragic exit when she committed suicide in 30 BC, the Greeks thrust Egypt centre stage during their three-and-a-half century reign under the Ptolomeic Dynasty.
Not your average colonialists, the Ptolemaic rulers embraced the Egyptian culture and design, continuing the great works of their predecessors. Their greatest legacy was Alexandria, the glittering jewel of the ancient world. Its ancient library was a beacon of enlightenment and its now long gone Caesareum, an emblem of sophistication.
When Cleopatra finally chose death, Octavian brought Egypt into the Roman fold. Egypt was relegated to being the Empire's bread basket. The Romans also built on the works of the Greeks, staying true to native traditions until 394 AD. This is when Christianity ushered in the Coptic era and Ancient Egypt was finally buried.

Roman Amphitheatre in Alexandria
The Roman Amphitheatre was found buried, quite literally, under a pile of rubble ˜Kom-el-Dikkah'. Unearthed beneath a Napoleonic era fort, it's the only known example of a typically circular Roman theatre in all of Egypt.

Pompey's Pillar
Majestic but solitary, Pompey's Pillar is a 25 meter column of solid red granite, from the bottom of its Greek inscribed base to the top of its Romanesque capital. Surprisingly, Pompey's Pillar has nothing to do with its namesake. It was built in honour of the Emperor Diocletian in 292 AD.

The Catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa
Hewn in the bedrock of the mountains in the second century, Kom ash-Shuqqafa is the largest burial place in Egypt with three underground storeys that accommodate over 300 bodies. The lowest level is now submerged, but a spiralling staircase descends to the first two levels, complete with banqueting hall (triclinium) for funerary feasts, and the principal tomb with its eclectic clash of Egyptian, Greek and Roman symbolism