Egypt is one of the cradles of human civilization. It has one of the oldest histories among modern countries. A visit to Egypt is not only a trip of a lifetime, it is a journey to rediscover humankind in its earliest form. Dotted with innumerable timeless wonders, Egypt offers a fascinating and exotic trip to every visitor. Many of these attractions are prehistoric and it is amazing how these have survived the enormous passage of time. In this blog, we will list 12 such timeless attractions which will let you rediscover the very best that Egypt has to offer.
- Saint Catherine’s Monastery
This ancient monastery makes it to our list for being the oldest surviving Christian monastery in the world. Saint Catherine’s Monastery was established in 525 AD and is presently under the Eastern Orthodox Church. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Due to the popularity of the monastery, a small town has developed around it over the last few centuries. The site also has tremendous religious significance to the Christians. It is said to be the site where Moses received the Ten Commandments. The hilltop site is also the site of the Biblical burning bush. Visit the onsite museum to know more interesting facts about this monastery.
- Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa
This is one of the hidden gems of Egypt that deserve a place in our top 12. Located in Alexandria, this necropolis is considered as one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages and is one of the last constructions associated to the ancient religious beliefs of Egypt. The site was discovered accidentally when a donkey fell through a hole. It consists of a series of ancient tombs, statues, and other archaeological objects at a depth of nearly 100 feet. Visitors have to descend through a spiral staircase — the bodies of the deceased are believed to have been lowered through the center of this shaft. There are nearly 300 tombs in the necropolis. The tombs date back to 2nd century AD so there is a strong influence of Roman attire and architectural styles in these tombs. Do not miss the Tomb of Caracalla, which has the bones of Christian men who were massacred by order of King Caracalla in 215 AD.
- Siwa Oasis
The Siwa Oasis is located in northwestern Egypt, tucked away in an isolated region of the vast desert, just 50 km east of the Libyan border. Although the region has been inhabited from the 10th millennium BC, there is no proper historical record of the settlement which is dominated by the Berber community. One of its claim to fame is for being home to an oracle of Amon — which has given us the modern term Ammonium. Alexander the Great is believed to have visited the oracle to seek guidance on how to overcome the challenges of desert conquests. This region was mostly a part of Libya until the early 19th century. A visit to Siwa will let you explore and understand from close quarters a community that was so close to the famed Egyptian civilization yet mysteriously alienated from all its influences.
- Farafra White Desert
Located near Farafra in central Egypt is one of the unique natural wonders of the region — the White Desert. Locally known as the Sahara el Beyda, the main draw of the desert is its snow-white to cream-colored rocks which have been carved into unique shapes through sandstorms over thousands of years. Looking like a set straight out of a science fiction movie, the White Desert is a popular attraction with visiting tourists. The chalk mountains, the occasional hot springs and lakes, and the geological patterns created through thousands of years of natural phenomena make it one of true wonders of Egypt.
- Abydos Temple
Located just 50 km from the famed site of Luxor is the ancient Abydos Temple. Historically known as Abdju, the town of Abydos is considered to be one of the oldest in Egypt. Today it is one of the most important archaeological sites of the country with discoveries of several major tombs and temples, most notably the Temple of Seti I, Great Osiris Temple, and Ramses II Temple. The vastness of these temples and the interesting inscriptions on the walls and columns have intrigued historians and tourists alike. As the bulk of the tourist footfall is captured by its more popular neighbor Luxor, visitors to Abydos can actually observe and enjoy the beauty of the site in a much quieter ambiance.
- Egyptian Museum
This is not a historical attraction in itself, but the sheer magnitude of the historical collection of this museum propels it to our list of Egyptian wonders. Officially The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, it is also called the Museum of Cairo. It houses the largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities in the world, with a display of around 120,000 items and artifacts. It was established in 1902 and has since been a major tourist attraction of Egypt. The museum is spread over two floors. While the lower level has a large collection of coins and papyrus documents, the upper level has several items associated with the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. The highlight of the collection is undoubtedly the 11 kg solid gold funeral mask of Tutankhamen.
- Islamic Cairo
The central part of Cairo with its cramped streets and an abundance of historic mosques and Islamic monuments is known as Islamic Cairo. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its religious, social, and historical significance. Take a walk through the narrow lanes which are filled with shops selling perfumes, Islamic artworks, ceramics, textiles, and spices. Often referred to as Old Cairo, this neighborhood was founded in 969 AD and has since been intertwined with the history of the city. Some of the major attractions of Islamic Cairo include the 9th century Mosque of Ibn Tulum, the largest and oldest mosque of Cairo; the 10th century Al-Azhar University, one of the oldest universities in the world; and the Al-Hakim Mosque, one of the most important religious sites of the country.
Saqqara is one of the lesser-known destinations in Egypt but certainly deserves a place in our list of attractions. It is located hardly 30 km south of downtown Cairo, across the river from the Helwan University. Saqqara, presently covering an area of around 10 sq km, served as a necropolis for the ancient Egyptian capital Memphis. It is home to the world-famous Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser. This step pyramid was completed in the 27th century BC and is considered to be the oldest complete stone building in the world. There are nearly 2 dozen pyramids and prehistoric monuments in Saqqara, making it one of the most significant archaeological sites of Egypt.
- Luxor and Karnak temples
The Luxor and Karnak temples are one of the major tourist attractions of Egypt. They are located on the east bank of the River Nile, almost 660 km south of the capital Cairo. The Luxor Temple was built in Nubian sandstone in 1400 BC. Unlike most other Egyptian temples, the Luxor Temple is not dedicated to a god or a dead pharaoh; it is instead dedicated to the rejuvenation of kingship. The Karnak Temple, hardly 3 km north of Luxor, was the main place of worship of the 18th dynasty and is dedicated to Amun-Ra. This site has some colossal statues including a mammoth obelisk weighing 329 tons.
- Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is located on the west bank of the River Nile, just across the site of Luxor and Karnak temple complex. It is one of the major archaeological sites and most visited tourist attractions in Egypt. The Valley of the Kings is a necropolis which has some of the grandest memorials and tombs of Egyptian royalty. Burials were done in this region for almost 500 years — between the 11th to the 16th century BC. The tombs were created by cutting through the Thebian Hills. There are 63 tombs and chambers in the complex with the latest being discovered as recently as 2008, so the chances of more tombs being discovered in the future cannot be dismissed. The highlights of the valley include the tombs of Tutankhamen, Ramses the Great, and Ramses IV, and the magnificent Temple of Hatshepsut.
- Abu Simbel
Located on the banks of Lake Nasser, Abu Simbel is famous for its magnificent twin temples of Ramses II. The Egyptian pharaoh decided to build the temples to immortalize himself and his wife Nefertari, something that he certainly achieved seeing the millions of tourists that flock this site every year. Interestingly, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was completely relocated block by block to its present site in 1968 to save the temple from flooding due to the Aswan Dam. The colossal carved statues of Ramses II, rising to a height of 30 ft, and the impressive main hall of the Great Temple are a sight to behold. However, if you are visiting Abu Simbel on October 22 or February 20, then you can also witness the engineering marvel of this temple. On these 2 days, the sun’s rays penetrate the temple and illuminate the sculptures on the back wall. Only the image of Ptah — god of the underworld — remains in the dark!
- Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx
The only surviving ancient Seven Wonders of the World, and the most iconic landmark of the Egyptian civilization, the pyramids of Giza are one of the top tourist attractions of the world. No trip to Egypt is complete without a visit to this site. Located just outside the city of Cairo, these gigantic pyramids, guarded by the colossal Sphinx, are one of the most recognized images of the country. These pyramids were built around 2500 BC and are tombs to the 4th and 5th dynasty of pharaohs. Considered an engineering marvel to this date, the pyramid complex of Giza reaffirms the belief that the ancient Egyptians were some of the greatest builders in human history. The Great Pyramid, rising to a staggering 146.5 m, remained the tallest man made structure for nearly 3800 years!
Originally posted 2017-03-16 06:08:49.