Hot & Dusty
Egypt was on my bucket list for many years. It was the first overseas trip I made. I went on a tour for 15 days and it was stacked with things to do. There was literally almost no down time. With the exception of when we were on the cruise boat on the Nile. But I enjoyed my trip even though it was fast paced.
My second trip to Egypt was to Alexandria. I spent 2 weeks in Alexandria and it was a much slower pace. I had met a friend there and we made our way around the various touristy places in Alexandria. Much different that my first trip.Add to your Trip Planner
Contains lots of artifacts but is small enough to be manageable. Has the mummy of Ramses I.
Most of the artifacts displayed at the Luxor Museum were discovered in the area of ancient Thebes (modern Luxor). Highlights of the collection include masterpieces of pharaonic art as well as examples of everyday objects. Several galleries are devoted to a spectacular group of statues found in 1989 hidden beneath the floor of the Luxor Temple; there is also a newly-built annex dedicated to Egypt's Golden Age (the New Kingdom, ca. 1550-1070 BC), which includes two royal mummies and a short film on ancient papyrus and vase-making.
I really enjoyed this Museum.Related to:
- Museum Visits
Pyramids of Giza
On the plateau of Giza nearby Cairo you find the world famous Pyramids of Giza or, to be more precise, the Great Pyramid built for the pharaoh Khufu, there may be numerous pictures of the Pyramids, but they will never express the feeling of amazement that comes over you from actually being there, that feeling was at its highest when we approached the Pyramids through the streets of Giza, Cairo. It is not until you get close up that you can appreciate the feat and engineering that must have been involved in the building the Pyramids. Each block is Huge. The Great Pyramid stands 140 metres high and 230 metres along the base. It weighs six million tons and is built of 2,300,000 blocks, some of the heaviest weighing 15 tons. Must see sights/attractions include: the Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure, the Queen’s Pyramids and the Great Sphinx to name but a few.
See My Travel Page for more information.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Memphis is today only a memorial: an open air museum with an alabaster sphinx for the touristy photo, and an huge statue of Ramses II protected in an expressly built construction.
In a fresh and well maintained garden, some other relics justify your trip, and differently from Cairo Museum, you can easily walk around and... breath.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
I bought what seemed to be an excellent package (it was) but decided to demand some changes. It was a perfect idea. In two weeks I joined four different groups, sharing their experiences but also seeing what they were missing.
The changes were simple: reverse the cruise (Aswan-Luxor and not the opposite) and replace the long stay in Hurghada by Sharm-el-Sheik. That gave me the chance to save a flight, reaching the Red Sea by land and to profit some exclusive advantages.
For instance, after the tour of Aswan, the guide found that we were the only customers to have the Philae Temple in the program.
So, while everybody else returned to the cruise ship, we and the guide entered a small boat that took us across the lake to that jewel that is the Philae Temple. The visit was quick and easy, but I wouldn't miss it for nothing.
The protection of the tourists is carefully assured as discreetly as possible. Sometimes they cannot be so discreet.Related to:
- Historical Travel
St Katherine's Monastery
Time is stopped in Saint Katherine monastery, in Sinai. History and religion mix in an "impossible" place, in the middle of nowhere. Easy to reach from Sharm-el-Sheik by taxi, after enjoying the colors and textures of the desert, you are stuck by the impressive austerity of the site.
Sacred for several religions towers and minarets stand side-by-side in the small space of the fortified complex. Costumes are carefully controlled and our pants were found unappropriated. The solution? - Wearing local clothes they gently supplied for a modest donation.
I went back there again, not surprised now!Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
Pyramid of Khafre!
The ancient Egyptian greatest legacies are the huge Giza Pyramids. Standing before them in the blowing sand we found it difficult to grasp their huge size and great age. They tower over the Giza plateau.
Kings Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure who ruled through 2589-2504 BC built the Pyramids of Giza near the capital city of Memphis. Paid labourers motivated by faith in the divinity and immortality of their kings achieved this feat, possibly using sloping embankments. Three local mountains yielded most of the stone with the remainder of the mountains carved into the mysterious Great Sphinx, which presides over the complex.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza is the most massive building ever erected in the world - more remarkable for having been achieved 4500 years ago! It contains 2.3 million stone blocks. Its mathematical precision is remarkable. The four sides of the pyramid orient to the cardinal points of the compass. The base has sides 230 meters long and it was originally 146 meters high until robbed of its outer casing and capstone. The ancient Greeks regarded it as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Khufu (Cheops to the Greeks) ruled about 2589-2566 BC when the Old Kingdom of Egypt was nearing a peak of prosperity and culture. His embalmed body rested within the sealed pyramid to protect it and allow his transformation and ascension to the afterlife, and a place among the gods.
King Khafre built his pyramid on higher ground giving the illusion that his was taller. By encasing the lowest course in granite he also made it slightly grander.
Each of the Giza Pyramids had an adjoining mortuary temple where the Egyptians carried out rituals for the dead king and for the gods. A causeway ran to a lower temple near the Nile floodplain that acted as an entrance to the complex. The necropolis also included pits for funerary boats, small subsidiary pyramids and tombs for the royal family and officials.
Originally, the Giza Pyramids had an outer skin of lighter limestone that gleamed in the sun, unfortunately plundered to provide building materials for Cairo. Khafre’s Pyramid, however, still has layers of its original casing stones near its summit.
We took the passageway into Khufu’s pyramid. At first causing us to stoop it soon opened out. Nearing the burial chamber inside the passageway the air became very hot and stuffy. Here large blocks of stone formed the sides and ceiling. About halfway up inside the pyramid we came to the burial chamber of King Khufu. His granite sarcophagus, or coffin, stands empty. Hopefully he ascended to the afterlife! Certainly he worked hard towards it!
There are no images on the walls and no inscriptions - only a beautifully built chamber built from fine granite stone. Robbers had visited here long ago but it is unlikely they found much treasures - rich funeral goods, such as found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, are a trademark of much later kings.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Mosque of Muhammad Ali
Its great dome and towering minarets give the Citadel a romantic, oriental quality. The pencil shaped minarets, 80 meters high stand on bases only three meters wide.
Because of its grandeur and location in the Citadel, the Mosque of Muhammad Ali built between 1830 and 1848 is the most popular Islamic mosque among tourists. Due to its extensive use of alabaster on the walls it is often called the Alabaster Mosque.
Built during the first half of the 19th century the mosque was built on top of the Mamluk palaces from which Egypt had been ruled since the thirteenth century. This is the reason why, among Cairo's wealth of historic Islamic monuments, there is not one royal palace left from these periods. Muhammad Ali erected this mosque, where he is buried, as a monument to himself.
In its architecture, Muhammad Ali Pasha, viceroy and effectively king of Egypt, as well as the founder of Egypt's modern era, borrowed from Istanbul rather than Cairo’s architecture. Though the architecture of the mosque is entirely Ottoman, the domes are, relative to their width, higher and less squat than those in Istanbul. The plan of the mosque is a central dome flanked by four half-domes, and four smaller domes on each corner.
To enter we had to take off our footwear and carry them in a plastic bag. Gazing around the 41 meters square interior impressed us with its size. The main, high dome of the mosque soars 52 meters high, with a diameter of 21 meters. The grandeur of this single, large chamber is enhanced by the circle of small lamps hung in the middle of the praying area, and just before the main dome of the mosque. Other smaller lamps, many of them more modern, are hung elsewhere in the mosque, creating a spectacle of light.
Within the mosque are two minbars, or pulpits. The larger one of wood is decorated with gilt ornament, and is original. The smaller one of alabaster was a gift from King Faruq, dating to 1939. The mihrab, or prayer niche, is made of Egyptian marble. It is simple but beautiful.
In the southwest corner of the sanctuary, within an enclosure richly decorated with bronze openwork, is the magnificent, white marble cenoteaph of Muhammad Ali.
Though the architecture is Ottoman, the decoration of the building is Islamic art. Six large medallions around the dome enclose the names of God, Muhammad and the first four Khalifs. Even the marble chosen for decoration is different from that of earlier mosques. Many tourists and Egyptians themselves find the mosque decorations very beautiful. Its use of greens, golds and reds can be very appealing to many.
Because of its prominent position the mosque became a symbol of the city, even though it is the least Egyptian of its monuments. The Egyptians place a great deal of pride in this monument. Muhammad Ali would be proud!Related to:
- Historical Travel
At first glimpse as we stepped off the coach Hatshepsut’s Temple seemed to grow out of the towering pink cliffs. Across the River Nile from Thebes, at the foot of the Theban hills its wide columned halls reflect the vertical patterns displayed in the cliff behind.
Excavated in 1896 from drifted sand, the remains of the 3000-year-old temple still impress. Broken stonework awaiting restoration lie neatly arranged on the terrace as repairs continue.
Through use of coalitions and marriage Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BC) became Egypt’s only woman pharaoh. Successful in warfare early in her reign she ushered in a long peaceful era. By re-established trading links lost during foreign occupation she brought wealth to Egypt. This financed building projects of a calibre not matched by any other culture for a thousand years. Building the temple complex itself took 20 years, almost as long as she ruled.
To keep her body and riches safe from grave robbers, a tunnel extends from the temple through to the Valley of the Kings where her sanctuary, built in secret, lies within the mountainside.
The temple expresses Hatshepsut’s power while alive. After her death, her husband Tuthmosis IV, who had been living in her shadow, took revenge. He destroyed images of her face, and even her cartouches (name tag written in hieroglyphs) to prevent her journeying to the afterlife. But for missing an image on column capitals he would have erased her image forever.
Reliefs explain her divine conception, her efforts to repair damage inflicted by Hyksos invaders and her erection of the colossal obelisks at the temple of Karnak. As her reign progressed, the blank walls filled with details of her life
Within the colonnades superb detailed reliefs document her peaceful expansion of the empire’s trade links with the African kingdom of Punt (modern Somalia). Superb portrays of the marine life of the Red Sea would do credit to a marine biologist.
The temple dedicated to Amon and Hathor, Hatshepsut's claimed parents, shows the cow goddess Hathor depicted with Hatshepsut’s features on column capitals. There are also chapels dedicated to other gods, like Anubis, the god of embalming.
The ground level had sphinxes and fragrant myrrh trees from Punt. These trees are bush like but with a delicate smell. Myrrh was compulsory in the religious rituals performed in any temple in Egypt. The sphinxes had the head of Hatshepsut. She also appears as a lion clawing at enemies and capturing "birds of evil" with a net.
From the lower ramp (ramps connected the three levels) there used to be other sphinxes leading all the way down to the Nile. Several of these sphinxes are now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. These stood in line with those across the river at the Temple of Amon at Karnak. Processional boats connected the two sites, allowing combined rituals.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Four hours by coach from the port of Safaga escorted by armed police brought us to the imposing temple of Karnak at Luxor. A previous terrorist attack had led to a tightening of security. The inconvenience though was forgotten as we viewed this the mother of all religious buildings -the largest ever it covers 200 acres. For the ancient Egyptians population this could only have been the place of the gods.
The temple sits on the banks of the river at the site of ancient Thebes, a city that reached its glory under New Kingdom pharaohs with a million inhabitants. The temple built over a period of 1,500 years is one of the greatest architectural achievements ever. Nearby is a similar but smaller temple – Luxor. These are linked by a two-mile Nile-side promenade (once entirely lined with sphinxes).
The sprawling complex of temples at Karnak is the result of generations of pharaohs expanding and enriching the site to please the gods and increase their own status. Over the centuries, the Karnak and Luxor temples grew ever more magnificent by the addition of a succession of pylons, courts and halls. Builders included Tuthmosis III (ruled 1504-1450 BCE), Amenhotep III (1386-1349 BCE) and Ramesses II (1279-1212 BCE). The latter known as Ramesses the Great, was a prolific builder particularly enamoured of large statues of himself.
Temples of ancient Egypt were theatres in which pharaoh and priests performed symbolic rituals and held festivals to honour the gods. In return, the gods gave life and order to the land of Egypt. Deities worshipped often changed over the span of the Egyptian civilization, or appeared in different forms. In New Kingdom Egypt, the god Amun became the greatest of the gods. Regarded as a creator deity, he became assimilated with the sun god Re to become Amun-Re. The pharaohs themselves were heads of state and a divine link between the gods and people. Walls and columns in the temples carry carved and painted reliefs showing kings’ military exploits and interactions with gods.
The temple is approached through ranks of ram-headed sphinxes lining a processional avenue leading to a towering gateway, through walls that stand almost 147 feet high. This leads to the Great Court containing the Temple of Ramses III. Two colossi of him guard the way into the spectacular 54,000 -square-foot Great Hypostyle Hall crowded with 134 towering stone columns, some reaching 80 feet and measuring 33 around them. It is still the largest room of any religious building in the world
Finally come dimly lit chambers that include the holy inner sanctum dedicated to the temple god and accessible only to the pharaoh and priests. The area of the sacred enclosure of Amon alone is 61 acres and would hold ten average European cathedrals. St Peter's, Milan and Notre Dame Cathedrals could be lost within its walls. In addition to the main sanctuary there are several smaller temples and a vast sacred lake.
The mother of religious temples indeed!Related to:
- Historical Travel
Valley of the Kings
The city of Thebes was the site of mighty temples built on the east bank of the Nile to honour the gods of New Kingdom ancient Egypt. On the opposite west bank was the burial ground for the pharaohs - the Valley of the Kings. From their grand tombs, the Egyptian pharaohs believed they would embark on a journey to meet the gods in the afterlife and achieve immortality.
Looking into the valley now there is no signs of grandeur. Only baked dusty mud piles, for so the mountains appear, seem to be there. But for the fact that major constructions like a tomb could not be kept secret, and its nearness to Thebes, it is the perfect hiding place for departed pharaohs.
Pyramids proved ineffective against robbers so Egyptian pharaohs who ruled around 1570 - 1070 BC) had tombs cut into the rock of the Valley of the Kings. Walls decorated with scenes depicting the gods, perils and glory waiting in the netherworld provided guides for the pharaoh to the afterlife. One of these guides, or books of the underworld, was the Amduat. It described the perilous journey that the sun god Re made in his solar boat through the underworld each night. The pharaoh believed that after his burial to the west of Thebes, where the sun was seen to set, he would unite with the sun god and then be reborn as one with Re in the eastern sky at dawn.
The mummified pharaohs were entombed along with precious objects needed to maintain their status in the divine afterlife. Most of the sacred resting places were soon plundered. The discovery by Howard Carter in 1922 of the almost undisturbed tomb of Tutankhamun (who died around 1325 BC) revealed the riches of those royal burials. Tutankhamun died young and didn’t have a properly prepared tomb but the enclosed riches were still spectacular.
The Tomb of Ramesses III, Egypt’s last great pharaoh, has been known since antiquity and is worthy of note. It is one of three we entered. He reigned 31 years from 1198 to 1166 BC. It is decorated with vivid colours. Uniquely for royal tombs, its colourful sunk-reliefs include scenes of everyday life.
The tomb is 125 meters long. At one point a grey stone pit sits waiting to trap grave robbers. A dead-end tunnel shows where diggers accidentally broke into a neighbouring tomb, at which point the tomb's axis was shifted west.
This tomb has the unique feature of having 10 side chambers to store funerary objects. Within the first pair are fragmentary scenes of butchery, cooking and baking, and ships setting sail - those with furled sails bound downriver. Other scenes included stacked jars and vessels, and necklaces to illustrate what contents were kept inside the chambers. Ramesses owned cattle and minerals, and in one scene he inspects from his boat peasants working in his fields. In a famous scene, two harpists sing: the lyrics of the song cover the entrance wall.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Can't miss it...it worth every penny! The rooms has a huge glass window that you can even laydown on the bed and just watch the river flows , or go to the upper deck and just watch the river flows. Food is ok, very basic and international.It stops in main touristic sites where you can grab a taxi or walk and visit the sites. But the 3 nigths cruise is enough.Add to your Trip Planner
Alexandria and Cairo Zoo
The day we went to Alexandria (15 Mar 1998) there was a khamaseen (giant sandstorm). Although you can see the dusty sky in the background of the Alexandria picture, evidently things were worse in Cairo. The next day we were at the Cairo Zoo. There were fallen tree limbs everywhere but the giraffes acted like nothing had happened.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Our guide told us that half of all the monuments in the world were in Luxor. We easily believed. Maybe not in quantity, but in size and expression.
The temples and palaces in the east bank, and the burial places in the west bank justify that you spend in Luxor all the time that you can. Of course, Luxor deserves a separated page, and I tried to do it. You're invited!Related to:
- Historical Travel
A cruise in the Nile is mandatory but things will be different according to the quality of the boat that you take.
We were in the Nephtys and everything worked fine. Some passengers were moved from another boat with severe complaints, but they also found Nephtys perfect. They have been really relaxing days, with isolated visits serving well to break monotony.
Another aspect to have in mind is the option of going up the river or down. We did it from Aswan to Luxor, and I think it was the best option.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
If you are seeking a luxurious trip to Egypt, then the Four Seasons Hotel is the only place to stay....more
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