During 2010 New Years Eve, I travelled for a week in Egypt. I decided that the best way to experience it’s historical wonders was to go down the Nile with one of the famous cruise boats that navigate it’s waters. I wanted to highlight for you the main cities and temples you can’t miss while there.
Cairo, the Egyptian capital, with about 20 million inhabitants, is the largest city in Africa. Erected on the banks of the Nile, about 20 km south from the point where the river divides into two main arms, Cairo is characterized by great contrasts. This green valley that emerges in the middle of the immense Sahara desert will fascinate you. At any time of the day and from anywhere in the city, you can see the domes of many mosques, the tall buildings, broad avenues and beautiful gardens: let's not forget, that El Cairo was once described as the capital of the world.
The pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx, lying at their feet, were considered, in ancient times, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Placed on a platform of sand, the pyramids offer a wonderful and impressive view. Inside the Great Pyramid of Khufu a narrow corridor leads to a large room called "the King's chamber" where if you’re adventurous enough, you can find a granite sarcophagus and try to understand what went trough the minds of the slaves that built the structure. The giant statue of 20 meters high and 70 deep of the Sphinx, representing the body of a lion with a human face, is the most colossal statue that was ever carved by man.
Located at a distance of 27 km from Cairo, Sakkara is one of the most interesting attractions of Egypt. Once on it's lands stood the ancient city of Memphis, the capital of the white walls of the old Egyptian kingdom, and it was in this vast necropolis that the famous Step Pyramid of Sakkara was built about 60 m high, structured in layers with rectangular blocks of pure limestone. You feel immediately week once you start thinking that it was built about 5000 years ago with only man's wits and arms.
Located about 600 km south of Cairo, Luxor occupies part of Thebes, the capital of the ancient Egyptian Empire. Amenhotep III in devotion to the divine couple Ammon and Mut and their son Khonsu, the God of the Moon, built the temple of Luxor, which lies at the heart of the city. The main feature of this temple is its colossal columns in the shape of lotus flowers. Not far away, walking along the Nile you'll Karnak, the largest temple of the god Amun, where you can admire the remains of a temple complex of exceptional beauty.
In the center of the city stands the temple dedicated to the god Khnum, characterized by his ram's head. Khnum was the God who created humans and animals, modeling them from the clay of the Nile. It is considered a rare example of greek-roman architecture.
Built on a hill 15 meters high above the Nile, Kom Ombo is the temple dedicated to Sobek, the Crocodile God and Haroeris, the hawk-headed God. The walls of the temple are decorated with astonishing reliefs and paintings. From the terraces you can enjoy a beautiful view of the landscape of the Nile.
Located on the left bank of the Nile, Edfu is the largest and the oldest of the Ptolemaic temples dedicated to the god Horus, the falcon-headed God. The temple, brought to light by Marriette, is considered one of the best preserved of all Egypt. The construction, which began in 23 BC, was completed only in 57 A.D. The decorations of the temple are exclusively religious-mythological.
The temple, dedicated to the worship of Isis, was once erected on the island of Philae, but now moved on the nearby island of Agikia at about 500m away, thanks to a massive operation conducted by Italian technicians. In 1902, the British completed the Aswan Low Dam on the Nile River. This threatened many ancient landmarks, including the temple complex of Philae, with being submerged. The dam was heightened twice, from 1907–12 and from 1929–34, and the island of Philae was nearly always flooded. It was postulated that the temples be relocated, piece by piece, to nearby islands, such as Bigeh or Elephantine. However, the temples' foundations and other architectural supporting structures were strengthened instead. Although the buildings were physically secure, the island's attractive vegetation and the colors of the temples' reliefs were washed away. Also, the bricks of the Philae temples soon became encrusted with silt and other debris carried by the Nile. The view from the temple is probably one of the best views I enjoyed in my entire life.
Since ancient times, Aswan was the natural center of trade in Africa. Today the city is a well-known winter resort due to its dry climate and clear air. Not for nothing, even Aga Khan had a villa here and a mausoleum in a spot where you can enjoy a wonderful view over the city and the dam.
With only a 20-minute flight from Aswan, you can reach the village of Abu Simbel on the banks of Lake Nasser, on the border with Sudan Wadi Halfa. Here, thanks to the intervention of U.N.E.S.C.O. and of superhuman efforts lasted six years, the two mind-blowing temples of Ramses II and his wife Nefertari, have been rebuilt stone by stone, safe from the waters of the Nile. When viewing the majesty of the temple of the Kings with its two 20m high giant stone statues you magically revive the atmosphere of ancient Egyptian civilization. It's truly a wonder, it feels like walking in a time warp, and it leaves you simply breathless. Smaller but no less beautiful Temple of Queen Nefertari dedicated to the goddess Hathor, whose facade is decorated by gigantic statues of the queen and her husband.
Ancient Egypt is a land of great wonder. Some of the most fantastic architectural achievements in human history can be found within its borders. Their architectural and engineering skills were so great that a large number of these monuments have withstood the test of time and can still be seen today, thousands of years after being constructed. Be sure to add Egypt to your bucket list, it’s history, it’s landscapes together with it’s rich and colorful culture make this nation a must-see, with no excuses.