Ancient Egypt has captured the imagination of man since time immemorial. With its 5000 year old ancient civilization, Egypt is one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions. A holiday in Egypt here will transport you to another world altogether. A world, which saw the birth of some of the most essential elements of modern civilization; the first writing system, concepts like nation state, religion and bureaucracy. I can guarantee that you will return from this holiday in Egypt as a different person.
Millions of tourists plan a holiday in Egypt every year. The most popular attractions are the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza. The Abu Simbel temple and Valley of Kings are the other famous haunts for tourists. These marvels are masterpieces of art and craftsmanship and one would be contented just looking at them in wonder. However, that would be a grave mistake. The splendors of Egypt offer us a lot more than just exquisite craftsmanship. The sites of the ancient marvels of Egypt provide significant evidence for tracing the history of mankind. Once we undertake this tour, with this perspective, the Egyptian experience will last you a lifetime. The obvious place to start your holiday in Egypt is at Giza Plateau, home to some of the greatest man made creation on Earth.
The Great Pyramid of Cheops hogs the limelight with its sheer size. In fact it can be seen from the Moon. Built, more than 4500 years ago, it is the only surviving member of the group of ancient 7 wonders of the world. There are some very interesting facts about the Great Pyramid. The temperature inside The Great Pyramid is at a constant 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which is exactly the same at the Earths internal temperature. It is also perfectly aligned to True North. Its meridian actually slices the Nile Delta region into two equal halves. What’s really interesting is that The Great Pyramid should be able to function as an accurate scale-model of the northern hemisphere of planet earth.
It has long been understood by mathematicians and geographers that the Great Pyramid serves the function of a geodetic marker (geodetic being the branch of science concerned with determining the exact position of geographical points and the shape and size of the earth). This realization first dawned in the late eighteenth century when the armies of revolutionary France led by Napoleon Bonaparte, invaded Egypt. Napoleon had cultivated a deep interest in the enigmas of the pyramids!
Along with the Great Pyramid, the Sphinx is perhaps one of greatest enigmas in mankind’s history. It has stood for the essence of Egypt for thousands of years. With the body of a lion and head of a King, it represents strength and wisdom. Despite its battered visage and a missing nose, the Sphinx will mesmerize you with its enigmatic smile. Pliny the Elder, Roman author and statesman of 1st century AD, had this to say about the Sphinx.
"In front of the pyramids is the Sphinx, which is perhaps even more to be admired than they. It impresses one by its stillness and silence, and is the local divinity of the inhabitants of the surrounding district."
While the conventional theory behind its origin is that it was built by Pharaoh Khefren around 2515 BC, some modern geologists believe it could have been built 9000 years ago! This is based on the difference between wind and rain weathering on two structures 300 yards apart with totally different wear patterns. This school of thought also believes that it was built not by Egyptians but by a civilization much older. The true origin and purpose of the Sphinx remains a mystery, and is an unsolved puzzle.
Memphis is another must see destination during your holiday in Egypt. This ancient city was founded by King Menes in 3100 BC and rose to prominence as the centre of the cult Ptah. Ptah was the creator god who brought all things to being by thinking of them with his mind and saying their names with his tongue. It is interesting to note that Ptah was unique among Egyptian Gods due to his reliance on intellect rather than physical prowess. The most interesting statue here is the Colossus of Ramses II, a 10 meter tall statue of Ramses II.
Before winding up from Memphis, visit the ancient necropolis of Saqqara. You can find the very first pyramid built by the Egyptians here. This stone pyramid was built by Pharaoh Djoser and is called the Step Pyramid. You will be overwhelmed with a feeling of awe, as you enter the center of the pyramid peering down the burial shaft.
If you were looking for the largest treasure trove in the world, head to the Museum at Cairo which is home to more than 120000 priceless objects! The most impressive section here would be the boy king Tutankhamen’s treasures. Ever since their discovery by Howard Carter in 1922, people the world over have marveled at these treasures. What made the discovery unique was that tomb was found practically untouched. Now you will find most of these on display including the immortalized gold mask. Other interesting exhibits are Middle Kingdom tomb models of armies, boats and landowners surveying their livestock.
Visit Khan el-Khalili, Egypt’s oldest and most famous Bazaar for a memorable shopping experience. Once known as the Turkish bazaar during the Ottoman period, it was involved in the spice monopoly controlled by the Mamluks, which encouraged the Europeans to search for new routes to the East. So in a way this market influenced the discovery of the Americas. You will find the experience a heady concoction of spices, perfume, gold, silver and haggling!
Aswan is another must-see destination during a holiday in Egypt and you will find it’s milder pace a big relief from the hustle & bustle of Cairo! It is in Upper Egypt and marked the southern boundary of Ancient Egypt. It is in fact one of the driest inhabited cities of the world. Rains are so scarce that many indigenous Nubian people build their homes minus the roof! While the city can be covered by foot, you can take the local boat or “Felucca” for visiting nearby islands.
Elephantine Island is famous for Temples of Sati, Khnum and Pepinakht-Heqaib. It is also where you can find a Nilometer, used to measure the water level of River Nile. These are a flight of stairs leading down into the water, with depth markings along the walls. Philae temple is a great example of the classical style of Egyptian architecture. It was built in 690 BC for Isis. The sound & Light show at night is worth a visit. Kitchener islands have beautiful botanical gardens and worth including in your Aswan itinerary.
Round up your holiday in Egypt with Luxor, home to the breathtaking Valley of the Kings. It has many of the tombs of pharaohs from the New Kingdom including those of Tutankhamen and Ramses the Great. You will be interested to know that Tutankhamen is possibly the only Pharaoh still residing here, all the rest having fallen to the tomb robbers.
An interesting museum to visit, while at Luxor would be the Museum of Mummification. It offers in-depth information about the famous Egyptian art of preserving bodies in preparation for the afterlife.
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