When looking into the history of humans, one of the earliest and greatest civilizations that have been discussed and studied for thousands of years was born on the banks of the longest river in the world, the Nile, in Egypt. It is an African country located between the Asian and African continents along the Nile, because of which it has an exceptional geographical advantage.

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Depiction of Craft workers in Ancient Egypt_©(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_of_ancient_Egypt)

One of the longest civilizations, dating back to the 6th century BCE, rose to the epitome of an architectural marvel after the unification of the kingdom by the first pharaohs in 3100 BCE. Scholars have divided the 3000 years of continuous pharaonic civilization into three main phases. The first is the Old Kingdom, which was the age of the great pyramids. The Middle Kingdom is next, marked by a transition in the major architectural works from pyramids to temples. The third period is the New Kingdom when temples dominated architectural work.

These unique monuments that have stood tall are the evidence of timelessness and bold purity, which have been a mystery and intense fascination not only to the architectural community but to the entire world. Even in the ancient world, Egyptian art and architecture were held in awe by ancient Romans and Greeks and were believed to be their teachers in matters of stone construction.

Here are the 15 architectural marvels that everyone must see during their visit to Egypt:

Pyramids of Giza

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The Great Pyramid Of Giza_©David Stanley_Flickr. Original image (https://www.worldhistory.org/image/6190/great-pyramid-of-giza/)

The Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the most famous monuments of all time, has been a defining feature of Egypt. Built by Pharaoh Khufu of the 4th Dynasty in 2550–2490 B.C., it is located on the Giza Plateau just outside of the capital city of Cairo.

Made of granite slabs and limestone, the pyramid rises to a height of 479 feet with a base of 754 feet and is comprised of over two million blocks of stone. Some blocks are so heavy that rising and precisely positioning them appears to be an impossible task even with modern equipment. So, there are a lot of theories, but there is not enough evidence about the construction method used. The pyramid has three chambers: the King’s Room, the Queen’s Room, and a large passageway known as the Great Gallery.

The Giza complex also has three other pyramids belonging to the same family, which are smaller when compared. The Great Sphinx is also another famous mythical monolithic structure found in very close proximity to the pyramids. It is thought to be the work of King Khafre (son of King Khufu).

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Giza pyramids complex with Sphinx_© (https://www.pyramid-of-giza.com/giza-necropolis/)

Karnak Temple

A great historical document in stone, the Karnak Temple complex, located near the city of Luxor, consists of temples, chapels, pylons, sphinxes, and numerous other monuments. This is one of the world’s largest temple complexes, dating back over 2,000 years. Building the complex started in the Middle Kingdom and was added to or altered up until the New Kingdom, therefore lacking a systematic plan.

The main temple is dedicated to the Theban tribe with the god Amun as its head, but it was also a place for ancient Egyptians to worship Osiris, Isis, and Ptah, making it one of the most sacred landmarks in the country. Karnak houses several temples, the most famous being Hypostyle Hall, which contains 134 massive columns arranged in sixteen rows.

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View of sphinxes, the first pylon, and the central east-west aisle of Temple of Amun-Re, Karnak in Luxor, Egypt_©Mark Fox(https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/ancient-mediterranean-ap/ancient-Egypt-ap/a/karnak)
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Hypostyle Hall_Karnak Temple Complex_©(https://www.journeytoegypt.com/en/discover-egypt/karnak-temple)

Abu Simbel Temple

The Abu Sibel temple complex consists of two massive temples carved into the side of a mountain in the Egyptian village of Abu Simbel. It was built by Pharaoh Ramesses II and his queen Nefertari to commemorate their victory during the Battle of Kadesh.

The Great Temple stands 98 feet (30 meters) high and 115 feet (35 meters) long, with four seated colossi flanking the entrance, two on each side, depicting Ramesses II on his throne; each one is 65 feet (20 meters) tall. One of these structures has been partially destroyed due to natural calamities.

The complex was relocated in its entirety to avoid being submerged by the construction of the Aswan High Dam on the River Nile.

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Abu Simbel Complex_©Olaf Tausch(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c2/Gro%C3%9Fer_Tempel_%28Abu_Simbel%29_06.jpg)

Luxor Temple

is Located in the ancient city of “Thebes,” known today as Luxor, which is on the east bank of the river Nile, its construction was started in 1400 BC by the New Kingdom. Luxor Temple was dedicated to the god Amun and the “rejuvenation of kingship,” as many Egyptian kings were crowned here.

The temple was built with sandstone and altered by several rulers who came in later. During Roman times, the temple had become a fortress and a government body where the Roman Legion was stationed.

A small pavilion is all that is left of the building site, along with large statues of Pharaoh Ramesses and other giant obelisks. Out of the two giant granite obelisks, one remains in the Luxor temple and the other is displayed in Paris. 

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Luxor Temple entrance_©Jose Javier Martin Espartosa_flickr.com(https://www.flickr.com/photos/druidabruxux/44126910252/in/photostream/)

Valleys of Kings

As the name suggests, the Valley of Kings, also referred to as the “Valley of the Gates of the Kings,” is the hidden valley of great tombs of ancient Pharaohs and noblemen belonging to the New Kingdom. Over 63 tombs and 120 chambers, varying in size depending on the status of noblemen, have been discovered west of the Nile, across the city of Luxor. The walls of the chambers have been adorned with hieroglyphs and other paintings that give an insight into the dead king of the tomb, the people, and the customs that were followed.

The main reason why they were hidden was that the tombs contained wealth belonging to the rich of ancient Egypt and were not easily discoverable. A “Valley of Queens” adjacent has tombs of wives.

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Valley of Kings _©(https://www.journeytoegypt.com/en/discover-egypt/valley-of-the-kings)
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Valley of Kings  _©(https://www.journeytoegypt.com/en/discover-egypt/valley-of-the-kings)

Temple of Hatshepsut

The Temple of Hatshepsut, also known as Djoser-Djeseru, is a mortuary temple built on the cliffs of Deir el-Bahri, beautifully blending with the surrounding landscape.

It plays a vital role in Egyptian architecture, as the temple was built by and for a female Pharaoh named Hatshepsut, who died in 1458 BC.

This three-level temple has been adorned with colossal colonnades and is connected with long ramps with colorful reliefs of animals, plants, and people alongside huge statues of Osiris. The temple tells the story of Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s triumphs and successful reigns, which served as a model for the kings who came after.

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Temple Of Hatshepsut _©(https://img.freepik.com/premium-photo/mortuary-temple-hatshepsut-deir-el-bahari-egypt_261932-1316.jpg?w=740)

Bent Pyramid

The bent pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Sneferu, is located at Dahshur near Cairo. The pyramid was built by and for Pharaoh Sneferu of the Old Kingdom in 2600 BC.

The pyramid rises from the desert at an angle of 55 degrees and then suddenly changes to a more gradual angle of 43 degrees, because of which it is called the Bent Pyramid. There are many theories for its shape, but one is that it was taking a steeper angle, which would have fallen over time.

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Bent Pyramid_©Lienyuan lee_(https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54566893)

Pyramid of Djoser

The pyramid of Djoser is a step pyramid belonging to the earliest pyramids of Egypt. Located in the Saqqara Necropolis of Egypt, this pyramid is made of large blocks of limestone and is a tomb for Pharaoh Djoser built by his chancellor. It belonged not only to the pharaoh but also to his royal family members.

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Pyramid of Djoser_© Ulrich Hollmann via Getty Images_(https://www.livescience.com/23050-step-pyramid-djoser.html)

Red Pyramid

One of the first pyramids built, the Red Pyramid is located in Dahshur Necropolis, near Cairo. The pyramid was built by Pharaoh Sneferu, father of Pharaoh Khufu, who built the Pyramid of Giza, making it one of the oldest pyramids and the model that was followed by the later successors.

It gets its name after the red glow of the limestone used to build it, even though in ancient times it was completely covered in white limestone.

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Red Pyramid_© Olaf Tausch ( https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36358297)

Colossi of Memnon

The Colossi of Memnon are two massive statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III of the 18th Dynasty. Located in the southern city of Lexor on the west bank of the Nile River, these structures are believed to be the entrance to a large mortuary temple of Amenhotep, which is in ruins today. The statues are built out of blocks of quartzite sandstone and measure eighteen meters high. Both figures sit on thrones carved with imagery of the pharaoh’s mother, wife, and the Nile god Hapy. It is believed that one of the statues used to emit a high-pitched noise at dawn on some days, giving it its name.

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Colossi Of Memnon_©MusikAnimal_(https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41258037)

Temple of Horus

This Ptolemaic temple, built between 237 and 57 BC, is one of the best-preserved ancient monuments in Egypt. The second-largest temple is dedicated to Horus, one of the most important gods of ancient Egypt. It is situated in the town of Edfu, in the southern part of Egypt. Its most impressive feature is a massive pylon 36 meters high that leads to a large courtyard with 32 columns depicting carvings of various festivals. The temple itself is 140 meters long.

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Temple of Horus _© Elias Rovielo_(https://flic.kr/p/2c7sYjp)

Medinet Habu

Medinet Habu is an archaeological site located on the banks of the Nile near Luxor. The most renowned temple on this site is a mortuary temple belonging to

Ramesses III of 1186–1155 B.C.E. A 490-foot-long temple is well preserved and surrounded by a massive mudbrick enclosure. Several chapels and pylons lead up to the courtyard, which is lined with colossal statues of Ramesses III.

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Medinet Habu Entrance_©Marc Ryckaert (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37800264)

Pompey’s Pillar

Pompey’s Pillar, located in the Serapeum of Alexandria, an ancient Greek city in Egypt, is yet another important structure of the Ptolemaic period. A huge monolithic column of Roman Egypt is 88.1 feet high, including its base and capital. It would have originally supported the statue of the emperor Diocletian, which alone was 23 feet tall.

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Pompei pillar _©Elias Rovielo_(https://flic.kr/p/2c7sYjp)

Manial Palace

The Palace of Muhammad Ali, which has been converted into a museum, is one of the most beautiful palaces in Egypt. It is situated in the southern part of Cairo.

Built during the reign of Muhammad Ali Tewfik (1875–1955), who is believed to be the founder of modern Egypt, the palace has a wide variety of architectural styles. The modern Islamic style has been merged with Persian and Mamluk elements and has also been inspired by Syrian, Moroccan, and Ottoman styles. The gardens are an amalgamation of both Persian and English garden landscapes.

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Manial Palace Museum _© Motazhesham2_ (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51609959)

Cairo Tower

The Cairo Tower, the tallest structure in North Africa, pierces the sky at 614 feet and is one of Egypt’s most important landmarks. Located on Gezira Island in the River Nile near downtown Cairo, it was built from 1956 to 1961 and was designed by Egyptian architect Naoum Shebib.

The tower is crowned by an observation deck and multiple restaurants, one of which is a revolving restaurant that rotates around its axis occasionally.

Cairo Tower _©(https://www.egypttoursportal.com/images/2021/04/Cairo-Tower-Egypt-Tours-Portal-2.jpg)

Order and permanence are the basic aims of Egyptian architecture, just as they provide the foundation for the Egyptian view of the world. The ingenuity and engineering prowess of the Ancient Egyptians are the reasons why these monuments still stand boldly today, inspiring the world’s art and architecture.

References:

  1. 10 greatest ancient Egyptian monuments (no date) Touropia. Available at: https://www.touropia.com/ancient-egyptian-monuments/ (Accessed: November 2, 2022). 
  2. Fisher, K. (2022) 25 most famous buildings in Egypt, Art Facts. Available at: https://art-facts.com/famous-buildings-in-egypt/ (Accessed: November 8, 2022). 
  3. Adhikari, S. (2022) Top 10 most iconic pieces of architecture in Ancient Egypt, Ancient History Lists. Available at: https://www.ancienthistorylists.com/egypt-history/iconic-architecture-ancient-egypt/ (Accessed: November 8, 2022). 
  4. Mark, J.J. (2022) Great Pyramid of Giza, World History Encyclopedia. https://www.worldhistory.org#organization. Available at: https://www.worldhistory.org/Great_Pyramid_of_Giza/ (Accessed: November 7, 2022). 
  5. Karnak (no date) Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/place/Karnak (Accessed: November 8, 2022). 
  6. Mark, J.J. (2022) Abu Simbel, World History Encyclopedia. https://www.worldhistory.org#organization. Available at: https://www.worldhistory.org/Abu_Simbel/ (Accessed: November 8, 2022). 
  7. Luxor (no date) Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/place/Luxor (Accessed: November 8, 2022). 
  8. egymonuments.gov.eg. (n.d.). Manial Palace Museum. [online] Available at: https://egymonuments.gov.eg/museums/manial-palace-museum/ 
  9. ‌Wikipedia Contributors (2022). Pompey’s Pillar (column). [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pompey%27s_Pillar_(column) [Accessed 8 Nov. 2022].

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A paradoxical human with a passion for the architectural language where she believes in buildings narrating the stories that mankind cannot.

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