This is the so-called Avenue of Rams or Ram-headed sphinxes leading to the 1st pylon (monumental gateway) of the sprawling Karnak Temple in Luxor. Like the famous sphinx at Giza in the north of the country, these sphinxes have the body of a lion. The figures between their legs represent Ramesses II, one of the country’s most influential ancient kings.
The Red Pyramid at Dahshur, built by the pharaoh Senefru, was the first successful smooth-sided pyramid. Senefru’s first attempt at a smooth-sided pyramid, the Meidum Pyramid, collapsed. Next, he built the Bent Pyramid, which alters its angle of inclination part way up, probably as a precaution after the collapse of the pyramid at Meidum. The Red Pyramid was built at a cautious incline to avoid the disaster of Meidum and appears rather squat in comparison to the famous pyramids of Giza, which were built by Senefru’s son, grandson and great grandson, after developments in pyramid engineering.
the collapsed Meidum Pyramid (left) and its successor, the revised-midway Bent Pyramid
The Red Pyramid gets its name from the exposed red limestone blocks, once hidden by a white limestone façade, which was looted for other buildings long ago.
Dahshur is an hour’s drive from Cairo and is usually combined with a visit to the Bent Pyramid, a few kilometers away. Meidum is about an hour from Dahshur.
They’re not exactly along the Nile; not to be nitpicky, but if you’re looking for them, you should know. The Giza pyramids, by far the most famous of some 120 pyramids discovered to date in Egypt, are about 5 miles from the Nile and about 15 miles from the center of Cairo. The pyramids are part of the Giza Necropolis, the burial grounds of 3 4th Dynasty pharaohs, among others.
The ceremonial solar boat pictured above is one of several found buried at Giza, near three of the largest and most famous royal tombs ever known. The boat may have been used to carry the body of the deceased king down river to his burial. Or, the boat may have been meant for use in the afterlife, to carry the king across the sky with the sun. The ancient people of our mystery country believed the afterlife mirrored life as they knew it before death. They were buried with items from their lives that would ensure them a comfortable and successful existence in eternity.
The funerary temple of Djoser at Saqqara (Sakkara) pictured here was built nearly 5,000 years ago for one of the earliest kings of our mystery country.The area served as the burial grounds for the national capital at Memphis. Djoser’s nearby tomb was an architectural prototype of the world-famous royal tombs at Giza, some 15 miles to the north.
Too obvious? Maybe so, but there’s no denying the wow-factor of the pyramids at Giza. The largest, known as the Great Pyramid, was built for the pharaoh Khufu (Cheops in Greek). It stands almost 500 feet tall and is constructed of 2.3 million limestone and granite blocks, some of which weigh 80 tons. Some of the materials were locally sourced but the granite, 8,000 tons of it, came from the quarries at Aswan, 500 miles up river. The Giza pyramids were all built about 4,500 years ago, which makes their immense size all the more incredible. We know they were built as tombs and archaeologists have come up with some very plausible explanations for how they were built; still, few places on earth inspire such wonder.
The Treasury as seen from the siq, Petra, Jordan
The whole of the ancient city of Petra is astonishing, but, for a couple of reasons, the Treasury is the unequivocal star. In a city full of tombs, dwellings and temples, most of which are carved right into the canyon walls, the Treasury is the best-preserved and grandest of all. Then there’s its alluring position. Surely it’s no accident that the city’s best building is the first thing you see upon entering, if you come though the siq (canyon), which most visitors do. After walking for about a mile, you come around a bend and there it is, magnificently filling the seam of light that opens onto the city. It says “Be impressed.” And you are. The likelihood that you have been anticipating the sight with every step does not diminish the effect. CLICK to read more about Petra.
At Meteora in central Greece, six Orthodox monasteries cling to the tops of soaring sandstone pillars and look out over the stunning Peneas Valley. The monasteries were built in the 14th-16th centuries by hauling materials in nets 1,000 feet straight up the sheer pillar walls. CLICK to read more about Meteora.