The Temple of Hatshepsut is the mortuary temple for Pharoah Hatshepsut, one of the rulers of the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt and one of the most successful female pharoahs in history. The Temple of Hatshepsut is located at Deir el-Bahri, near the Valley of the Kings, across the Nile River from Luxor, Egypt. The colonnaded Djeser-Djeseru building, shown here, lies at the foot of spectacular cliffs and is worth a visit when travelling in the Nile Valley.
The Ramesseum is the mortuary temple for one of the greatest rulers the world has ever known: Pharoah Ramesses II. Also known as Ramesses the Great, Ramesses II was a 19th Dynasty pharaoh who ruled for 67 years during the 13th century B.C. The Ramesseum is part of the ancient Theban necropolis, across the Nile from what is now Luxor, Egypt. The ironic sonnet Ozymandius aluded to Ramesses II.
We wrapped up our stay in Egypt with some time at my brother’s house in Cairo, touring the older parts of the city and seeing some off-the-beaten-path markets, mosques, and other amazing stuff. One highlight of our time in Cairo was a day at the Giza necropololis to see the Great Pyramids, and another day in Saqqara to see very different pyramids. Tracy is seen below riding a camel on the sand plains of Giza, with the Great Pyramids in the distance. Seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World with our own eyes was a humbling experience. Completed around 2560 B.C., the largest of the Great Pyramids, the Pyramid of Khufu, was for 3800 years the tallest building in the world until the Lincoln Cathedral was built in 1300 A.D. I thought I got a good deal when I bargained for our camels, but later that day my brother just laughed when he heard what I paid. Tracy can ride much better than I. In Saqqara we explored the crumbling remains of the Pyramid of Userkaf, built as the tomb of 5th Dynasty ruler Userkaf and dating to approximately 2458 B.C. While the dressed stone exterior is largely in disrepair and crumbling, the pyramid still rises 163 ft above the surrounding desert. Nearby we also checked out the Step Pyramid of Djoser, built in approximately 2611 B.C. for Djoser (Zoser), 2nd king of the 3rd Dynasty. Rising 204 ft in height, the Step Pyramid of Djoser predated the great pyramids and was the highest building in the world at that time.
Great pyramids, visitor rides a camel across the sands to see the pyramids, Egypt. Pyramids of Queens, Pyramid of Menkaure, Pyramid of Khafre, Pyramid of Khufu (left to right, front to back).
Image ID: 00375
Location: Giza, Egypt
Everywhere we went in Egypt, we saw hieroglyphics. I never got tired of looking at them. The richest area for seeing hieroglyphic carvings was in the necropolis of ancient Thebes, most notably the Luxor and Karnak Temple complexes, Ramesseum and at Medinet Habu. We also saw some hieroglyphic carvings in Saqqara near Cairo, and of course on many of the artifacts at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. In some places we even saw tourist graffiti from the 1800’s carved alongside the three-millenia-old hieroglyphics.
While we were in Luxor, we spent an afternoon visiting the Valley of the Kings, site of the tombs of the New Kingdom pharoahs from the 16th to 11th centuries BC, including the most famous one of all, that of Tutankhamun. The valley itself is quite stark and barren, with little sign above ground of the riches that were once (and perhaps still are) buried there. It was fun descending into some of the tombs and seeing wall paintings that were thousands of years old.
Although the burial mask of Tutankhamun (actually there were several) is now displayed at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, it was pulled from Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings when it was discovered in 1922.
The Karnak Temple complex is part of the necropolis of ancient Thebes, across the Nile River from what is now Luxor, Egypt. Built over a period of 1300 years, Karnak is actually a group of ancient temples and buildings, the assemblage of which is the largest example of a single-location temple complex in the world. The most impressive part of Karnak is the Great Hypostyle Hall, but the entire place is amazing and several days can easily be spent exploring and admiring the ruins. Karnak was the highlight of our entire time in Egypt. Shown below is a section of Karnak, with temple ruins, pylon and a large obelisk visible, as well some of the sphinxes seen along the Avenue of Sphinxes on the approach to the temple of Amun in Karnak.
The Mosque of Ibn Tulun was built in 879 by Ahmad ibn Tulun who, though born the son of a Turkish slave, rose to become the independent governor of Egypt and whose family continued to rule until 905. The mosque bears design elements of his childhood home of Samarra. Unusual are the pointed arches pictured here, which differ from the marble columns which are more typical of Cairene architecture of that period. The arches, laid in offset concentric rows four deep, repeat around the rectangular periphery of the mosque’s enormous courtyard. The photographs were taken prior to the 1999 renovation of the mosque.
The classic sonnet “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley has within it two stark ironies. Can you discern them both?
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away. — Percy Bysshe Shelley
While Ozymandias tells the mighty trailing him in history to despair at the unreachable loftiness of his works, in fact all that remains of the arrogant pharaoh is a shattered statue bereft of majesty. The rulers following him should indeed despair, not through their inability to equal his glory but rather by realizing they too are destined for obscurity, as Ozymandias is, by the ravages of time. A second irony stems from the notion that Ozymandias’ place in history is sealed not by the permanence and grandeur of the monuments that he erected, but by the fact that their decay is extreme enough to have caught the eye of the nameless author, whose simple tale of Ozymandias’ ruin will remain when all physical sign of once powerful king is forever gone.
Ozymandius is widely considered to be Ramses II, the 13th century BC pharoah who ruled Egypt for 67 years. The historical mark he left upon his country is unrivaled by any other pharoah, and is measured in the archaelogical record by buildings, temples and statues. One of Ramses’ principal icons, known now as the Ozymandias Colossus, would have towered 50′ were it still standing. As it is, the toppled colossus is broken and in decay, and is thought to have inspired Shelley in the penning of his sonnet. You can find the Hands of Ozymandias for yourself at the Ramesseum, the mortuary temple complex for Ramses II that is part of the sprawling necropolis of ancient Thebes, located across the Nile River from modern-day Luxor, Egypt.
Interestingly, Shelley’s friend Horace Smith wrote a similar sonnet, dealing with the same subject, and published it in the same magazine just a month later. Compare and contrast, if you will, Smith’s version with Shelley’s:
In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.” The City’s gone,
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder, and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place. — Horace Smith
The Great Hypostyle Hall of Columns, in the Temple of Amun at the Karnak Temple Complex in ancient Thebes (modern-day Luxor), is one of the most spectacular settings in all of Egypt. Covering an area large enough to contain all of Notre Dame Cathedral, hundreds of enormous columns tower above the temple grounds. The tallest columns, flanking both sides of a long passageway through the center of the hall, are 122′ feet high. The Hypostyle Hall was completed primarily by Seti I with some additions at the boundaries of the hall by Ramses II. The columns assume the shape of papyrus, and virtually every bit of the surface of each column is covered with hieroglyphics or battle scenes.
The Citadel, also referred to as the Saladin Citadel or Mohamed Ali Citadel, is one of the principal attractions of Cairo, Egypt. Originally built by Saladin in the late 1100’s for protection against invading Crusaders, the Citadel is located on a spur of limestone that is now detached from its parent Moqattam Hills by quarrying. It was the seat of Egypt’s government for centuries. The Mosque of Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha, completed in 1848, sits atop the summit of the Citadel. One of the world’s greatest monuments to medieval warfare, the Citadel houses a number of museums, ancient mosques and other historical sites and is a highly visible landmark on Cairo’s eastern skyline.