Ancient Egypt is renowned for its magnificent architectural masterpieces. Many of these monuments reflect the idea of an afterlife, which in turn has had a profound influence on various societies throughout history.
One of Egypt’s most iconic landmarks, The Great Pyramid at Giza, stands as an imposing stone monolith that is instantly recognizable around the globe.
The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the world’s most iconic historical landmarks. Crafted out of 2.3 million stones that weigh between 2 and 50 tonnes each, this iconic structure stands as one of history’s greatest triumphs.
Egypt’s pharaohs constructed the pyramid as a means of preparation for their afterlife. They desired to become gods in the next world and needed a safe haven where they could rest from enemies.
Construction of the Great Pyramid took 20 years and involved more than 20,000 workers. It held great symbolic value to ancient Egyptians since it symbolized their king’s eternal home.
At first, the pyramids were covered with a white casing made of shimmering limestone that helped reflect sunlight onto them. However, this casing was later removed for aesthetic purposes.
Pyramids were constructed upon a rocky plateau between Moqattam hill on one side and the Nile river on the other. It was also near Memphis, an important centre of ancient civilisation.
These tombs formed part of a vast royal mortuary complex that included a temple at its base and an expansive causeway leading east from Giza plateau to a valley temple on the edge of floodplain. Here, the pharaoh’s mummies were kept.
Giza pyramids were notorious for being looted throughout antiquity and during the New Kingdom when they were replaced by Valley of Kings necropolis. This can be seen through numerous burial sites and mummies found elsewhere.
The Step Pyramid of Djoser
The Step Pyramid of Djoser is one of Egypt’s most iconic historical landmarks and it marks a major shift in stone architecture. Constructed during the early Third Dynasty, this monument revolutionized tomb construction by replacing mud brick with more durable material.
The Step Pyramid is Egypt’s oldest surviving stone structure. It was constructed during King Netjerykhet’s reign (c.2667-2648 BC), more commonly known as Djoser. This complex consists of an entrance colonnade, a large open court and the mysterious South Tomb cenotaph.
This structure is topped by a statue of Djoser, the oldest life-size Egyptian statue still standing today and built as a tribute to the king.
Djoser’s builders decided to expand the original mastaba by adding multiple layers, creating what we now recognize as its current form. Archaeologists believe this was done to give it more presence than if it had remained as one single structure.
Another remarkable aspect of this structure is the presence of vessels made from blue ceramic – an uncommon feature for a monument of its type. Egyptologists speculate that Djoser took these precious vessels from damaged earlier royal tombs and buried them here for safekeeping.
The pyramid complex also features two courts that reenact the setting for the heb-sed festival, a ceremony to rejuvenate the king. According to Egyptologist Marc Van De Mieroop, these ephemeral shrines were an integral part of this ceremony and Djoser may have performed this ritual here.
The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut
The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, also known as Djoser-djeseru, is an iconic example of Ancient Egypt’s architectural legacy. Constructed around 1479 BCE by Queen Hatshepsut during her reign over a time which was largely peaceful and prosperous, this structure stands as testament to her magnificent legacy.
This temple was modelled after the Temple of Mentuhotep II but constructed much larger and more elaborately. Construction took fifteen years, overseen by royal architect Senemut.
Hatshepsut’s temple was a three-level structure with an intricate colonnade on each level. On the ground level, there was also a garden filled with exotic trees brought from Hatshepsut’s expeditions to Punt.
On the Second Level, two reflecting pools and sphinxes adorned a courtyard adorned with square-shaped columns and decorations. These depicted scenes from Lower Egypt, including Thutmose III dancing before Amon.
There was also a relief sculpture depicting the birth of a female pharaoh and an expedition to Punt. Unfortunately, many of these statues were destroyed by Hatshepsut’s stepson Thutmose III after her passing away.
One of the most remarkable features of this temple is that it resembles another Egyptian temple but with its own distinctive twists and turns. Unlike Mentuhotep II’s centralised structure, which had a rectangular shape, this one takes shape like an extended colonnaded terrace with a central ramp.
At this pharaoh’s temple, there is a shrine to Hathor and a chapel dedicated to Amun’s solar cult. An altar stands atop it open to both sky and sun – marking this as the first such alignment since Akhenaten’s time as pharaoh.
The Colossi of Memnon
The Colossi of Memnon are two towering stone statues situated in Luxor, Egypt and a major tourist destination that draws both visitors and locals from all around the world. Considered one of Egypt’s most significant and picturesque historical landmarks, these monumental stones possess immense power to inspire wonder.
Originally, these colossi were built as guardians for Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple in Luxor; unfortunately, they were destroyed due to floods and earthquakes.
These ancient monuments are constructed out of quartzite sandstone quarried at el-Gabal el-Ahmar near modern Cairo and then transported 420 miles across land to Thebes, an ancient city.
These majestic stone statues are carved to look like a seated king and decorated with imagery of Amenhotep’s mother Mutemwiya and wife Tiye, as well as the Nile god Hapy.
Each 18 meter high statue weighs 720 tons and has been standing in Theban Necropolis, west of River Nile from Luxor’s modern city, for over 3,400 years.
Legend has it that the colossi were named in honor of Memnon, a Greek hero who was tragically killed by Achilles during the Trojan War. As an incredible warrior and leader, Memnon became a hero for all Greeks.
The colossi are also renowned for a mysterious sound they make during sunrise and sunset, believed to be the song of Eos, goddess of dawn.
Visit the Colossi of Memnon is a must-see for history buffs, nature lovers and anyone wanting to experience an ancient Egyptian landmark up close. Surrounded by lush gardens and palm trees that provide shade from the scorching Egyptian sun, visitors can observe various birds and other wildlife up close.
The Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is an archaeological site in Egypt where tombs were constructed for pharaohs and other powerful nobles. Situated on the west bank of the Nile near Luxor opposite Thebes, it has been a popular tourist destination since the eighteenth century, drawing Egyptologists and archaeologists from across Europe.
Before the Valley of Kings was constructed, pharaohs were interred in pyramids which could be dangerous places due to potential tomb robbers stealing all their treasures. To protect their graves from these thieves, the pharaohs decided to construct new tombs which could securely store all their possessions.
These tombs were deep, featuring long corridors and shafts. Additionally, they were secluded so people wouldn’t see them and thus protected against tomb raiders.
In the Valley of Kings, there are 63 tombs divided between two sections: East Valley and West Valley. Of these two valleys, the East is more famous as it contains most of the tombs.
Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of Kings is one of the most remarkable. It is well preserved, filled with treasures and artifacts that offer archaeologists insight into ancient Egypt’s culture and history.
There are a number of other tombs in the Valley of Kings, such as those belonging to Amenhotep III and Ramesses VI. Unfortunately, these pharaohs’ graves remain buried beneath soil here and have yet to be excavated. On the other hand, many other graves within this complex have already been revealed by archaeologists; these sites continue to be explored today by researchers.