Tag Archives: ancient egypt

Aswan, Egypt

Abu Simbel - Ramses IIAswan is a great starting point for a few visits, primarily Abu Simbel Temples, Philae Temple, and Edfu Temple part way between Aswan and Luxor.

I heard that the town of Aswan is quite a nice place to explore, but after a bout of food poisoning and a bad cold, I was in no state to explore.

Abu Simbel Temple

The most important pharaoh in the history of ancient Egypt is Ramses II, who ruled Egypt for 67 years. Abu Simbel is one of his temples and is dedicated to four gods: Ra, Ramses II, Amun and Bitah.

Abu Simbel - Ramses IIThe temple is in fantastic condition and shows absolutely stunning scenes of the fight between the Egyptians and the Hittites. A temple with fight scenes is unique as all other temples show scenes of Coronations and other similar things.

The entrance to the temple has four large sculptures of Ramses II at various stages in his life. The smaller statues between his legs depict his children.


Abu Simbel - NefertariThe neighbouring temple is a temple Ramses II had built for his wife Nefertari, and it is dedicated to the cow god, goddess of fertility, Hathor.

Abu Simbel - Ramses IIBoth temples were originally built along the banks of the Nile. When a decision was made to build the Aswan Dam, people became aware that this would flood the section of the Nile were the two temples are found. A huge effort and absolutely astounding effort was made to move the temple to higher ground. For the untrained eye, little to no damage to the temples was sustained in the process. If you weren’t told, there is no way you would guess that the temples had been moved.

While Abu Simbel is most definitely the more impressive of the two, they are both stunning temples, with such detail in the carvings and paintings. Many of the original colours still remain.

Be aware that the trip to Abu Simbel takes 3 hours each way from Aswan. Typically this is done as a police convoy departing Aswan at 4:30am, it then leaves Abu Simbel to return to Aswan at 10:30am.

Cost: 100 EGP

Philae Temple

Similarly to Abu Simbel, the Philae Temple was found on an island in the Nile River. Unfortunately, it was not rescued prior to the Aswan Dam being built and as a result was submerged.

Some years after it was originally submerged a restoration process was undertaken to move the temple to a nearby island. The temple is by no means complete, but it is a reasonable representation of what it once was. It is a greek design built during the Greek Empire and is dedicated to the goddess Isis.

Cost: 60EGP

Philae Temple

Edfu Temple

Edfu TempleEdfu Temple is roughly halfway between Aswan and Luxor. It is dedicated to Horus and is the second largest temple in Egypt. While it may not be the largest temple, it is the most well preserved.

The temple took 47 years to build and has the same design as basically all temples in Egypt. The temple first has a gate or pilons. Entering through the gate goes into an open court, followed by a colonnade hall and ending in a sanctuary.

Check out all my Aswan photos on Flickr

Philae Temple Gates
Philae Temple Gates

Cairo, Egypt

My trip to Egypt was part of a Travel Talk tour of Egypt & Jordan. Within Egypt there were four main places we visited, Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and Dahab. Egypt has a population of around 91 million, approximately 22 million of who live in Cairo.

The streets and markets of CairoOn arrival in Cairo I was met by the Travel Talk driver Baseem, who helped me with the arrival visa and security. Before entering the security line, on the right are some banks where you pay US$25 to buy a single entry visa. You stick the visa sticker on a blank page, which gets stamped as you pass through security.

Out on the roads, I was unsurprised to discover that Cairo roads are absolute mayhem. You duck and weave between cars and trucks, tooting the horn to prevent being side swiped by another vehicle. There is always one more lane of cars than marked lanes on the road. People occasionally pull over on an outer lane of the highway to wash their car or chat to someone else. Motorcyclists plow through the mess without care for helmets or any kind of safety. Pedestrians run across the highway at random, even mothers with babies seem to have no fear running across multiple lanes of crazy traffic. It was an interesting welcome to Cairo.

Cairo, Giza and New Cairo are all parts of greater Cairo. Cairo and Giza are the two main areas visited by tourists, and the Nile River separates them.

On day one the tour guide Mega introduced himself to the group and with great enthusiasm and love for his country and history he took us on our Egyptian adventure.

The Pyramids of Giza

As most people are aware the Ancient Egyptians believed in reincarnation and that they worshipped many gods including the sun. The concept of reincarnation comes from the sun as it rises (is born) every morning in the east and it ‘dies’ at the end of every day in the west, to rise again the next day. For this reason, all tombs are built on the West Bank of the Nile, the body is buried on the West, so that it may rise again in the East. In alignment with this belief all pyramids were built on the West Bank of the Nile. For those that haven’t established the link, all pyramids are the tombs of Kings.

Camel Riding at the Pyramids of GizaIt is not part of the pyramids of Giza complex, but the first pyramid we visited was Sakkara. There are several pyramids in the complex. The most famous one is the Pyramid of Djoser. Djoser has a stepped construction and was one of the first pyramids ever constructed.

Within the Pyramids of Giza complex are also several pyramids, though the design is more refined and doesn’t display the stepped construction seen at Sakkara. Some of the pyramids show the remains of a smooth rendering over the top of the construction.

Great Pyramid of CheopsThe Great Pyramid of Cheops is the largest of all the pyramids, with a height of approximately 149 metres. It is one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, and was the world’s tallest construction until the Eiffel Tower was built. King Cheops was one of the most loved Kings of ancient Egypt and to the people of Egypt it seems fitting that he is celebrated with such a magnificent monument.

The other pyramids in the area belong to Cheops’ family members, son, wife and sister. The famous Sphinx guards the area. The Sphinx has a construction of a lion’s body with the head of a man. The head of a man represents wisdom and the body of a lion, representative of strength or power.

The site is spectacular to visit. It is so challenging to understand how people in ancient times were able to build such immense structures. I felt awed to be a witness to such creativity and display of ingenuity.

In addition to wandering around the complex, I enjoyed a short camel ride around the site, to get some fun photos!

Cost of Sakkara and Giza: 160EGP
Cost of Camel Ride: 50EGP (from memory)

Pyramids of Giza

Cairo Museum

A sarcophagusCairo Museum is certainly worth a visit to see many ancient Egyptian artifacts. Many of the treasures found in the tomb of Tutankhamen can be viewed here. You can also see the mummified bodies of many of Egypt’s great rulers of ancient times, including the most important pharaoh in history Ramses II.

Be aware that if you want to take your camera into the museum you need to pay an additional 50EGP. You can leave the camera in a storage space for free. We were advised it was very secure, but with stories of theft out of safe storage spaces at other sites, we decided against this.

Cost: 85EGP

Mohammed Ali MosqueMohammed Ali Mosque

The Mohammed Ali Mosque is in the old citadel overlooking the city of Cairo. It’s alabaster walls and meticulously designed interior are absolutely gorgeous. While I probably wouldn’t have put it high on my “to see” list, it was a thoroughly enjoyable place to visit.

Cost: 60EGP

Cairo Markets

One of the many Cairo Markets

Around Cairo downtown are many different markets where you can buy souvenirs. I would recommend visiting at least one or two. Be prepared to haggle, but don’t engage in discussion on price unless it is something you are actually willing to buy.

They are some fabulous jewellery stalls which can create rings, bracelets and pendants with a cartouche of your name in hieroglyphics.

Pyramid Light and Sound Show

At the Pyramids of Giza there is a nighttime Light and Sound show. It’s a little bit cheesy, but otherwise fantastic. I did this at the end of my tour and they presented a reasonable summary of the Egyptian history I had learned throughout the tour, which pulled together the information nicely for me.

It was fun to see the pyramids and sphinx lit up with various different colours. If you are on a budget, I would not recommend going, but otherwise it’s quite a bit of fun.

Cost: 170EGP

Pyramids of Gaza Light and Sound Show

Check out my Cairo photos on Flickr

As the wifi in Egypt has been very poor, the album is not yet complete – I will add the remaining Cairo photos as soon as I can.