The Most Important Ancient Sites in Cairo
The Pyramids of Cheops (Khufu:
The Great Pyramid is situated in Giza and was one of the Seven
Wonders on the World. Cheops, the second Pharaoh of the IVth
Dynasty, built it. It once rose to a height of 146 meters. Owing
to natural wear and tear, however, its present height is only
The Pyramid of Chephren (Kafra:
This pyramid was built by Chephren the son of Cheops, the fourth
Pharaoh of the IVth Dynasty. It occupies a site to the south
west of the Great Pyramid and is 136 meters high. It covers an
area of 215 square meters. At the base of the pyramid are
situated the remains of his mortuary temple.
The Pyramid of Chephren (Menkaura
This is the smallest of three pyramids, with a height of only 26
meters. It stands to the south west of the second pyramid. The
length of its base is 107 meters and it covers only a quarter of
the area of the Great Pyramid.
The Sphinx is one of the most famous and the greatest of the
monument of ancient Egypt. It stands as a guardian of the
The Solar Barque:
A number of wooden boats have been discovered in chambers
hollowed out of the rock, intended to enable the king to ride
across the horizon with the Sun God. The most famous of these
boats is the funerary barque of Cheops, which was discovered to
the south of the Great Pyramid and is now housed in a special
museum at the site.
Saqqara is some 25 kilometres from Cairo, and was the necropolis
of the city of Memphis, Egypt’s capital during the Old Kingdom.
Saqqara contains the following important monuments.
The Pyramid of Zozer, or the Step Pyramid:
Erected by Zozer’s chief of Works, Imhotep, at the beginning of
the 28th Century B.C., the Step Pyramid is the oldest stone
building in the world. It has six steps, each one being 60
The Pyramid of Unas:
Constructed by Unas, the last Kind of the Vth Dynasty as his
final resting place; this pyramid is situated some 200 meters to
the south of the Step Pyramid. On its stonewalls are engraved a
series of texts telling of the progress of the soul through the
stages of the next life.
Tombs of the Nobles:
At Saqqara are the tombs of many Old Kingdom Courtiers and
Nobles. Amond the most famous are the Mastaba of Ti, to the
north west of the Step Pyramid and the Mastaba of Ptahhotep to
west of the Step Pyramid. In the same area you can see the
Serapeum, the burial place of the Apis Bulls.
The Monuments of Abu Sir:
Some five kilometers to the north of Saqqara are four pyramids
belonging to Kings of the Vth Dynasty, and a Sun Temple.
Located about 10 Kilometres to the south of Saqqara, are the
pyramids of Dashur, including the “Bent Pyramid” of Snofru and
others belonging to the Middle Kingdom Pharaohs, Senusert III,
and Amenemhat II and III.
The Hanging Church:
Is so called as it was built over the southern bastion of the
fortress of Babylon, headquarters of the Roman Army in the
region. It dates back to the fourth century A.D. and is built in
the form a basilica.
Built in the fourth century A.D. It is also of basilical form
and is dedicated to SS. Sergius and Bacchus. It has three altars
and twelve columns decorated with portraits of the Twelve
The Church of the Virgin:
Was built in the eighth century A.D. and is in the form of a
basilica. It is also known as the “Church of the Pot of Basil”
alluding to the notion that the Virgin Mary was the pot in which
the basil – her son Jesus Christ – was planted. It has fine
altar screen decorated with wood inlaid with ivory.
The Church of St. George (Mar Girgis:
Situated in Masr al Qadima, was completed in the thirteenth
century A.D. It is a basilical church and contains a hall which
is an architectural masterpiece.
The Church of St. Barbara:
Built as a basilica, at the beginning of the Islamic period, it
lies to the east of the fortress of Babylon. St. Barbara was a
Christian girl who renounced the faith of her pagan family,
whereupon she was denounced to the roman Governor and martyred.
The Monastery of Abu Seifein:
This foundation is situated near the Mosque of Amr outside the
fortress of Babylon. It contains three churches, the largest of
which is the Church of Anba Shenouda (fifth century A.D.) There
is also the Church of Abu Seifein and the Church of the Virgin
of Damashir, named after a village where she is said to have
appeared in the governorate of Minya.
Founded by the Fatimid conqueror, Gawhar, in 970, Al Azhar is
the earliest Fatimid building. Its name, Al Azhar, is derived
from the name of Fatma Al Zahra, daughter of the Prophet
Muhammad. Among its most notable architectural features are the
Minarets of Qaitbay and Sultan al Ghouri.
The Mosque of Amr Ibn al As:
Founded by Amr Ibn al As in 642.
The Mosque of Ibn Tulun:
This was the third mosque to be built in Cairo and is one of the
largest. Ahmad Ibn Tulun started building his mosque in 876 and
it was completed in 879. It is a rectangular building, with
sides of 162 meters in length. The mosque was revolutionary in
style for the period. The original minaret collapsed, but was
restored by the Mamluke Sultan Lajin al Mansouri. It is
remarkable for its massive, spiral form. The mimber is one of
the finest pieces of Islamic art in existence. The mosque is
situated near the Sayyida Zeinab quarter.
The Mosque of Sultan Hassan:
Situated in Salah al Din Square, this mosque has been described
as one of the most wonderful building in Cairo, owing to its
harmonious unity and its perfection. Construction of the mosque
began under Sultan Hassan in 1356 and the building covers 7906
square meters. The Mihrab is decorated with coloured marble
inlay. The mosque also contains some magnificent stucco work.
The Mosque of Qalaoun:
Built in 1318, the mosque was destroyed during the reign of
Muhammad Ali, who ruled Egypt from 1805 to 1848. The building of
the mosque lasted until his death, when he was buried in it, was
completed by his son Abbas. The building has four semi domes
around one lofty main dome. On the western wall is a clock
tower, which was given as a present to Muhammad Ali by the
French Emperor, Louis Philippe, in 1845.
The Mosque of al Rifai:
This mosque, founded by Chevkiar Hanim, the mother of Khedive
Ismail, is situated in the Citadel quarter, opposite the mosque
of sultan Hassan. It is divided into three main sections, the
biggest of which contains a large mihrab, decorated with colored
marble inlays. It contains the tomb of several members of the
Egyptian Royal Family and that of the Shah of Iran.
The Mosque of al Hakim bi’Amr Allah:
The second Fatimid Caliph to rule in Egypt, Aziz bi’Amr Allah,
commenced this building in 990. It was not, however, completed
until the reign of his successor, al Hakim bi’Amr Allah. It lies
on al Muiz li Din Allah Street. The entrance portal and the
minarets are worthy of notice.
The Mosque of Hussein:
The Fatimid Caliph, al Zaher bi’Amr Allah, founded this mosque
in 1153, to contain the head of The Prophet Muhammad’s grandson,
Hussein. The Khedive Ismail ordered the mosque to be rebuilt,
bringing marble columns from Constantinople. He also provided a
mimber decorated with gold leaf. The walls of the mosque are
covered with coloured marbles and the ceilings are decorated
with the most precise gold leaf designs. The mosque has 30 large
windows made of gilt brass.
The Mosque of the Imam Shafei:
Constructed by Salah al Din al Ayyubi, the building is a large
dome covering the tomb of the renowned Islamic jurist, al
Shafei, and various members of the Ayyubid house. The dome was
restored and covered with lead sheeting in the time of Ali Bey
the Great, in 1772. The tomb has doors covered with solid silver
and rich stucco decoration.
The Cairo Tower:
Erected in 1961, on the West Bank of the Nile, It is 187 meters
high. It is the tallest concrete tower in the world. It affords
the visitor a chance to see the whole Cairo and has a revolving
The Pharaonic Village:
This covers 32 acres, and is located on Jacob’s Island in Giza.
This affords the visitor the chance to have an overall view of
all activities practiced by the Ancient Egyptians, by means of
tableaux vivants. The visit is made by boat down the waterways
surrounding the island.
The Papyrus Research Institute:
Located in an idyllic spot on the Nile, in a wonderful garden,
it has a display of scenes and paintings on papyrus, the paper
of ancient Egyptians
Located four kilometers from the Pyramids Road, on the way to
Saqqara, it contains a famous school teaching children manual
carpet weaving techniques.
Is well known for handmade textiles and clothes
Important Sites in Alexandria
This huge monolith of rose granite is situated among the remains
of the Serapeum on the Bab Sidrah hill. It is 26 meters high. It
was dedicated to the Roman Emperor Diocletian. The Arabs call it
the Pillar of the Ship’s mast, referring to the fact that the
columns of the Serapeum look like the masts of a fleet of ships.
The Catacombs of Kom al Shuqafa:
This is the most extensive Roman communal burial place in
Alexandria. It consists of an entrance with a spiral staircase
leading to the tombs themselves arranged on three different
levels. The tomb was excavated in 1892. It contains some
remarkable reliefs that blend the Egyptian and Hellenistic
styles of art.
The Roman Theatre:
This is the only example of its type in Egypt. Only twelve tiers
of seats survive in hemispherical form around the stage. It is
constructed of marble. It was restored sometime between the 2nd
and 4th centuries AD.
The Baths of Kom al Dikka:
This is a typical example of a Roman bath house, consisting of
three rooms, one hot, one cold, and one cool.
The Anfushi Cemetery:
This group of tombs dates back to the late Ptolemaic period and
is distinguished for its frescoes, showing the influence of
Egyptian cults on the religious practices of the Graeco-Roman
The Castle of Qaitbay:
The Sultan al Ashraf Qaitbay constructed this in 1480 to protect
Alexandria from Ottoman attack. It was refortified by Muhammad
Ali. Its four corners are oriented to the points of the compass.
The castle was constructed on the site of the ancient pharaohs,
or lighthouse, that was originally one of the Seven Wonders of
the Ancient World.
The Principle Historic Sites
The Necropolis of Assiut:
This is situated in the western hills and the tombs are hewn out
of the rock face. The most notable are: the tomb of Teti Ayib;
the tomb of Kheti I; and the tomb of the prince Hab Jifa, who
was administrator of Assiut and prince of Abyssina during the
reign of Senusert.
Deir Al Muharraq – The Burnt Monastery:
In the western hills and resembling a group of forts and
strongholds, there is within the complex, which has an area of
18 acres, and unforgettable church built in the year 1600.
The archaological site of Al Badari:
45 km from Assiut, the site has a number of 16th dynasty tombs.
The tombs of Shata: 7 km from Assiut, there are a large number
of tombs of the princess of Shata located at the billage of Deir
Rifa. There are also seven tombs dating back to the middle and
Deir Al Adhraa: This monastery is located 10 km from Assiut and
includes a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Important Archaeological Sites
Abu Simbel Temple:
Situated at Abu Simbel are two remarkably beautiful temples
constructed by the famous pharaoh, Ramesses II. The first and
largest was dedicated to the Sun God, Ra Harakhte, while the
King in honor of his favorite wife, Nefertari, built the smaller
one. These temples are the largest and most spectacular of the
many monuments erected by Ramesses II in Nubia. Carved from the
living rock, the facade of the main temple is 33 meters high and
35 meters wide and is guarded by frieze of baboons expressing
their joy at the rising of the sun, whilst over the main gate is
carved the King’s coronation name, Usermara. Between the legs of
the four statues are representations of the King’s family, his
mother, Muttuy, his wife, and some of his sons and daughters. In
front of the temple there are several memorial stelae, including
one commemorating the marriage of one of Ramesses, daughters to
the Hittite King, Hattusilus II.
This site contains several temples dating from the Ptolemaic and
the Roman period. The original island is situated to the south
of the Aswan Dam. The temple of Philae was rescued by UNESCO
from flooding caused by the building of the High Dam, and moved
north to the island of Agilka. The Portico of Nectanebo and is
dedicated to Isis. The western colonnades follow the shore of
the island and consist of 31 coloums. The eastern colonnade
joins the temple of Isis constructed by Ptolmey IV. Amond the
remains on the island of Philae is the Gateway of Hadrian and a
The Rock Temple of Beit al Wali:
This is located near the High Dam and is a rock cut temple
decorated with reliefs dating from the reigns of
The Kalabsha Temple:
Dates to the reign of the Emperor Augustus and is one of the
biggest sandstone temples in Nubis, originally dedicated to the
god Mandaulis. This temple was mobbed from its original location
on the banks of the Nile to its current situation near the High
The Temple of Edfu:
This dates to the Ptolemaic period and is the largest and most
complete of the different temples situated along the banks of
the Nile. It is located in the city of Edfu. It was a center of
the cult of Horus.
The Temple of Kom Ombo:
The double temple dates to the Prolemaic period and its
inscriptions contain references to the Ptolemies and to the
Roman Emperors, Domitian, Trajan, and Caracalla.
The Monuments of Nubia:
Ancient Nubia is one of the richest areas of Egypt in terms of
ancient monuments. Nubia contains 16 temples, amongst the most
important of which is the Great Temple of Abu Simbel, 280
kilometres south of Aswan. This temple was carved from the rock
in the reign of Rameses II on a rocky hill overlooking the Nile.
Four statues of the Pharoah carved from the living rock guard
the temple. Nearby is the Lesser Temple of Abu Simbel, dedicated
by Rameses II to the goddess Hathor, and also carved from the
rock in honor of his wife Nefertari.
The Monastery of St. Simeon:
Situated on a hill, this well preserved, ancient mudbrick
structure overlooks the desert on all sides
This is situated in the middle of the Nile and contains more
than eight hundred specimen palms, tamarisk and other rare
botanical specimens. It covers an area of about 18 acres.
The Mausoleum of the Aga Khan:
This is situated on an eminence over looking the western bank of
Nile. It is a sumptuous tombbuilt in the Fatimid style as the
burial place of the third Aga Khan, leader of the Ismaili sect
Ancient Egyptian Sites in Fayoum
The Pyramid of Senusert:
Built by Senusert II of the XIIth Dynasty, it is also known as
the Pyramid of Lahun, after the modern name of the area in which
it is situated.
This is an ancient city built during the Vth Dynasty. It
contains the cult center of the crocodile god, Sobek. During the
Hellenistic Period, the name was changed to Crocodilopolis, and
later to Arsinoe during the Ptolemaic period.
The Obelisk of Senusert:
This was built by the XIIth dynasty pharaoh, Senusert I. It is
30 metres high and is made of granite. It is situated at the
entrance of Fayoum city.
The Temple at Kom Madinat Madi:
This was constructed during the XIIth Dynasty, during the reigns
of Amenemhat III and Iv. During the Roman period, new additions
in the form of a series of black basalt statues were made to the
Greek and Roman Sites in Fayoum:
This archaeological site contains a number of monuments, dating
from the Roman, Coptic, and early Islamic eras. The city also
contains a Roman bath house and two temples dedicated to the
god, Sobek. A museum has been recently built to house the large
number of artifacts discovered on the site.
Dimia al Sibbia:
Situated on the northern shore of Lake Qarun are the ruins of
the ancient city of Soknopeios, which are extremely well
The Temple of Qasr al Sagha:
This is a small temple constructed of pink sandstone and is
situated on the heights overlooking Lake Qarun from the north.
The Temple of Qasr Qarun:
This well preserved temple is dated to the Roman period. There
is a winged sun dish decorating the entrance portal. It is
remarkable for its absence of inscriptions.
The Monastery of Deir al Azab:
This is an ancient monastery dating from the early Christian
The Principle Historic Sites of the Eastern Bank in Luxor
The Temple of Karnak:
Built in the 20th century B.C., it is the biggest of the ancient
Egyptian temples and was the seat of the god Amun, and the
administrative capital of the country. A visit to the temple
begins at the sacred quay, decorated with a Nilometer showing
flood levels of the Nile and then passes through an avenue,
bordered by statues of ram-headed sphinxes, to the temple
itself. Inside the temple there is an open courtyard with a
smaller temple on the left-hand side. Then there is a large
hypostyle hall, built during the reigns of Seti I and Rameses
II, containing 134 pillars, twelve of which are topped with
capitals in the form of open papyrus flowers.
The Luxor Temple:
This was built by Amenhotep III as a private residence for god
Amun, but Rameses II later added statues of himself to either
side of the temple: two seated and two standing. Inside there is
an open coutyard built by Rameses II, comprising a pillared
colonnade; and a second courtyard by Amenhotep III with pillars
decorated with papyrus designs. The Luxor Museum contains a
remarkable collection of ancient Egyptian sculpture found during
the course of restoration at the Karnak and Luxor temples.
The Valley of the Kings:
This site contains a large number of tombs of the Kings and
Pharoahs, including the tombs of: Seti I, Rameses II, Horemheb
and Tutankhamun, which was the only tomb to be discovered more
or less intact.
The Valley of the Queens:
The area contains tombs of approximately eighty Ancient Egyptian
queens and tombs of their children. Here is located the
beautiful tomb of Nefertari, recently opened to visitors.
The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut:
Constructed in an archi tectural style which is unique in Egypt.
This temple is dedicated to the goddess Hathor. It contains some
remarkable reliefs showing the birth of the Queen and a trading
expedition to the Land of Punt – probably modern Somalia.
The Principle Historic Sites of the West Bank in Luxor
The Ramesseum Temple:
Lying on the road leading from Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple to
settlement of Medinet Habu, it was erected by the Rameses II.
The most notable features are the 20m high-seated statue of the
Pharoah and a number of reliefs showing him fighting at the
Battle of Kadesh.
There are a number of temples here, the most important being
that of Rameses III, which is the most complete of the funerary
temples. There are also about four hundred Tombs of the Nobles,
situated on the West Bank, including amongst the largest and
most beautiful, the tomb of Ramose, in which there is a series
of reliefs depicting the life of luxury and splendor enjoyed by
the Ancient Egyptians.
The Ancient City of Abu Sir (Taposiris):
The site includes a temple dedicated to the cult of Osiris. Its
walls are well preserved. It is located near
The Lighthouse of Abu Sir:
This was used to guide ships on Lake Mareotis. It is situated
near the temple in the city of Taposiris.
The Baths of Cleopatra:
This is situated on a rocky stretch of coast near Marsa Matruh.
It is a medical center and a summer resort, particularly favored
The Monastery of St. Mena:
This is to be found 75 kilometers to the west of Alexandria. It
is of great importance to Christians as well as being a medical
center favored by tourists.
The Commonwealth War Cemetery:
This is situated in the El Alamein Area, 107 kilometers to the
west of Alexandria in a large walled garden.
The Italian War Cemetery:
This is situated 119 kilometers from Alexandria on a high hill
and is a vast building in the form of a marble covered tower.
The German War Cemetery:
This is situated 114 kilometers from Alexandria and is a massive
building in the form of a fortress on a hill overlooking the
desert and the sea. All around the building there are the graves
of the German troops that fell during the North African
The Cave of Rommel:
This is hollowed out of the rock in Marsa Matruh and was used
the German Field Marshal Rommel. It is now a museum of
memorabilia from the Second World War.
The Museum of El Alamein:
This contains weapons and other equipment used in the Second
World War. It also contains photographs of the compaign.
The Principle Historic Sites
Here, on the east back of the Nile, is a large area of tombs
dating back to the age of the Middle Kingdom. It contains
thirty-nine tombs, the walls of which are adorned with numerous
drawings, scenic decorations, and illustrations of sporting
activity. Among the most interesting tombs are: the tomb of
Amenemhat, who was a judge under King Senusert I; the tomb of
Khanoum Hatab II, who held the position of mayor; and the tomb
of Kheti, who was one of the region’s judges.
Tel El Amarna:
Akhenaton chose this site as his capital during a period of
religious revolution. The site, which lies 65km east of the Nile
towards the village of Deir Mawas, contains a number of tombs
including, the tomb of Meri Ra, where pictures on the walls
depict the story of his appointment as priest to the god Aton
and a picture of Akhenaton and his wife Nefertiti as they
prepare to visit the temple of Aton; and the tomb of Ay, who
came to the throne after the death of the Young King
The Castle of al Arish:
Is situated on a high hill to the north west of al Arish and
dates back to Ancient Egyptian times. The Turkish Sultan,
Suleyman the Magnificent, fortified the castle.
Is situated to the north of al Arish and dates back to the Roman
period. The area itself is really an open-air museum containing
a great number of monuments, including a huge statue of the
tutelary god of the Sinai Peninsula
The Castle of Nakhl:
Is one of the fortresses that overlooks the old pilgrimage route
of Mecca. The Mamluke Sultam, Qansuh al Ghouri in 1516, built
it. The town of Nakhl is right in the middle of the biblical
The Temple of Serabit al Khadim:
dates back to the XIIth dynasty and contains 385 inscriptions.
The temple is built on top of a small mountain and is dedicated
to the goddess Hathor. It stands near a mine dating back to the
reign of Snofru and another opened in the reign of Queen
Ancient Egyptian and Roman Sites:
Islamic Sites: Includes mosques and other Islamic monuments
The Tomb of Sheikh Abu al Hassan al Shadhli:
Is situated in the Valley of Hamthirah in the Easern Desert 150
kilometers from the city of Marsa Allam. The tomb was erected in
the 12th century and is the burial place of the Sheikh al
Shadhli who was a descendent of the Imam Ali. He was the founder
of the Shadhliyya Sufi brotherhood. His name attests his origin
from the North African village of Shadhla. There is a yearly
festival held at the tomb to celebrate his birth.
The Fortress of Sultan Selim: is situated in the city of Quseir,
140 kilometers to the south of Hurghada.
Christian Sites: There are numerous monasteries in the deserts
of the Red Sea coast. The most famous are:
The Monastery of St. Anthony:
Located in the Eastern Desert, this monastery was built in about
400 AD. It covers an area of about 18 acres and contains the
cave to which St. Anthony used to retire to pray.
The Monastery of St. Paul:
This ancient monastery is located in the desert to the south of
that of St. Anthony
The Principle Historic Sites
The temple of Seti I:
Situated at the site of Abydos, which is regarded as one of the
most important archaological sites in Egypt, it was built by
Seti I, but completed by Ramses I, and is considered among the
most beautiful Egyptian temples. It has two halls of columns;
the first with carved reliefs, and the second with designs in
This structure lies behind the temple of Seti I and contains a
number of corridors and a courtyard leading to a second pillared
courtyard, which is surrounded by sixteen small rooms.
The Temple of Rameses II:
Lying north of the temple of Seti I, most of the building has
collapsed, with only 2 m of the walls remaining. It has
sandstone pillars, granite door frame and a marble sanctuary.
The Statue of Akhmim:
At the site of Abydos, this undamaged statue of an Egyptian
queen reaches a height of 11 m and still retains its detail and
Deir Al Anba Shenouda – The White Monastery:
Founded in the year 440, it lies about 6 km west of Sohag, and
was built using stones and pillars taken from ancient temples.
Deir Al Anba Bishoi – The Red Monastery:
Situated 2 km from the White Monastery, it also dates back to
the fifth century.
Deir Al Saba Jibal:
Lying in the Kind’s Valley at Akhmim, the monastery is
considered among the most interesting in the area
Al Gaamia At Atiq – The old mosque of Sohag:
Dates back to the Fatimid period
Masjid Al Arif:
A 15th century mosque.
Reaching a height of 2285 meters. There are at the summit a
small chapel and a mosque. Many people climb the mountain in
order to witness one of the most beautiful sights of Sinai – the
Saint Catherine’s Monastery:
There was a church built here by the Empress Helens, wife of
Constantine, on the site of the Burning Bush, in 337. The
present monastery contains a collection of icons of exceptional
importance as well as a magnificent library containing thousands
of manuscripts in Greek, Arabic Syriac, Armenian, and Coptic.
The church is decorated with a superb mosaic of the
This is an unparalleled area of gulfs, and warm water springs
and is home to a large number of unusual species. Its shores
boast the most wonderful coral reefs, marine life, and mangrove
St. Catherine’s Nature Reserve:
This area contains a large number of animals reptiles, and
birds, as well as medicinal plants, and herbs.
Nabaq Nature Reserve:
Between the towns of Sharm al Sheikh and Dahab, it has an
abundance of animal and plant life, including rare moths, and
reptiles, as well as various species of indigenous and migratory
birds, that made their nests in the mangrove trees that grow in
the sea along the shore. These trees are in themselves an
important feature of the nature reserve