Egypt: Historical Egyptian Sites

Historical Egyptian Sites

For additional comprehensive information see Monuments in Egypt

Abu Simbel by Marie Parsons

Perhaps after the Giza pyramids, or coincident with them, the great temple of Abu Simbel presents the most familiar image of ancient Egypt to the modern traveler and reader. When the conservation efforts to preserve the temple from the soon-to be built High Aswan Dam and its rising waters were begun in the 1960s, images of the colossal statues filled newspapers and books. The temples were dismantled and relocated in 1968 on the desert plateau, 200 feet above and 600 feet west of their original location.

Abydos by Marie Parsons

Abydos, or Abjdu, lies in the eight nome of Upper Egypt, about 300 miles south of Cairo, on the western side of the Nile and about 9.5 miles from the river. It spreads over 5 square miles and contains archaeological remains from all periods of ancient Egyptian history. It was significant in historical times as the main cult center of Osiris, the lord of the netherworld. At the mouth of the canyon at Abydos, which the Egyptians believed to be the entrance to the underworld, one of the tombs of the 1st dynasty kings was mistaken for the tomb of Osiris, a thousand years later, and pilgrims would leave offerings to the god for another thousand years. The area is thus now called Umm el Qaab, "Mother of Pots."

Ahmose Pyramid at Abydos by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston

The ruins of Ahmose at Abydos are extensive, not only consisting of a pyramid and mortuary complex, but also the town of the workers who built and later managed the facilities. The mortuary temple that is recognizable as such lies somewhat north of the pyramid. This structure appears for the most part to be the outer section of the temple, with a plan consisting of a massive wall on the east and a central doorway that lead to a forecourt. From the forecourt, a doorway leads to a square court. Foundation blocks at the back might have supported the pillars of a colonade. However, between this section of the temple and the pyramid itself are what probably remains of an inner court where little was found except patches of pavement and four circular granaries along the back wall. Mace also discovered a semi-circular mudbrick deposit that may have either been the remains of a ramp, or the inner sanctuary of the temple.

The Temple of Ain el-Muftella in the Bahariya Oasis by Jimmy Dunn writing as Brian Rosewood

The Temple of Ain el-Muftella may have once served as the city center of El Qasr which is today the modern town of Bawiti in the Bahariya Oasis. It was most likely built around the time of the 26th Dynasty, though some sections of the temple may date from earlier in the New Kingdom. The temple was probably added to by both the Greeks, and later the Romans. We know that parts of the temple were built by a high priest named Zed-Khonsu-efankh who's brother, Sheben-Khonsu was governor of the district during the reign of Ahmose II. After the death of Sheben-Khonsu, Zed-Khonsu-efankh also took on his brother's role as governor. Fakhry investigated the site in 1939 leading to his mistaken opinion that the structures were four separate chapels.

Akhmim (Ipu) by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston

Akhmim, is an area on the east bank of the Nile opposite modern Sohag. The ancient Egyptians called it Ipu or Khent-min. To the Coptics it was Khmin or Shmin, and so the Greeks called it Khemmis. It was once a great center in Egypt, and the capital of the 9th Upper Egyptian nome. Regrettably, very little of its monuments remain today, as most building material was dismantled and used in nearby villages during the Middle Ages. Its ancient necropolis has never been systematically excavated. Northeast of Akmin there is a rock chapel at el-Salamuni that was dedicated to the local god Min. The Greek god Pan was associated with Min, so the town was also called Panopolis.

The Temple of Alexander the Great in the Bahariya Oasis by Jimmy Dunn writing as Brian Rosewood

The temple of Alexander the Great located in the Bahariya Oasis has the distinction of being the Macedonian ruler's only known temple in Egypt. The temple was built during Alexander's lifetime and dedicated to Amun and Horus. Ahmed Fakhry never found the stela of Tuthmose II that he was searching for when he stumbled across the temple in 1938, but this discovery, very near the (then unknown) Valley of the Golden Mummies, most certainly made up for that failure. It was to be Fakhry's last day in the Bahariya Oasis and he was exploring a spring called Ain el-Tabinieh, about three miles west of El Qasr (Bawiti), that had been mentioned by Sir Gardner Wilkinson in 1837. Here, he discovered a mound surrounded by stones that he thought might be a New Kingdom temple.

Alexandria, Egypt's Submerged Monuments by the Egyptian Government

Within the last few years, more and more relics are being discovered in Egypt's Alexandria's harbor. Take a look at some of the discoveries.

The Pyramid of Amenemhet I at Lisht by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston

Amenemhet I, who founded Egypt's 12th Dynasty, was most likely the first ruler of the Middle Kingdom, after the First Intermediate Period, to build any sort of substantial pyramid. He did this at Lisht, near the Fayoum Oasis, which was growing in importance during this time. In fact, his pyramid named "Cult Places of Amenemhet's Appearance" most likely was built very near his new capital of Itj-towy. In addition, the old, important canal called Bahr el-Libeini may have run very close to the escarpment at the foot of Amenemhet I's pyramid, thus providing it with a harbor. Amenemhet I also established a new tradition. In the Old Kingdom, the name of the pyramid usually was inclusive of the associated structures, including the pyramid town that so often grew up around the pyramids.

The Pyramid of Amenemhet II at Dahshur by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston

For some reason, Amenemhet II, the third King of Egypt's 12th Dynasty and Senusret I's successor, choose to build his pyramid at Dahshur, a lonely pyramid field that dates from the 4th Dynasty, rather than at Lisht where his two predecessors built theirs. Dahshur is an interesting field to explore, because it has only recently been open to the public and so far is not so very crowded with tourists. It has some interesting and otherwise fine (and large) examples of pyramids. This pyramid was most likely called "Amenemhet is well cared for", and is located east of the better known Red Pyramid, but is not nearly as well preserved as some others in the area. We call Amenemhet II's structure the White Pyramid, though it is certainly no longer white. It derived this name many years before when stone thieves stole the casing, leaving behind many limestone chips that made the pyramid at that time to appear white.

The Pyramid of Amenemhet III at Dahshur by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston

Amenemhet III attempted to build his first pyramid at Dahshur, but it turned out to be a disaster. Even with the nearby Bent Pyramid as a reminder, Amenemhet III's architects built the his pyramid on unstable subsoil. The Bent Pyramid is built upon compacted gravel, while Amenemhet III's is built on hard clay. The builder's compounded this mistake by building the pyramid in one of the lowest locations of any pyramid in Egypt. It lies only 33 feet above sea level. Further problems arose from the shear number of corridors and chambers within the substructure, and the reliance that the builders placed on their ceilings which had no real stress relieving devices above the king's burial chamber. Early on ground water from the nearby Nile Valley seeped into the pyramid's substructure causing structural damage, causing menacing cracks to appear in the corridor and chamber walls soon after the pyramid was completed.

Amenemhet III's Pyramid at Hawara by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston

Amenemhet III built his second pyramid closer to the area that he seemed to love, the Fayoum. It was not the only building he did there. He also built a temple in Kiman Faris (Faras) to the Fayoum's chief divintity, the crocodile god Sobek. Kiman Faris was known to the Greeks as Krokodilopolis, or more commonly, Crocodilopolis. Nearby close to the modern village of Biahmu, he also constructed two colossal 12 meter high quartzite statues with enormous bases. After the failure of his Dahshur Pyramid after almost 15 years worth of work, he more or less completely abandoned that pyramid and started completely over with a new pyramid located near the modern village of Hawara el-Makta, not far from Senusret II's pyramid at el-Lahun (Kahun). The pyramid lies on a long spit of low desert, and was built vary differently then his pyramid at Dahshur. The name of this pyramid has never been discovered for certain, but it might have been called "Amenemhet Lives"

The Tomb of Amenherkhepshef in the Valley of the Queens by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

The Tombs of the sons of Ramesses III are considered some of the finest monuments in the Valley of the Queens on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes). One of these, QV55, belongs to Amenherkhepshef (Amun-her-Khepshef), his son by the Great Royal Wife, Tyti, who is listed in the tomb (QV52) as God's Wife and God's Mother. Her tomb lies nearby and includes some of the same titles on its walls.

King Amenmesses and His Tomb in the Valley of the Kings by Jimmy Dunn and Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

Amenmesses is generally considered to be the 5th ruler of Egypt's 19th Dynasty, though most Egyptologists believe he was probably not the legitimate heir to the throne. He succeeded Merneptah as pharaoh, but it was probably Merneptah's son, prince Seti-Merneptah who should have ascended the throne on his father's death. Various theories exist about why he did not. It is very possible that Merenptah may have died suddenly while the crown prince was away, and Amenmesses simply took advantage of the situation. Interesting, but not unpredictable, is that this disorder came only a generation after the strong, but long rule of Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great).

The Mortuary Temple of Amenhotep III on the West Bank at Luxor by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

Amenhotep III built not only the largest temple at Thebes (on the West Bank at Luxor), but in Egypt, measuring 700 by 550 meters. It covered 385,000 square meters (4,200,000 square feet). It was even larger than the temple of Amun-Re at Karnak. The temple's architect was also named Amenhotep, but was the son of Hapu. Unfortunately, it seem that the temple began to decay rapidly, and during the reign of Merenptah, it was actively used as a source of limestone blocks for the temple of that ruler. The reason for this was perhaps a brilliant, but regrettable religious concept. The temple was apparently uniquely built on the flood plain. The temple was purposely built so low that the inundation of the Nile would flood its outer courts and halls, probably leaving only the inner sanctuary, built on a knoll above water level, dry. Thus, when the water receded, the whole temple symbolized the emergence of the world from the primeval waters of creation.

The Tomb of Amenophis II, Valley of the Kings by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

Amenophis II's tomb is an architectural delight. Designated KV 35, it was located by Victor Loret on the slope opposite of the Valley of the King's main wadi in March of 1998. Like most all of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, it had been extensively looted, though there were a few surprises. This is a large tomb with complex architecture, though very similar in many respects to the tomb of Tuthmosis III. Like other tombs in the valley, there are two sets of stairways and two corridors prior to the ritual shaft. New for this tomb are decorations depicting the king performing ritual acts before Osiris, Anubis and Hathor.

The Tomb of Amenhotep III (and possibly Queen Tiy) on the West Bank at Luxor by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

The tomb that we believe was the final resting place of Amenhotep III (Greek Amenophis III), one of the greatest kings of Egypt during one of its most prosperous eras, is actually located in the West Valley on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes) and numbered WV22. There are only four registered tombs in this area, including WV23, belonging to King Ay. Though it may have been known to the 18th century traveler, W. G. Browne, we official ascribe its discovery to two engineers who were members of Napoleon's campaign in Egypt, Prosper Jollois and Edouard de Villiers du Terrage.

The Pyramid of Ameny Kemau at Dahshur by Jimmy Dunn writing as Alan Winston

The American expedition in Dahshure, in 1957, discovered a small and heavily damaged pyramid located close to the southeast rim of ancient Lake Dahshure. Broken canopic jars from the site identified the owner as Ameny Kemau (Ameny-Qemau), a little known ruler form the 13th Dynasty during Egypt's Second Intermediate Period. In fact, we know so little about Ameny Kemau that we cannot really even place his order of rule, a not altogether uncommon situation in the intermediate periods. In 1968, Maragioglio and Rinaldi further investigated the structure and refined the pyramids ground plan. This pyramid that most visitors to Dahshure will never notice was originally about 50 meters tall (164 ft). While the superstructure is almost completely destroyed, the substructure is better known.

Ancient Christian Churches by Jimmy Dunn

Before Egypt became an Islamic state, it was a mostly Christian country with an ancient Christian heritage. It was a land where Jesus and his family were known to have traveled, and where early Apostles came to spread his word, particularly at first in Alexandria. Most of the ancient Christian churches of Egypt, contrary to what many travelers may believe, are not located in Old, or Coptic Cairo. What makes Old Cairo special is the fact that a number of ancient churches are located in the area, making visits by tourists convenient, since most of them arrive for tours in that city

Ancient Rock Quarries: The Ravine of Inscriptions by Amargi Hillier

Wadi Hammamat is a natural route which links the Red Sea to the Nile and is one of the most unexpected gorges in Egypt, located on the ancient trade route. This is the road used in antiquity by the merchants of Arabia to penetrate into the lands to the Pharaohs to trade with the inhabitants of Coptos, the present day Quft.

Ankhtifi & His Valiant Band by Alan M. Fildes

Being sufficiently intrigued by John Romers television programme Romers Egypt in the Mid 1980s I set off to investigate Ankhtifis mock Pyramid like burial place. In Mid August 1989 my diary states it was exceedingly warm 42 C at Noon. On arrival at the Ancient site of Hefat present day Moalla about 50 miles South of Luxor we crossed the canal and then negotiated the railway line with some difficulty, on our way to the local Mayors house he was custodian of the all important key. When he was finally located and sufficiently rewarded he agreed to accompany us (thats me and my great friend Awad my trusty driver).

St. Antony's Monastery by Jimmy Dunn

St. Antony's Monastery, which lies at the foot of Al-Qalzam Mountain near Al Zaafarana, was founded in 356 AD just after the saints death and is the oldest active monastery in the world.. We do know that St. Antony founded several monasteries during his life (though they would not have been recognizable in the modern use of the term), but alas they are no more. During the sixth and seventh centuries many monks from Wadi Natroun who were under frequent attacks by Bedouins migrated to St. Antony's.

The Aqsunqur Mosque (The Blue Mosque) by Lara Iskander

During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the heart of Islamic Cairo shifted south to an area called Darb alAhmar (the red road), to the south and east of Bab Zuweila (Zuweila Gate). Many great Mamluk Monuments are found in the zone especially in Bab al-Wazir Street (Gate of the Minister) which is the main street leading to the northern side of the Citadel. Two of the earliest buildings on the Darb al-Ahmar road are the Mosques of al-Maridani and the so-called Blue Mosque.

The Tomb of Ay in the Valley of the Kings by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

The tomb of Ay is located in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes) near the new rest house. This area is known as the West Valley, but is sometimes also called Wadi el-Gurud (Valley of the Monkeys or Baboons), because of a scene in this tomb depicting the twelve Baboon, very similar to a scene in the Tomb of Tutankhamun. In fact, this tomb may have originally been intended for Tutankhamun, but he died unexpectedly early so another, private tomb was quickly enlarged for his burial. It is very possible that both the tomb of Tutankhamun and this one were decorated by the same artists.

The Bahariya Oasis, Part II: El Haiz by Jimmy Dunn writing as Brian Rosewood

The area of El Haiz, about 30 miles southwest of El Bawiti in the Bahariya Oasis, is an interesting area and promises to reveal much about the Romans in Egypt, as well as Egypt's conversion to Christianity. The area was apparently investigated by Fakhry during the 1940s, and more recently surveyed by Dr. Zahi Hawass, who is now the director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). In part II of our series on the Bahariya Oasis, we will explore the ruins at El Haiz around Ain el-Rees, the largest of four local springs in the area. El Haiz marks the limit of the Giza governorate and the beginning of the New Valley. It is the last of the major oasis between Bahariya and the Farafra Oasis. In this area are located a Roman fortress and palace, a wine factory, a Coptic basilica as well as several cemeteries.

The History of the Bahariya Oasis by Jimmy Dunn

Over time, the Bahariya Oasis has had a number of different names. It has been called the Northern Oasis, the Little Oasis, Zeszes, Oassis Parva and the especially during the Christian era, the Oasis of al-Bahnasa, along with various other names. At one time, the Bahariya Oasis, as well as most of the rest of what is today referred to as the Western (or Libyan) Desert, was the floor of an immense ocean. Yet from about 3000 BC until the present, almost no rainfall graces this part of the world, so groundwater is its life blood.

Bani Hasan al Shurruq by Dr. Susan Wilson

A really neat, off the beaten track, site to visit is Bani Hasan (also spelled Beni Hasan). Located in Middle Egypt near to Al-Minya, Bani Hasan is one of the few Middle Kingdom sites (ca. 2040 1782 BCE, Dynasties XI and XII) that survived the massive reconstruction of the New Kingdom. It is a full days excursion from Cairo (about 4 hours by train then a short drive to the site). Another great option, is to stop for a night in Al-Minya when traveling by train between Cairo and Luxor. Spend the night and enjoy the beauty of Al-Minya, the closest city to Bani Hasan.

The Tomb of Bannantiu in the Bahariya Oasis by Jimmy Dunn writing as Brian Rosewood

On the eastern ridge of El Bawiti in the Bahariya Oasis we find the Tomb of Bannantiu located next to his somewhat smaller father's tomb. Bannantiu, who's name literally means, "the soul of those who have not", was in fact not a "have not". In the great days when Bahariya's wine was well known throughout ancient Egypt, particularly during and around the 26th Dynasty prior to the Persian occupation, many businessmen in the Oasis gained considerable wealth. Bannantiu was probably either a trader or wealthy land owner, judging by his elaborate and large tomb.

Church of Saint Barbara (Sitt Barbara) by Jimmy Dunn

We are told that Saint Barbara was a beautiful young lady possibly of Asia Minor decent (though some stories say she lived in Heliopolis). She apparently lived during the early part of the 4th century (though again some references place her in the early part of the 3rd century). She was the daughter of a wealthy nobleman and merchant, Djoscorus, who was a pagan. Tradition provides that Djoscorus built a magnificent tower to safeguard his daughter, perhaps from the growing influence of Christianity. However, during his frequent business trips abroad, she was converted to Christianity.

Tell Basta (Bubastis, or Per-Bastet) by Jimmy Dunn writing as John Warren

Tell Basta (Bubastis or Per-Bastet, meaning "The Domain of Bastet) is the site of an ancient city about 80 km to the northeast of Cairo in the eastern Nile Delta. The ancient mound sets just to the southeastern side of modern Zagazig. It was an important city from about the 4th Dynasty until the end of the Roman Period (2613 BC through 395 AD), and was the capital of the 18th Lower Egyptian nome during the Late Period. However, we also know that even as early as the 2nd Dynasty, a number of kings built up close ties with the city and the Temple of Bastet. Besides the important Temple of Bastet, the city also occupied key ground along the routs from Memphis to the Sinai (Wadi Tumilat) and to Asia.

The Temple of Bes at Bawiti in the Bahariya Oasis by Brain Rosewood

This temple was discovered by a resident of El Bawiti in 1988, so as discoveries go in Egypt, it is fairly recent. This individual discovered an inscribed piece of basalt within the old section of El Bawiti, which prompted the local antiquity authorities to investigate the site. Interestingly, this artifact was carved with the cartouche of Akhenaten, and is the only evidence of this heretic pharaoh that has been found in the oasis. This temple dates from the Greek period, but there is evidence that the cult and temple operated into the 4th century AD

Buto (Modern Tell el-Farein) by Jimmy Dunn writing as John Warren

Nekhen was the capital of southern Egypt during the predynastic period. In the North, Nekhen's counterpart was Buto, which we believe is the area known as Tell el-Farain today (though there is some uncertainty regarding this). Buto probably came about as the merger of two different centers. The Pyramid Text refers to the "kings of Lower Egypt who were in Pe. In some of the references, Pe is associated with Horus, the Falcon god, so early on Horus was probably worshipped in both Lower and Upper Egypt. The text also references a place called Dep where the god Wadjet was worshipped. Pe and Dep were apparently neighboring cities. Eventually, these two cities together were called Per-Wadjet reflecting their two gods and from this came the Greek name of Buto.

The Construction of the Egyptian Pyramids by Tour Egypt Staff

Ever wonder how the Egypt pyramids were built? We have put together some general information on their construction.

Deir el-Bahri by Marie Parsons

Lying directly across the Nile from the Great Temple of Amun at Karnak, the rock amphitheater of Deir el-Bahri provides a natural focal point of the west bank terrain and an inviting site for the temples of many rulers. The natural rock amphitheater, a deep bay in the cliffs, was an important religious and funerary site in the Theban area. The remains of the temples of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II, Hatshepsut, and Tuthmosis III, as well as private tombs dating to those reigns and through to the Ptolemaic period can be found here.

The Private Tomb of Benia (Pahekmen) by Jimmy Dunn writing as Mark Andrews

The private tomb of Benia, a man perhaps better known as Pahekmen, is located on the West Bank at Luxor (ancient Thebes) in the Tombs of the Nobles. Benia had the title, "Overseer of Works, Child of the Nursery" and lived during Egypt's 18th Dynasty. This is a fairly simple tomb, with a fairly classical T shape. However, it is fairly complete and unlike some of the private tombs, is completely open. In a number of the other private tombs, the burial chamber is often closed, but here, visitors may enter this back section of the tomb, which is also decorated. One enters this tomb through a courtyard and then through a very brief corridor leading into a transverse vestibule. Though there is a decoration in the corridor, it is a highly fragmented scene of a title being conferred and of the deceased at worship.

Christian Churches and Monasteries of Luxor and the West Bank by Jimmy Dunn

Many western tourists who have an interest in archaic Christian monuments, even though they may be taking a classical pharaonic tour, will visit the famous old churches in Coptic (Old) Cairo. There was a fairly large community of Christians during that era of Egypt's history both at Thebes (modern Luxor) and on the West Bank across the river. Some of the ruins are among the oldest to be found in Egypt, dating from the 4th century, and indeed, a see was established at Thebes probably before 325 and the Council of Nicaea.

Last Updated: June 12th, 2011