It might be what’s on the inside that counts when it comes to people, but when it comes to places, learning about the outside is essential to understanding their deeper meaning. From the pyramids to the Nile, Egypt’s past, present, and future is hugely influenced by its landscapes and locations. Here are six places which tell the visual story of Egypt.
The mysterious pyramids
Egypt holds the well-earned title of being home to one of the oldest and last remaining wonders of the ancient world — the Great Pyramid of Giza. Built for the Pharaoh Khufu, the structure has stood for over 5,000 years. Though it may be the most famous of pyramids, Egypt is home to over 118 more of these funerary monuments. These ancient structures pay homage to pharaohs and queens, but they also tell us a whole lot more about where our ancestors heads were at — answer: in the sky. The pyramids were portals to the night sky thanks to their sacred alignment pointing to the stars. They really show there is still mystery to history.
The Egyptian mascot
A creature with the body of a lion and the head of a person, the Sphinx can easily be considered the Egyptian mascot. It has become a symbol synonymous with Egyptian culture, carved from the bedrock of the Giza plateau, and the Great Sphinx of Giza is another iconic tourist site.
There are several mysteries which shroud the Sphinx: when it was built, who built it, whose face it depicts — but perhaps the most puzzling question — how it was built. The Egyptian Sphinx is the largest monolith statue on the entire planet. Carved from one entire piece of limestone, we are left wondering about the marvels of ancient engineering.
Think of Egypt and a vision of the desert will immediately spring to mind. The desert makes up about two-thirds of the Egyptian landscape, with the predominant ones being the Eastern Desert, the Sinai Desert, and the Western Desert (part of the Sahara). The deserts of Egypt may seem like vast, barren land at first glance, but they actually bear some gems. Egyptians have reaped the benefits of desert mining precious materials such as limestone (think Sphinx), granite, amethyst, copper, and even gold. What is the best way to protect these precious materials you might ask? The desert doubles up as a protection mechanism, as only the locals know how to navigate it.
The big city
The capital of Egypt, Cairo is probably its most famous city. Cairo is one of the largest metropolitan areas in Africa and the 15th largest city in the world. With an impressive population of over 19 million, there is no question as to why it continues as the beating heart of Egyptian culture and political life. It is also titled ‘the city of a thousand minarets’ for its plentiful examples of Islamic architecture and is home to the Egyptian Museum, which holds the world’s largest collection of Egyptian artefacts, including Tutankhamun’s death mask and most of what was found in his tomb.
The Pearl of the Mediterranean
The second largest city in Egypt, Alexandria is often referred to as the Pearl of the Mediterranean, thanks to its pristine upkeep mixed with its rich cultural heritage. This port city hails its name from Alexander the Great, who is said to have founded it, giving it well over 2000 years of history under its belt. It is now a major economic and industrial center due to its natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez. Visually, it is representative of both Ancient Egyptian culture and history, as well the modern civilization Egypt is today.
The longest river in the world
Famous for its hyper-dry desert land, you may be surprised to learn that Egyptians were one of the first cultures to practice mass farming, thanks to the banks of the River Nile. Known as the longest river in the world, the Nile spans over 4,000 miles and is Egypt’s primary water source.
The Nile has played a crucial part in the development of the culture and people of Egypt, with the majority of the country’s historical sites along the river banks. The river was also used to export pottery, linen, lentils, papyrus, ox hides, and even art.
Words by by Jamie Valentino