The Cradle of Civilization
Egypt Photo Gallery
Egypt can be justifiably called the cradle of civilization and it has recorded history to prove it. While most countries count their history in hundreds of years, archeologists tell us that the tombs, bas-reliefs, hieroglyphs, frescoes, and other art forms reveal that ancient Egyptian history covers a continuous period of over 3,000 years, exceeded perhaps only by China. Furthermore, archaeologists who can interpret these ancient symbols assure the rest of us that Egypt has a rich history, but has an abundance of mystery and pleasures as well.
Nearly all of Egypt is a vast desert plateau. The country’s civilization developed along the Nile, known as the river of life. This longest river in the world always was and continues to be the key to life in Egypt. In ancient times Egyptian life centered around the Nile River flooding which enriched the soil along the river banks. This annual event was greatly anticipated and was linked to grand festivals of fertility and celebration.
Today, the New Aswan High Dam, one of the largest in the world, captures water in the rainy season and releases it during times of drought. This managed release of water allows for controlled irrigation of nearby farmland and, at the same time, prevents unintended flooding of the cities that have grown up along the Nile. The hydroelectric power generated by the dam has improved living conditions for many citizens who use electricity for their homes and farms.
One of the Egyptian
practices was to build temples to house the deities that were key to
Egyptian mythology and religion. No tour of Egypt is complete without a
visit to one of more of these temples. The 250-acre Karnak Temple, built over a 1300 year period, is the largest temple in Egypt and the most visited site in the country.
The Temple of Horus in Edfu is one of the best preserved temples in Egypt and the second largest after Karnak.
Further south toward
Lake Nasser is the 2,600 year old Temple of Philae on Agilkia Island.
When the first Aswan Dam was constructed in the early 1900s, the site of
the original temple was flooded for all but two months during year.
After the newer Aswan High Dam was built at Aswan in the 1960s, the
temple was completely submerged. So UNESCO stepped in and moved the
temple to Agilkia Island. Today the temple located on an artificial hill
above the Aswan High Dam reservoir. It never floods and is accessible
only by boat.
The layout, statues, obelisks, frescoes, and bas-reliefs at each of these temples provide a museum of discovery. However, the “world’s greatest open air museum” is in the city of Luxor, formerly called Thebes. The temple complex includes the Karnak and Luxor Temples. The two temples are connected by the avenue of ram-headed sphinxes.
Luxor Temple whose main purpose appears to have been to celebrate the festival of Opet, one of the country's most important ancient annual festivals. During this festival, the statues of Amun, Mut (goddess of war), and
Khons (the moon god) were sailed down the river to Karnak to ensure the flooding of the Nile that was necessary to
national prosperity. The festival took place after the annual harvest and was attended by thousands of Egyptians.
Across the Nile River from the city of Luxor is the Valley of the Kings. In this barren desert is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. It includes more than sixty temples that were built for the worship of the deceased kings. One of those kings, Queen Hatshepsut, was a woman who wore and false beard and ruled Egypt as a king. Most of the tombs were elaborately decorated with religious text intended to guide the pharaohs into the afterlife. Fine robes, gold jewelry, furniture, food and drink, including wine, were stored in the tombs to be used by the deceased after their death.
Most visits to the country begin or end in the metropolis of Cairo, home of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. The museum is said to contain the world's largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts. A short drive from downtown Cairo is the Great Pyramid, the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one that is still reasonably intact.
For more photos of Egypt's tourist attractions, view this photo gallery.