The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza, the tallest monument in the world until the 20th century, is one of the seven wonders of the world. It once served as the royal necropolis (burial place) for royalty in Memphis, the capital city of ancient Egypt. In 2550 B.C., King Khufu commissioned the building of this pyramid, and many experts believe it took only thirty years to build---and over two million blocks of stone, most of which weigh at least 2.5 tons each. The Great Pyramid of Giza stands less than five miles from Cairo on the Giza Plateau, making it highly accessible.
Try to arrive early so you can explore before it gets extremely crowded. in fact, that's a good rule of thumb for many of the sites mentioned here. While you're there, you may be approached by many vendors offering their wares as well as camel rides. Be prepared to fend them off, bargain or purchase souvenirs.
Climbing the pyramids is no longer allowed, but often visitors can explore inside the pyramids.
The Great Sphinx of Giza
The Great Sphinx stands at the entrance to the pyramids of Giza. It may be the largest stone sculpture ever created by humans, and it's the oldest one in Egypt. This mysterious figure has a pharaoh's head and the body of a lion. It may have been built around 2500 B.C., although scholars have different theories about its origin.
Edfu was an important city in ancient Egypt, and the temple of Edfu remains one of Egypt's most famous monuments. It still remains largely intact as well, and visitors often express surprise at how fresh-looking everything is. It almost seems that a royal family could still be living there.
Visitors could wander around the Karnak complex, an elaborate maze of buildings, for hours or even days. You can climb to the top of one of the buildings to get your bearings. Inside the complex, you'll see the Grant Court and the great hall that Ramses built. In the background, you'll see the Sacred Lake by the eastern gate, as well as the ruins of the Osiris Tomb and other sacred structures.
Luxor Temple, on the east bank of the Nile, hosted the important festival of Opet. This festival celebrated a king's transformation into a god. After the 18th Dynasty, the festival included a parade of statues of the royal family, which were taken downriver from Karnak to Luxor. The temple of Luxor sits in the city of Luxor, called Thebes in ancient times. Luxor Temple has many similarities to Karnak. Impressive columns line its grand colonnade and other areas. The areas include courts and numerous sphinxes. Carvings bedeck the grounds. Visitors will discover the most ancient areas of the temple when they make their way to the center; that is common with temple complexes.
The Catacombs of Kom el-Shuqafa
These catacombs--built within the mountain bedrock in the second century--are the largest burial site in ancient Egypt. Over three-hundred bodies have been buried here within three stories. Within the catacombs lies a banquet hall; it's used for funerary feasts. Descending into this hidden realm will give you a fascinating look at one of ancient Egypt's most sacred traditions. The ability of ancient Egyptians to carve elaborate catacombs into the mountains will astound you.
The Valley of the Kings
Pharaohs of the 18th to 20th dynasties built their tombs in the mountains in what became known as the Valley of the Kings in order to elude grave robbers. The tombs of Tutankhamun, Ramses the Great and Tuthmosis III lie here. Designated as a World Heritage Site, the Valley of the Kings stands across from Luxor on the west bank of the Nile. New tombs have been discovered recently in the Valley of the Kings, as our knowledge of ancient Egypt continues to grow.
Many tourists recommend going to Egypt in the spring, to avoid the heat and crowds of travelers that summer brings. Whenever you go, though, you're sure to enjoy yourself and come away with an enhanced understanding of ancient Egyptian culture.