For 3,800 years the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world. Comprising 2.3 million limestone blocks, each weighing over two tons the Great Pyramid is an enigmatic testimony to the science and knowledge of its builders. . The ratios encoded within its dimensions describe the mass and orbital period of the Earth. The pyramid itself is a marker which divides the world’s land masses into four equal parts.
The Great Pyramid of Giza, with its attendant Sphinx and smaller pyramids in turn make up a star map of the constellation of Orion. That there is a mystery encoded in these stones is beyond doubt although the exact nature of that mystery remains controversial. The Great Pyramid has been described as a weapon system, a global marker and a prophecy machine. Its companion and guardian, the Sphinx remains silent on the subject.
On the East bank of the Nile at Luxor are the temples of Karnak and the temple of Luxor. Monumental statues, pylons and obelisks are all around you here. Rameses II, one of the mightiest pharaohs of antiquity has left his stamp and seal incised into the stone. For a different experience visit the complex at night beneath a canopy of stars.
Alexandria, named after the Macedonian conqueror of the third century BC is the cultural capital of Egypt and was once the cultural capital of the world. The twice-burned library of Alexandria stood in the harbour district here and served to educate Archimedes among others. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina today is a stunning modern building in the old harbour district. Designed by Norwegians, following a UNESCO competition which attracted 1,600 entries. The building hosts a tri-lingual archive in French, English and Arabic with space for more than 70 million books. Invisible to any observer, but nonetheless impressive, is the fact that the Bibliotheca Alexandrina maintains a complete copy and the only backup of the internet archive.
Earthquakes have struck Egypt on several occasions. The entire harbour and temple area of Alexandria was lost in 365 AD when an undersea earthquake sent a tsunami surging over the old city wall. Marine archaeologists are today investigating the ruins which lie offshore. The facings of the Great Pyramid were shaken loose in the earthquake of 1347 and can be seen today forming the fabric of the Mosque of Sultan Hasan in Cairo.
There are two major religions in Egypt each with their own architectural heritage. Coptic churches are dark, candlelit and mysterious with icons and faces of saints glittering in the gloom. The domes of mosques sometimes seem to be held up by air and impossibly thin pillars.
Many older buildings in Cairo and Alexandria show a decided Italian influence. Political instability in the mid-19th century brought architects from all over Italy to Egypt where they designed a number of flamboyant palazzos and villas.
Egypt has an architectural heritage spanning fifty centuries. No-one with an eye for man’s ingenuity and building skill is ever disappointed. Camera essential.
Adriano Comegna writes on behalf of Thomson holidays, a leading travel operator specialising in Egypt holidays.Tags: architecture, egyptian travel