Updated: May 7, 2020
Amongst oceans of time and sand, the ancient treasures of Egypt still stand regal. Relics of bygone eras give off a sense of mysticism and majesty amongst the modern day, pillars of former prestige and sacred tombs that feel as old as the Earth itself sit side-by-side with modern metropolises. As critical as the current-day may be to the enchantment of a location, much of a trip’s magic lies in what’s already been written in the history books. Few locales can match the claim to your imagination as well as ancient Egypt. Pharaohs and mummies feel larger than life and ever-present around every corner.
For that reason, diving into Egypt’s storied history during a visit is an absolute must. But, with an overabundance of timeless cultural treasure, picking where to visit and what to see can be an adventure in itself. Whether you’re hoping to captivate your young ones with history brought to life, or feel like you yourself are an adventurous tomb-scouring archeologist, here are three quintessential treasures of Egypt you and your family simply can’t miss.
THE PYRAMID OF KHUFU (GIZA)
Considered by many as the literal face of ancient Egypt, not many structures from bygone civilizations are capable of capturing imaginations the world over as well as The Great Pyramid of Giza and The Great Sphinx—partly because so few other structures from bygone civilizations can boast that they’re still standing.
The Great Pyramid of Giza (formally known as the “Pyramid of Khufu”) is the middle, and largest, of the three iconic pyramids. Built sometime between 2589 and 2504 B.C., the near-thirty story tall mountain of stone is believed to have been created as a tomb for the Pharaoh Khufu. To put the endeavor in scale: If Khufu was Pharaoh for 30 years, his subjects would’ve needed to lay one 2.5-ton stone every two to three minutes per 10-hour workday. The final product of their labors contains a number of shafts and three (known) chambers—the king’s chamber, a theoretical queen’s chamber, and a subterranean chamber that still has archaeologists unsure of its purpose. Visiting the king’s chamber is not only possible but an obligation. Seeing for yourself the red granite sarcophagus in a nearly 4000-year-old tomb is a moment of your life you’ll never forget. While there are no booby traps along the way, a fair word of warning for the claustrophobic: It is a tight squeeze in the tunnels to get there.
THE GREAT SPHINX OF GIZA
Orbiting the three pyramids are clusters of mortuary and valley temples, as well as smaller pyramids more commonly known as satellite or queen’s pyramids. In the case of Khafre’s pyramid (the smaller one on the highest elevation among these treasures of Egypt), the enigmatic Great Sphinx stands in addition to a designated valley temple. Carved out of the limestone bedrock of the region, this 241-foot long monument depicts a lion with the head of a man. To date, much of the Sphinx is still a riddle. Modern Egyptologists are pretty sure it was built in approximately 2500 B.C. for the pharaoh Khafre, just as they’re pretty sure that his likeness was used for the Sphinx’s face. But, that’s where the certainty seems to end—no one is even sure what the Sphinx was called in its time, as “Sphinx” comes from the era of classical antiquity, roughly 2000 years after the structure was carved. All these questions and more flood to the surface of thought as soon as you stare into its blank eyes—proving why it pays to visit with an Egyptologist.
VALLEY OF KINGS—TUTANKHAMUN’S TOMB
The Valley of the Kings is etched into the land itself along the west bank of the Nile, a cemetery of grandeur unmatched anywhere else in the world. Housing the graves of Egyptian pharaohs and nobles from the 16th century to 11th century B.C., there is a wide diversity of tombs consolidated here—some no more than a simple pit, some massive expanses containing up to 120 chambers. Of all the tombs discovered so far, undoubtedly the most famous is Tutankhamun’s Tomb. Discovered in November of 1922, the tomb had miraculously stayed mostly hidden since the original burial (two grave robberies in Greek antiquity being the exception) and still held a treasure trove of solid gold to accompany the sarcophagus. While much of the inner objects have since been transported to museums throughout the world, the sarcophagus is still there today, allowing you to retrace the famous steps of the legendary Egyptologist and tomb-raider Howard Carter.
All set to carve your own adventure through the ancient Egyptian landscape, but not certain on the best path, or where to even start? Speak with one of our travel agents. Besides being well-versed in the intricacies of planning a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to the treasures of Egypt, they boast professional connections to industry-leading names in travel.