Encircle Egypt: Egypt has been one of the most fascinating countries in the Middle East for over 12,000 years. This gallery hints at the abundant historical gems along the River Nile from Cairo in the north to Abu Simbel in the south.

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1 Camel and Egyptian Man at Step Pyramid in Cairo, Egypt

The Step Pyramid of King Djoser at Saqqara was built around 2,650 BC. It is considered to be Egypt’s first pyramid. The ancient structure is over 200 feet tall and consists of six external levels. Underground it is more impressive. There is a network of chambers, tunnels and galleries traversing over three miles. This camel seems to be smiling with pride. Or was he puckering up for a kiss from his Egyptian owner?

Pyramid of Djoser Saqarah, Al Badrashin, Giza Governorate, Egypt
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2 Mosque of Muhammad Ali in Cairo, Egypt

Sitting atop the Moqattam Hills within the fortified Cairo Citadel is the impressive Islamic Mosque of Muhammad Ali. This famous place of worship was built with limestone in the mid-nineteenth century by Muhammad Ali Pasha al-Mas’ud ibn Agha. Many people consider him to be the father of modern Egypt. This Ottoman-style mosque consists of one central dome and four semi-domes. The two minarets are over 260 feet tall. This landmark structure, also called the Alabaster Mosque, is visible throughout much of Cairo, Egypt.

Privet Entrance, Bel Kalaa Al Abageyah, Qism El-Khalifa, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
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3 Great Pyramids and Camels at Giza, Egypt

The pyramids of Giza near Cairo, Egypt are a must see. On the left is the Pyramid of Khafre. Also called The Great Pyramid, it is the largest, oldest and only remaining of the Seven Wonders of the World. The pharaoh ruled from 2558 to 2532 BC. In the middle is the 26th century BC Pyramid of Menkaure. The three smaller structures are the Pyramids of the Queens. The meandering camels were trudging home after a long, hot day in the desert.

3rd Point Parking, Nazlet El-Semman, Al Haram, Giza Governorate, Egypt
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4 Great Sphinx and Pyramid of Khufu at Giza, Egypt

A short distance from Cairo is the country’s most iconic archeological treasures. The Great Sphinx was built around 2,500 BC. This 240 foot statue has the shape of a lion with the face of Pharaoh Khafre. The likeness is magnificent despite the missing nose. In the background is the Pyramid of Khufu. Also called the Great Pyramid, it is the largest and oldest of the three pyramids surrounding the Sphinx. This architectural marvel is over 450 feet tall and consists of 2.3 million limestone and granite blocks.

Great Sphinx of Giza Al Haram, Giza Governorate, Egypt
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5 Horse with Pyramid of Khafre in Background at Giza Necroplis near Cairo, Egypt

Behind this horse is the Pyramid of Khafre. It is the second largest of the three famous pyramids at the Giza Necroplis near Cairo, Egypt. This is the tomb of Khafre. The pharaoh died in 2532 BC. Over the millenniums, many of the limestone casing stones were stolen. This vandalism gives it the distinctive, mini-pyramid appearance towards the 448 foot peak. Horses and camels are a frequent sight around the area. The former is used for work, transportation and some tours. The latter are primarily reserved for tourist rides and photo ops.

Giza Necropolis Al Haram, Giza Governorate, Egypt
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6 Reclining Limestone Statue of Colossus of Ramesses II in Memphis, Egypt

Memphis, Egypt, was the capital city along the Nile’s west bank beginning in the Old Kingdom in the third millennium BC. It is now an open-air museum containing ruins, a sphinx, granite statues and monuments. The site’s main treasure is inside a two-story courtyard: a magnificent, 33 foot statue of the reclining Ramesses II. He reigned from 1279 to 1213 BC during the New Kingdom era. This stunning limestone statue is called the Colossus of Ramesses. It used to stand outside the God Ptah temple. His idealistic image includes the royal headdress called a nemes, the diadem headband and the uraeus cobra snake, plus his false, rectangular beard.

Memphis Mit Rahinah, Al Badrashin, Giza Governorate, Egypt
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7 Colossi of Memnon Statue of Amenhotep III with Hot Air Balloon near Luxor, Egypt

This is one of two huge, 1,000 ton statues of Amenhotep III called Colossi of Memnon. He was the King of Egypt from 1382 to 1344 BC. The pharaoh built a 4.2 million square foot temple in the ancient city of Thebai on the Nile’s west bank near Luxor. From 27 BC. until 130 AD., this 75 foot, quartzite block used to make bell sounds in the mornings. They are all that remain of the temple after it was washed away by the river.

Colossi of Memnon, Al Bairat, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
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8 Harnessed Donkey with Saddle in Luxor, Egypt

Donkeys and mules have been used in Egypt to carry heavy loads and people for over 3,000 years. Some were treated like royalty. For example, ten were found buried in a tomb worthy of king. The majority of these animals had a hard working life. They also became the subject of ancient derogatory maxims resulting in slang words we still use today. Around 1,000 BC., their role as transportation was taken over by camels. Most of the three million donkeys in the country now share the same tasks as their ancestors, like this harnessed donkey in Luxor, Egypt.

Haret Marghani, Luxor City, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
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9 Osiris Statues at Deir el-Bahari or Temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Luxor, Egypt

The three temples of Deir el-Bahari are located near Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. The most impressive is the enormous and beautiful Djeser-Djeseru or the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. She was an Egyptian pharaoh in the mid-1400s BC who dressed like a male king. Her appearance included wearing the traditional false beard. A huge ramp leads to one of the three colonnade terraces built into the side of a cliff. The entrance is guarded by this row of Osiris statues, who is the god of the afterlife. The queen was transformed into this deity when she died.

Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, Kings Valley Rd, Qesm Al Wahat Al Khargah, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
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10 Man Holding Chicken Drinking Black Tea at Market in Luxor, Egypt

Most people traveling to Luxor visit the ancient Egyptian temples and the Valley of the Kings and Queens. But to get a true flavor of the city, avoid the sougs and street markets catering to tourists. Instead, ask your tour guide to visit a traditional, outdoor market. You will discover everyday scenes like this one where men sit on cages holding pigeons and chickens while drinking their tea called Shai. In Luxor, a popular tea is Koshary. The beverage is very black, brewed in boiling water and sweetened with either cane sugar or mint leaves. Perhaps this gives Egyptians the energy to bargain with shoppers. Every simple transaction becomes a lengthy ritual of sipping tea while debating the price. As we walked through, you could tell they were surprised to see an American in their midst.

El-Souk, Luxor City, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
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11 Pigeons in Baskets and Egyptian Women at Market in Luxor, Egypt

Luxor, Egypt, was once a thriving city for tourists who come to see the ancient temples and tombs of kings. But a series of tragic events, such as a massacre in 1997, the civil demonstrations since 2011 called “Arab Spring,” and a hot air balloon crash in 2013, have kept many of the foreign visitors away. The severe economic impact has caused the locals to find income by growing their own food and raising pigeons, like these for sale at an open market.

El-Souk, Luxor City, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
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12 Woman Shop for Grain at Market Wearing Abaya and Head Scarf in Luxor, Egypt

This Egyptian woman was shopping for grains from colorful, burlap sacks at an open-air market in Luxor. Young Egyptian woman have adopted many Western fashion trends. However, older women still wear the traditional abaya. This is a large, often black and shapeless dress. It is typically accompanied by a scarf covering the hair but not the face. This attire is often worn for religious reasons. However, it is also a practical garment to shield from the intense heat and wind-driven sand.

El-Souk, Luxor City, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
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13 Egyptian Woman Sitting on Curb in Luxor, Egypt

Many older women in Luxor, Egypt, still wear the traditional Abaya robe with black veil and open-toed sandals. This must be incredibly uncomfortable in the hot, dusty climate of Egypt.

El-Madina, El-Monawwara Gazirat Al Awameyah, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
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14 Relief in Temple of Horus Sanctuary in Edfu, Egypt

The Temple of Horus on the Nile River was completed in 57 BC after 180 years of construction. It is considered to be the best preserved Ptolemaic temple in Egypt and is the second largest. The temple was dedicated to Horus, the falcon-headed god and the lord of the sky. The sacred sanctuary, where a statue of the deity was kept, is surrounded by golden reliefs. This one has two images of Horus. His left eye was the moon and the right was the sun. Also carved was an image of King Ptolemy IV Philopator. All pharaohs were considered to be incarnations of Horus. Between them is Hathor, the goddess of love and beauty.

The Temple of Horus at Edfu Adfo, Markaz Edfo, Aswan Governorate, Egypt
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15 Ptolemaic Relief of Horus and Ta-Sent-Nefer in Kom Ombo Temple in Kom Ombo, Egypt

In the center of this Ptolemaic relief in the northern section of the Kom Ombo Temple, Egypt, is Horus wearing the pschent crown. As the falcon god and patron of lower Egypt, he embodied the sky, sun and moon. His eye was the symbol of protection, royal power and good health. On the left is Ta-Sent-Nefer, his companion. Her name meant “the good sister.” On the right is King Ptolemy VI, the son of Cleopatra. The temple was built from 180 to 47 BC.

Kom Ombo, Nagoa Ash Shatb, Markaz Deraw, Aswan Governorate, Egypt
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16 Nile Lechwe Walking Along Nile River at Sunset near Kom Ombo, Egypt

The Nile flows over four thousand miles from Alexandria to Aswan. This distance makes it the world’s longest river. For Egyptian towns, this is the primary water source for transportation and farming. Its annual flooding supplies silt and irrigation creating a fertile path through the desert. Along the riverbanks, the farm buildings, practices, crops and free-roaming animals appear little changed since ancient times. This female Nile lechwe – an endangered species of antelope – was meandering along at sunset. I call this photo, “Rush Hour on the Nile.”

Kom Ombo Nagoa Ash Shatb, Markaz Deraw, Aswan Governorate, Egypt
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17 Spice Jars in Egyptian Market at Aswan, Egypt

The Nile River floods during most summers. This seasonal event brings rich nutrients that fertilize the valley around Aswan, Egypt, and make the land ideal for farming. Since 1970, these waters have been controlled by the High Dam. Nearby, reachable by a boat called a felucca, is a traditional market filled with textiles, clothing and spices like these on display. But watch out: I was almost stampeded by a runaway camel.

Bazar El-Sabr & El-Iman Sheyakhah Oula, Qism Aswan, Aswan Governorate, Egypt
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18 Giant Statues of Pharaoh Ramesses II at Temple of Ramesses in Abu Simbel, Egypt

In the Nubian Desert in southern Egypt is the Temple of Ramesses in Abu Simbel. Outside are four mammoth images of the pharaoh. They were carved out of a mountain in 1244 BC. Nearby are two smaller temples. One is dedicated to Hathor, the goddess of motherhood. The other honors Queen Nefertari, the wife of Ramesses the Great. When these sites were threatened to go underwater from Lake Nasser, $40 million was spent over four years to dismantle and reassemble them 650 feet away.

Abu Simbel Temples, Aswan Governate, Egypt
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19 Pharaoh Ramesses II Statues at Temple of Ramesses in Abu Simbel, Egypt

It is extremely hot in southern Egypt on the shores of Lake Nasser. Located there is the almost deserted town of Abu Simbel. Few people would visit here if not for two spectacular temples built by Ramesses II. He ruled for 66 years until he died in his mid-nineties in 1213 BC. These are two of four colossal statues of the pharaoh sculpted into the face of a cliff. They guard the entrance to the Great Temple. This is also called the Temple of Re-Harakhte or the Sun Temple. These magnificent carvings are over 65 feet tall. They portray him on his throne wearing a double crown and a nemes headdress. Notice on the left that his false beard is still intact.

Abu Simbel Temples, Aswan Governorate, Egypt
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