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The Deir el-Bahari or Temple of Hatshepsut

The Deir el-Bahari is a complex of mortuary temples located on the west bank of the Nile. It is near the very famous Valley of the Kings near Luxor.

The very first monument to be built in the complex was that of the Pharaoh Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II, a ruler of the 11th dynasty. Subsequently Pharaoh Hatshepsut also built on the same site. The most important temple at the complex today is that of Hatshepsut.

The temple is colonnaded i.e. there are lots of columns joined placed at regular intervals and support the roof. The temple was designed by Senemut who was the royal architect during the reign of Hatshepsut. Some theories also suggest that he was her lover. Built into the cliff face and standing tall at around 97 feet, this temple is one of the extraordinary moneuments to be built in ancient Egypt.

There are three terraces and each terrace has reliefs that tell the tale of the birth of the first female Pharaoh of Egypt. Most of the statues have either been stolen or damaged, but whatever remains gives an idea of the grandeur and architectural beauty of the temple.

Overall, the location of the temple is what I feel is its major attraction. The gigantic rock wall behind the temple complex makes it a fantastic place to visit. Though there is nothing much to be seen inside, the facade itself is worth the visit. Do note that the temple faces the sun and as such the midday sun will be directed at you with no place to take shelter. So do carry lot of water and use sun protection.

Final word - Recommended because of the breathtaking location.

Towel origami or towel art in hotels

Towel origami or towel art is something you will find in most hotels across the globe. The towels are folded into different shapes ranging from birds and animals to different inanimate objects. Here are some towel art pieces done by the hotel staff in some of the hotels in Egypt.

Have you come across towel art during your stays in hotels?


The Mall of Arabia in Cairo

Mall of Arabia in Cairo is a huge shopping mall with a diverse selection of stores for all your shopping needs. It is called the largest mall in Cairo for a reason - it's huge and the mall is only half-way constructed. A must visit if you like shopping and eating out. You can do your shopping and grab your meal in one of the many restaurants in the open courtyard.

The mall has shops catering to fashion, electronics, cosmetics, jewellery, books, watches and accessories, home furnishings, gifts, luggage and bags, toys and a large Hyper market as well(Spinneys). Some of the cosmetic shops are L'occitane, Faces and Fortune. If fashion is what you are
after, you can choose from GAP, Salsa, Levi's, Zara, Tommy Hilfiger, U-Turn or Nike.

The mall is also an entertainment destination with 13 movie screens including high-impact silver screens. There is also an indoor play and entertainment area for children called as Billy Beez. There are loads of activities for kids and a Buzzy Cafe as well with a menu to suit the kids and adults alike.

One of the main attractions of the mall apart from the shopping is the musical dancing fountain. The fountain is located in the huge open area with restaurants on either side. You can have a lovely meal with family and friends in the evening while taking in the fountain show.

Mall of Arabia
6th of October City,
Juhaynah Square,
Cairo - Egypt
Phone: +202 38210500

Overall, its a modern happening mall with something for everyone's tastes. Do visit it. And if you like traditional markets more then head to the Khan el-Khalili market, which will transport you to an era back in time.

The Great Sphinx of Giza

A mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human, Sphinx has always been a fascination to me. And on our recent visit to Egypt, had the chance to see the Great Sphinx of Giza. Although there are many sphinxes in Egypt, the most famous and most visited I think is the Great Sphinx of Giza.

Located on the Giza Plateau near the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx is a limestone statue standing tall at almost 64 ft high and 241 ft long. It is said to have been built during the reign of the Pharaoh Khafra. But this fact is still debated by many. Numerous theories have been proposed pertaining to the time the Sphinx was built or as to during whose reign it was built.

The Sphinx remained buried under the sand for a long period and it was only in 1930s that it was excavated completely. The Sphinx is missing its nose and its beard. Again various theories have been proposed each claiming the loss of the nose to a different reason.

Well, whatever may be its date of construction or the reasons behind the missing parts, the Great Sphinx is a wonder. Don't miss it if you are in Cairo. To see the Sphinx in person does not compare with seeing it on televison or in movies. Up close it is amazing and an unforgettable experience.

Note: as with most tourist sites in Egypt, beware of the vendors. It tends to become annoying to be solicited so aggressively and persistently. Lot of peddlers around, so keep an eye out.

The Mosque of Muhammad Ali or the Albaster Mosque in Cairo

One of the main landmarks in Cairo is the Mosque of Muhammad Ali or the Albaster Mosque. The mosque situated atop the citadel was built in the memory of Tusun Pasha, the oldest son of Muhammad Ali. The mosque has a large central dome and four small circular domes which are surrounded by four semi-circualr domes. There are 2 minarets built in the Turkish style.

The mosque was built with limestone but some parts of it are tiled with Albaster and hence it is often referred to as the Albaster Mosque. The mosque also has a clock tower. Our guide told us the history of the clock. In 1829 Muhammad Ali Pasha, offered the two obelisks that marked the entrance of the Luxor temple to France as a friendly gift. In 1833 one of the obelisks was shipped to France. In return King Louis Philippe of France sent a clock to Muhammad Ali. Since the clock arrived in Egypt it has never worked. But nonetheless it was mounted onto the clock tower in the mosque and it remains there till date.

When you enter the mosque you need not cover you head but footwear is not allowed. You either remove your footwear or buy the shoe covers that are sold there. Also carry water and refreshing wet wipes as it is extremely dusty. Infact the whole mosque was covered in dust.

The interiors of the mosque are lovely. The design and the motifs on the ceiling was beautiful. The Chandeliers were lit up and it looked amazing. Lots of lamps were hung in a beautiful pattern.

The minbar(pulpit) of the mosque is beautiful with a striking green and gold colour combination and intricate carved work. This is where the imam (the one who leads the prayers) stands and delivers the sermons or lectures.

The views from the mosque are beautiful. You get a good panoramic view of Cairo from here. Overall, an interesting visit. If you love history and architecture, you will love this place.


The Stepped Pyramid of Saqqara (The Pyramid of Djoser)

The Stepped Pyramid or the Pyramid of Djoser is located in the Saqqara necropolis. The pyramid was built in 2630 BC by Imhotep for the Pharaoh - Djoser. Imhotep was the chancellor during the reign of King Djoser and was the one who designed the pyramid earning him the honour of being the first architect in early history.

Standing at 204 feet, the stepped pyramid was initially not intended to look like how it does. The construction was started off as a traditional flat roofed mastaba wherein the grave was supposed to be underground with just one step or mastaba over the ground. But over time, stretching over the 19 year reign of King Djoser, Imhotep added 5 more steps each decreasing in size as they rose upwards. This structure was to represent King Djoser's power and greatness.

The Stepped pyramid is said to be first ever stone construction by mankind. And when it was completed it was the largest building of its time. The entire Saqqara complex was surrounded by a 10 metre high limestone wall. The wall facade had 14 illusional gates/doors and one real gate which will lead you into the courtyard through the roofed colonnade. The false doors were meant for the passage of Kind Djoser's spirit between life and afterlife.

We went with a guide and it was really helpful as he explained the history of the place and about the King and his Chancellor. Last month during our visit the pyramid was under renovation and hence there was lot of scaffolding. Entry inside the pyramid was restricted. However, the pyramid was interesting to view from outside as well.

The best time to visit would be early mornings as the crowd of visitors is less at that time. It wasn't crowded when we went and we could look around peacefully. Take sufficient water and a sun hat as there is no shade inside the complex. There are locals inside offering camel/donkey rides. They will come over and offer to take your picture with the camel or the donkey. But be aware that they will ask for a payment for this later.

Overall, an interesting visit. Not as impressive as the Pyramids of Giza but worth as visit a this one is the 'original' pyramid - the first one ever to be built.