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Things Tourists Should Not Miss While in Upper Egypt

Upper Egypt is the Southern section of the country. It was named that way due to the fact that the Nile runs from the South to the lower lands, the Northern section of the country, before pouring in the Mediterranean Sea at the end of his voyage coming from Ethiopia.

The ancient Egyptians the Nile Valley in their early stages of civilizations and some communities had a stable life in this region of Southern Egypt as early as the reign of the Old Kingdom. The most interesting and attractive parts of Upper Egypt for the tourists would certainly be Luxor and Aswan to its South.

1-   Visiting the Temple of Abu Simble

The rock-cut temples of Ramses II and the smaller temple of his wife Nefertari are simply the most breathtaking monuments of ancient Egypt and one of the famous landmarks of modern Egypt. The whole area, with the astonishing views of the Nile on top of the cliff, is wonderful.

The Temple of Ramses II, constructed to honor the king and the gods of ancient Egypt; Amun of Thebes, Ptah of Memphis, and Ra of Heliopolis, the temple was erected in the 13th century and remained buried under the sands until it was unearthed by the Swiss archeologist; Jean-Loius Burckhardt.

After the construction of the High Dam in Aswan in the 1960s to provide Egypt with its needs of water and electricity produced by the dam, many of the Pharaonic temples of Upper Egypt and Nubia faced the risk of drawing under the water of the River Nile. This was why many of these monuments were relocated through a huge project funded and supported by the UNESCO.

Abu Simble Temples were moved, after being scattered into smaller pieces, from its original location near Aswan, to this new artificial cliff situated 280 kilometers to the South of Aswan.

The most astonishing features of the Abu Simble Temple of Ramses II is the four rock-cut colossi of Ramses which are 33 meters high and they represent the king wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Another startling feature would be the hypostyle hall with the huge god Osiris shaped columns decorated with massive statues of Ramses II with the statues situated in the Northern section of the temple wearing the crown of Lower Egypt and statues in the South wearing the crown of Lower Egypt. The temple also documents the first peace treaty signed in the history of mankind and the battle of Qadesh when Ramses defeated the Hittites in 1275.

2- Exploring the Tombs of the Valley of the Kings

Kings of the New Kingdom, beginning in the middle of the 16th century BC, started digging their tombs deep inside this remote hidden valley named afterward by archeologists as the Valley of the Kings.

The tombs of the Valley of the Kings differ in shape, outline, and size. However, almost all of them share the beautiful bright colored wall paintings where the deceased is portrayed giving offerings to the gods and carrying out his normal everyday life activities.

Exploring these tombs is a must for any tourist visiting Upper Egypt with its marvelous colors that survived more than 3000 years. The most remarkable tombs of the Valley of the Kings are the tomb of Tuthmosis II, the famous tomb of Tut Ankh Amun, the tomb of Seti I and the Tomb of Ramses VI.

3-   Viewing the Hypostyle Hall of the Karnak Temple

The largest and most remarkable religious temple in ancient Egypt, the Karnak complex of temples was constructed as the center of the worship of Amun, the king of gods.

The first foundation of the Karnak Temple, named after a nearby village, was achieved during the reign of the Middle Kingdom, when Senusret I constructed the first shrine of the statues of Amun in the beginning of the 20th century BC. Afterwards, almost all Pharaohs and kings of ancient Egypt for more than 1300 years had their additions to the greatness of the Karnak.

Ramses II, the builder of many important constructions in ancient Egypt like the Abu Simble Temples, the Ramsseum; his mortuary temple located in the West Bank of Luxor, and many huge statues located all around Egypt, desired to always be distinguished. This was why he added the hypostyle hall to the already growing Karnak temple.

Supported by 134 gigantic columns being 22 meters in height, the construction of the hypostyle hall began in the ruling period of King Sethos I at the end of the 13th century BC and Ramses II continued a large portion of this magnificent section of the temple in the middle of the 12th century BC.

The hypostyle hall is divided into two sections; the northern and the southern sections which are divided by the central nave. These collections of huge stone bases are certainly the most astonishing section of the temple and it is a must-see for any tourist visiting the land of the Nile.

4- Spending three or four nights in a Nile Cruise


Marking a new trend in the pattern of the Egyptian tourism, staying in a Nile cruise ship, for a trip from Luxor to Aswan, Aswan to Abu Simble, or vice versa, has become very popular among the visitors of Egypt during the past decade.

The ships are finely equipped with all facilities a tourist might dream of including a sundeck, a swimming pool, internet, deluxe rooms, and the highest standards of services. There is also an enjoyable entertainment program for the guests which include different activities every night. A night would be dedicated to a cocktail party, another would include an oriental costume party, and the last night would usually consist of a belly dancer and an oriental live music band.

The guests get the chance to have breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and cocktails in the most pleasant ambiance riding in the River Nile. All Nile cruise ships have a wonderful comprehensive excursion program which includes exploring all the highlights of Luxor and Aswan, and even some of the highlights situated between the two cities like the Temple of Kom Ombo and the Temple of Edfu.

5- Exploring the Unfinished Obelisk in Aswan

Massive high structure made mainly out of granite, the ancient Egyptian used obelisks for various purposes including the honoring of certain events, recording religious inscriptions and showing the greatness of their kings and gods.

Ancient Egyptian obelisks are now spread in many capitals in Europe like Rome, Paris, and Istanbul as they were transferred to these cities in different sections of history when various dynasties took control of the land of the Nile.

The unfinished obelisk dates back to the reign of the New Kingdom and it is located in an ancient granite quarry in Aswan. Being approximately 1.8 million kilograms and 134 meters in height, the unfinished obelisk, if it was ever finished, it would have been the largest piece of metal humans has ever dealt with.  

What is really interesting in exploring the unfinished obelisk in Aswan is that the visit would include a live illustration and explanation of how the ancient Egyptians constructed their obelisks.