North Africa

Attractions in Egypt

Muhammad Ali Mosque

The Muhammad Ali Mosque is one of the largest churches in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, and is located there in the Saladin Citadel. It is one of the main attractions of the city and, thanks to the interior lining of the walls, it is called the Alabaster Mosque. It was built at the request of Pasha Muhammad Ali and the construction lasted from 1824 to 1884. He himself did not see the completion and was buried in it (and another 40 members of his family).

The construction of the mosque

The Greek architect Jusuf Boschna (also Bosnak Yusuf or Youssef Boschna) was inspired by the Ottoman style of the New Mosque (Yeni Cami) in Istanbul when planning the Egyptian mosque and also used baroque elements.
The mosque has two minarets (towers that call to prayer), each over 82 meters high, the large dome reaches a height of 52 meters. There are four more small domes and four hemispheres on the sides.
Immediately upon entering the Muhammad Ali mosque, the visitor should notice a fountain in the large arcaded courtyard. He is there so that the person praying can purify himself before entering the mosque. There is a large clock tower on the western side of the courtyard, but its clock never worked. It had been a present from King Louis Phillippe, King of the French, in 1846 as a gesture of thanks for the Luxor Obelisk.
Inside the mosque there are two impressive pulpits and the floor is lined with red carpet. The walls are decorated with gold reliefs and lamps have been placed around them for lighting.

What to look for when visiting

The Muhammad Ali Mosque can also be visited by non-Muslims outside of prayer times. That is why a visit is always worthwhile, for example on a study trip. However, care should be taken to appear in appropriate clothing, otherwise capes will also be distributed at the entrance. In addition, shoes should be removed before entering.

Holy island of Bigeh

This island was sacred to the Egyptians in the times of the pharaohs. Bigeh is a collection of rocks in the first cataract of the Nile. In ancient times it was located west of the island of Philae, which fell victim to the project of the Aswan High Dam and sank in the murky waters of the river. Bigeh was part of the so-called Islands of the Osiris Trench and was of great importance in ancient Egyptian mythology as the original mound of the creation story.

A red granite statue

The island’s hieroglyphic name was Senem, and the ram-headed Num-Ra was its patron saint. Numerous inscriptions from the 18th dynasty and the remains of a statue from the Middle Kingdom were found here. The statue made of red granite was dedicated to Osiris and bears the inscription “Darling of Sati and Anke”. The inscription of an official from the time of Ramses proves that there was already a destination for pilgrimages here in antiquity: “I have come to you so that I may be among all the servants of the gods who are in Senem”.

Nobody should disturb the peace

Entering this holy island in the Nile was only allowed to a few, because nobody should disturb the “tranquility of creation” by fishing, hunting or making music. A temple on the island was dedicated to Osiris and Isis and was considered a station and anchorage on the way of the processions from the Hagian Gate to the Abaton, where, according to ancient Egyptian belief, the sources of the Nile were hidden.

A bright point on Jupiter’s moon

The ancient Egyptian god Khnum had been the ruler of the island of Bigeh since the 12th dynasty, before he lost his esteem in later times due to the worship of the gods of the Osiris circle and finally disappeared completely. It is thanks to hieroglyphs and their deciphering that the importance of Bigeh for the history of Egypt became known. A bright point on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede was named after Bigeh and bears the explanation: “Island on which the Egyptian god of the Nile ruled”.

Presence

Around 300 people lived here until the Aswan Dam was built. The tour operator Studiosus has been promoting a local network for sustainable tourism since 2018. Work is being carried out on the realization of an ecovillage in order to increase the attractiveness for visitors and residents.

Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings is one of the most popular attractions in Egypt. It is surrounded by high mountains and on the edge of the desert in Thebes-West. A visit to this place of worship is an absolute must for every culture lover.

The valley of the kings – the cemetery of the pharaohs

Almost all pharaohs were buried in the Valley of the Kings, the largest concentration of necropolis. The oldest grave that has been discovered is the grave dungeon of Thutmose I. This ruled in the period 1530-1520 BC. To date, 64 graves and pits have been found in the Valley of the Kings. The graves carved in stone were created in years of craftsmanship. The burial chambers were carved out of the massive desert rock in painstaking detail.

The tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amon

The tomb most visited by tourists is the final resting place of the ancient Egyptian king Tutankhamun, who lived from 1354 – 1345 BC. prevailed. This is the only undamaged royal grave, after almost all royal tombs fell victim to looters in ancient times. The tomb was discovered by the British Egyptologist Howard Carter in 1922. The remains of Tutankhamun are still in the burial chamber in his sarcophagus. The treasures from the tomb can be admired in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Even if only a small proportion of the graves can be visited due to the ventilation of the rooms, a visit to the Valley of the Kings is an absolute highlight on any trip to Egypt.

Valley of the Kings