By Islam El Shazly

Egyptian builders over the ages were very ambitious; and their patrons were even more so. Only in recent years has the grandiose gone away and got replaced by mediocre concrete construction attempting to mimic some of the European and North American architecture, with few exceptions of real architectural marvels.

From the early builders Djoser and Imhotep to the Khedive Ismail, they all left monuments as a testament to their vision, some visions were more attainable than others, and some put the country in debt. However their monuments remain as a reminder of the  sheer willpower and imagination they had. And maybe a little bit of ego!

One of the things Ancient Egyptians firmly believed in was their resurrection and an afterlife, that’s why they obsessed over burial rituals, where the body will be buried and how it will be buried, and their kings and Pharaohs believed themselves their gods avatars on earth, and they built monuments accordingly. Proper mega-structures, and in the first place has got to be the great pyramid of Khufu and its two younger siblings.

At some point the knowledge of building pyramids is forgotten, but it got replaced by other monumental feats of architecture taken on by the likes of Seti I and his son Ramses II, Hatshepsut, Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies and the Romans, who took up the mantle of construction and commissioned some of the greatest work in history, unfortunately some of them never made it to modern times, like the Great Library of Alexandria, which now lends its name to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a modern marvel and one of the exceptions to the rule.

They would be followed by a lot of great urban planning and renewal from the time of the Islamic conquest and onwards towards the Khedival Egypt, with the many brilliant buildings left for us by Khedive Ismail – at great expense, he emptied the coffers and got Egypt in debt – like the Gezireh palace that was commissioned to host the French Empress Eugénie who was invited along with her husband the French Emperor Napoleon III to the opening of the Suez Canal, another mega project at that time.

There’s no shortage of beauty and creativity in Egypt, it was just covered up in indifference, corruption and greed, with some grime and smog for over 60 years, and by promoting better heritage conservation and reminding the people of what they used to have and how gorgeous Egypt used to be we can give rise to a new breed of architects and patrons of the arts to start a new monumental urban revolution.

You can find more information about Qasr Ibrim and New Kalabsha and the great monuments of Nubia right here.

Egypt: Gezireh Park, The Palace, Cairo

Egypt: Gezireh Park, The Palace, Cairo (Editor: Currently it is the old wing of the Cairo Marriott Hotel.)

Egypt: People

Egypt: People (Editor: this is the original Qasr El-Nil bridge built in the late 19th century, the current one was built in the 1930s.)

Egypt: Entrance to Pyramid of Cheops

Egypt: Entrance to Pyramid of Cheops

Egypt: Mosque of Amr, Ablution Fountain, Old Cairo

Egypt: Mosque of Amr, Ablution Fountain, Old Cairo

Egypt: Roman Fort, Ibrim

Egypt: Roman Fort, Ibrim (Editor: This is the only monument to survive the flooding of Lake Nasser in its original location.)

Egypt: The Temple, Kalabsheh, Nubia

Egypt: The Temple, Kalabsheh, Nubia (Editor: It was relocated from its original location to New Kalabsha when the High Dam was built.)

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