Cleopatra’s Needle


needle.jpgLondon, Paris and New York all share a similar landmark, an ancient Egyptian obelisk presented to their countries by the rulers of Egypt in the 19th century.

London’s Cleopatra’s Needle stands along the banks of the Thames on Victoria Embankment between Waterloo and Westminster Bridges. It was originally made for Pharaoh Thutmose III around 1460 BC and erected in the city of Heliopolis; hieroglyphic inscriptions were added 200 years later by Rameses II. Over a thousand years later the Romans moved the obelisks to Alexandria, where they were eventually toppled and buried in sand.

In the early 1800s Britain defeated Napoleon’s forces in battles in and around Egypt; in 1819 the Viceroy of Egypt, Muhammed Ali, presented the obelisk to Britain in commemoration of these victories.

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However, the Needle’s unwieldy size (68 feet high and about 180 tons), required the commissioning of a specially-built vessel for its transport to London. This proved such an epic undertaking that the Needle didn’t actually arrive in the city until 59 years later, in 1878.

In 1882, a pair of large bronze sphinxes were added, flanking Cleopatra’s Needle on either side.

The Needle is about 200 metres to the left of Embankment Underground station as you face the River Thames. Map