Egypt and the Nile

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Unfinished Obelisk

The site of the Unfinished Obelisk is situated on the southern edge of Aswan town in the Northern quarry and is being promoted as a tourist attraction in an attempt to attract more visitors to the Aswan area. It is included in most of the cruise boat itineraries. Much of the red granite used within the ancient temple sites and for colossi came from the quarries in the Aswan area. The quarries being so close to the Nile meant that the granite blocks could be loaded on to boats and shipped downstream to the building sites.

The Unfinished Obelisk was discovered in 1922 by Egyptologist Rex Engelbach, and it still remains attached to the bedrock by its underside The project was abandoned when a large fissure was discovered during  the process of being hewn from the rock. This is always a risk when quarrying. As layers are removed, the pressures on the freshly exposed rock change, different parts expand at different rates, and the rock reacts by fissuring. Today we are grateful that the crack appeared, because it gives us an insight into how these structures were created, which otherwise we would not have known. It is thought that. The obelisks were roughly shaped prior to leaving the quarry so reducing the weight enabling the obelisk to me moved a little easier. Reliefs depicting the transportation of an obelisk can be found in Hatshepsut's mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri.

If this obelisk had been extracted and erected as originally conceived, it would have stood 41.75 m (137 feet) tall and weighed 1,185 tons, dwarfing all others. The largest surviving obelisk, the Lateran obelisk in Rome, rises 105 feet and weighs 455 tons.

The basic shape of the obelisk was hewn out by workers pounding out the shape using dolerite rocks and creating a one meter trench around the perimeter in the shape of the obelisk. This was possible as the dolerite rock is even harder than the granite.

When visitors arrive at the site, they pick up their entrance tickets from the building in the photograph, you then follow a route up through the old quarry to the site of the Unfinished Obelisk.


This picture has been included to help you evaluate the climb. The way up is not difficult as the site is accessed over reasonably flat stepped layers of rock, but if you have more serious walking difficulties, it may prove a problem. At the bottom, there is a tree which produces enough shade to sit under if you decide that the climb is not for you. It also acts as the meeting point for coach parties to meet up again after viewing the obelisk.

Unfinished Obelisk 1 Unfinished Obelisk 2 Unfinished Obelisk 3