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Ramses II Obelisk (Gezira Island, Cairo)

Present Site:  Messalla Garden, Gezira Island, Cairo, Egypt
N 30°02'49.5"(30.047082) E 31°13'39.7"(31.227693)
Pharaoh:  Ramses II (New Kingdom 19th Dynasty, Reigned 13 Century BC)
Measurement:  20.4 meters high including the pedestal
13.5 meters high for obelisk itself
Stone:  Red granite

About The Site:
Gezira Island is an island of the Nile located between Cairo and Giza. The place where the obelisk stands is a small garden named Messalla Garden. This garden was, according to the Explanation Board at the entrance, made in 1962, in order to place the Ramses II Obelisk. In this Garden, the stone statues of Horus God and Ramses II are also placed, in addition to the Obelisk.

In this Gezira Island, there is a famous Cairo Tower, which is 187 meter high, built in 1961. The tower was re-opened in 2009 after a restoration. I could see well the Cairo Tower and the Obelisk from the balcony of my Hotel, Ramses Hilton. The picture below left is the one which I took from my room. The Obelisk is standing in the woods on the left. The bridge on the front is the 6th of October Bridge on the Nile. Compared with the Cairo Tower, the obelisk looks very small.

The Cairo Tower and the Obelisk
The Cairo Tower (right)
and the Ramses II Obelisk (left)
looking from Ramses Hilton


How To Get There:
From the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (commonly called as the Egyptian Museum), we can go to Gezira Island on foot by crossing the open space (trafic circle without a trafic signel) on the 6th of October Bridge on the Egyptian Museum. However, it may be risky for crossing the trafic circle due to a frequent traffic. If we could cross the trafic circle and walk the left side of the Bridge, we won't miss the way because the Obelisk can be seen well.
Alternatively, we can go there by taxi. However, most taxt drivers wouldn't know where is the Messalla Garden. Not only Messalla Garden, Al Andalus Garden where the south next garden would not be known by most local Cairo citizens.
This Gezira Island is rather known as "Zamalek" (or Zamalek District). We'd better to tell the taxi driver "Nobotel Cairo Hotel in Zamarek", as the Hotel is close to the Messalla Garden.

About The Obelisk:
This Obelisk is considered that Ramses II (New Kingdom 19th Dynasty, Reigned 1278-1212 BC) has originally erected in Per-Ramesses (or Pi-Ramesses) (Qantir at present), a capital city in Nile Delta built by Ramses II. Then, the Obelisk [and many other stones] were transported for re-using for Tanis Compex (Built in 20th - 22nd Dynasty, consists of the Great Amen Temple and many tumbs of Pharaohs in Third Intermediate Period.)
Labib Habachi says "23 obelisks or fragments of obelisks were unearthed in Tanis, all but one being inscribed with the name of Ramesses II (Ramses II)" in his book "The Obelisk of Egypt" (1984). There were 5 pairs of obelisks at the Great Amen Temple of Tanis. For the materials of other buildings in Tanis, the Ramses II Obelisks were re-used.
Egypt won the Suez Crisis (or 2nd Arab-Israeli War) in 1956, and made a United Arab Republic (UAR) incorporating with Syria in 1958. At that time, it was a time when the nationalism was extremely rising, but it was noticed that Cairo (a capital city of Egypt) doesn't have an obelisk, unlike many other foreign cities have it. Then, it was decided that to erect the Obelisk (Ramses II Obelisk), transported from Tanis.
Since the Obelisk (Ramses II Obelisk) in Tanis was fragmented, it was repaired with supplemented the missing parts. On east side, the preservation state is not good, as there are many repaired parts, and the inscription almost disappears. On other 3 sides, the preservation state is rather better, but the lower portions of inscriptions discontinue as thoes parts were supplemented by the stone materials. The horus name, coronation name, and birth name of Ramses II are engraved in order on each side. The notation of the king's name are same on 4 sides. However the sentences after the birth name are different depending on the side.
Pair: This obelisk (in Messalla Garden, Gezira Island) is identified as "North Obelisk of East pair of obelisks in middle of temple" which is referred in the Flinders Petrie's book "TANIS Part 1". On the other hand, a fragment (a part of main body) in Figure 37 in Tanis Reuins is identified as "South Obelisk of East pair of obelisks in middle of temple" which is referred in "TANIS Part 1". Hence, both are pair obelisks. Also, a fragment (upper portion of the obelisk) of "2. Obelisk of Ramses II (A)" in the Egyptian Museum is a pair with this obelisk (in Messalla Garden, Gezira Island). Therefore, the pair obelisk, its main body is currently in Tanis Ruins, and the upper portion is currently in the Egyptian Museum.

Notes For Pictures:
The contemporary Egyptians are surprisingly less interested in antiquities of ancient Egypt. There were little visitors at ruins in Egypt everywhere, particularly after the revolution of 2011, foreign tourists are drastically decreasing. When I visited Messalla Garden here, no visitors at all except myself. It was regret there was no visitor depite of closer location from the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (Egyptian Museum). If this obelisk was erected at busier locations like at the center of Tahrir Square or at the front garden of the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, many tourists and Cairo citizens would pay attention more, I thought.

West Side of Gezila Island Obelisk
West Side

South Side of Gezila Island Obelisk
South Side

North Side of Gezila Island Obelisk
North Side

East Side of Gezila Island Obelisk
East Side
August 4, 2014    by Hiroyuki Nagase    (For high definition image, please click the picture)

Copyright Hiroyuki Nagase nagase@obelisk.org and Shoji Okamoto okamoto@obelisk.org