In central London is the rather unexpected sight of an Egyptian obelisk covered in hieroglyphs, standing on the edge of the river. Flanked by a pair of stylized Sphinx, this small piece of Egyptian history on the Embankment has a long and unusual history, defying the odds to be here at all.
Standing 86 feet high, weighing 180 tonnes and made of syenite granite, this obelisk is one of a pair, the other being in New York. The name 'Cleopatra's Needle' is something of a misnomer, as it was created at least 1,400 years before she was born.
The obelisks were made over 3,460 years ago from a quarry near Aswan, a city on the banks of the River Nile in southern Egypt. They were made by order of Pharaoh Thutmos III, who reigned from the age of two until his death 54 years later in 1425 BC. Thutmos III had a single column of hieroglyphs carved on three sides:
"King of the two countries. He made this tribute to his father Harmachis. These two obelisks he built and stood up and tipped them with gold at the time of his first 30 years festival. As he desired it, he did it. Son of the Sun.
He multiplied, Lord of the gods, festivals of the Persea tree in the midst of the temple of the Phoenix; he is his son; he is the sacred and divine body whose limbs extend everywhere. Son of the Sun.