Tour the Unfinished Obelisk, Aswan

The Unfinished Obelisk is one of the most popular sites in ancient Aswan and provides immense insight into the stone working methods employed by the ancient Egyptians.


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What is it?

What is the Unfinished Obelisk that you occasionally hear about on certain Egypt tours? The Unfinished Obelisk is a stone pillar with a rectangular cross section and an ascending, pyramid-style top. It is located in Aswan, Egypt and is famous for not only being the largest known ancient obelisk in the country but also one that was never finished. 

As the Obelisk stands now, it is nearly one third larger than any other ancient Egyptian obelisk ever constructed. Experts believe that if the Unfinished Obelisk were ever finished it would have measured about 120 feet and weighed almost 1,200 tons!


Why was it Built and then Left Unfinished?

Why was this obelisk built? Possibly to complement the Lateran Obelisk at Karnak. Why was the Unfinished Obelisk left unfinished? The creators first attempted to carve it directly out of bedrock. However, they soon discovered that cracks were starting to appear in the granite, which would not have made for a stable connection. The creators probably assumed this was the flaw of the stone, not entertaining the idea that the quarrying process actually caused the cracking by releasing the stress. Regardless, the project was eventually abandoned. 

Nevertheless, its construction, unfinished though it was, still provided a great deal of insight into ancient Egyptian stone-working techniques.

Besides the Unfinished Obelisk, tourists can also spot an unfinished and partly worked obelisk base, as well as rock carvings and other remains at the site. Tourists are treated to an “open air” museum where they can see these massive undertakings. Recently, the Egyptian government declared this unfinished masterpiece as a protected archeological site. 

When you are going on Aswan budget tours you may see the Unfinished Obelisk as one of your destinations. You should definitely look for luxury tours that include this feature, as this single piece of granite stone is the largest in the world!


Who Ordered the Creation?

Who is believed to have ordered the creation of the Unfinished Obelisk? If you’re thinking that it had to be someone as unorthodox as Queen Hatshepsut then you may be right. 

Many experts attribute the decision to start production of this giant obelisk to her, since this project was remarkably similar to her obelisk in Karnak Temple in Luxor. The final clue? Some reliefs depicting scenes of transporting an obelisk were found in Hatshepsut's Deir el-Bahri temple. It appears as if this queen had some unfinished business to take care of before her reign came to an end - but never got around to it. 

Make plans to go see the Unfinished Obelisk, a landmark achievement that was almost a world wonder.