An obelisk "from the Greek word means nail, pointed pillar" is a tall, narrow, four-sided, tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top, said to resemble a 'petrified ray' of the sun-disk. A pair of obelisks usually stood in front of a pylon which is the facade at the front of the temples. Ancient obelisks were mostly monolithic – one solid piece of pink granite mainly from Aswan. Most modern obelisks are made of several stones and can have interior spaces.

There are approximately 30 Ancient Egyptian Obelisks in existence today, 7 in Egypt, 13 in Italy and 10 scattered around the world in Turkey, UK, France ,USA and other countries.

Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, has threatened to take back the Egyptian Obelisk currently in Central Park in New York City unless the City of New York takes steps to restore it.

In a letter to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Hawass said the ancient obelisk “has been severely weathered over the past century with no effort made to conserve it, and I –Hawass-have a duty to protect all Egyptian monuments whether they are inside or outside of Egypt”
“If the Central Park Conservancy and the City of New York cannot properly care for this Obelisk, I will take the necessary steps to bring this precious artifact home and save it from ruin,” Hawass wrote.

The obelisk, which commemorates the great General and King Thutmose III, has stood behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art since 1881. This amazing one piece Obelisk of Egyptian Aswan Rose Granite stands 71 feet (21.6 meters) tall, weighs almost 244 tons, is known as “Cleopatra’s Needle” and is one of a pair. The twin Obelisk is in Westminster, London.

The history of the Obelisk itself dates back 3,500 years. In 1869, Khedive Ismail Pasha, the ruler of Egypt, gave the Obelisk to the United States to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal. It took another decade for the gift to reach Central Park.

“I am glad that this monument has become such an integral part of New York City, but I am dismayed at the lack of care and attention that it has been given,” Hawass stated in the letter.

“Recent photographs that I have received show the severe damage that has been done to the obelisk, particularly to the hieroglyphic text, which in places has been completely worn away.”

Hawass finished his letter, which is posted on his blog, by writing: “I strongly urge you to focus your efforts on saving this Obelisk and preserving it for future generations. I am confident that you can find the resources in New York City to conserve this monument properly and pay this treasure the respect that it deserves. I eagerly await your prompt reply.”

A statement from Jonathan Kuhn, director of Art and Antiquities for the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, states: “We have been working in recent years with the Metropolitan Museum and the Central Park Conservancy to further analyze the condition of the Obelisk and monitor its condition. There is no evidence at this point of any significant ongoing erosion.”

This 3,500-year-old monument stands directly behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. To celebrate the 30th year of his reign, Egypts strongest pharaoh Thutmosis III (1479-1425 B.C.) Commissioned a pair of Obelisks for the holy city of Heliopolis. In 12 B.C., they were moved to Alexandria, where they stood until the 19th century, when all great cities around the world clamored for an ancient Egyptian Obelisk. The Khedive of Egypt gave one Obelisk to England in 1879 and the other to America in 1881, as part of his celebrations of the opening of the Suez Canal. Nowadays such generous gifts are not permitted under Egyptian law.

Author's Bio: 

My name is Avril Betts, I have over 25 years experience in all aspects of Travel and Tourism. I hold a CHA (Certified Hotel Administrator). Along with my partner Khaled Azzam we own A-Z Tours and Action Travel in North America along with Travelocity Travel Egypt in Cairo, Egypt.

I have co-chaired Atlantic Canada Showcase an International Travel Trade Show, managed 450 volunteers for the Tall Ships Visit in July 2000, and was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia. In 1996 I hosted the president’s wives luncheon for the G7 conference. In 1988 I founded the Country Inn Association in Nova Scotia.

As an experienced speaker I have presented seminars for many years on subjects ranging from Marketing and Sales and Life Skills to Tourism, Travel and Real Estate, and operating an online Travel business.

I enjoy working with tourists to pass on my knowledge to help our clients make the most of their vacations. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or travel inquiries.

For more information or tours and cruises check out