Summer vacation is a time to embrace the heat, embark on outdoor adventures, and travel to new and exciting cities. For many, Washington, D.C., is a popular summer destination since it is full of rich history, iconic landmarks, and fascinating cultures such as Egyptian culture, which is reflected in the city’s architecture, museums, and restaurants. National Geographic is celebrating Egypt this summer, and we encourage locals and tourists alike to experience Egypt by visiting these attractions.
1. Visit D.C.’s most famous obelisk—The Washington Monument
Obelisks are tapered monolithic pillars that were originally erected in pairs at the entrances of ancient Egyptian temples. The Washington Monument isn’t technically an obelisk because it is not made from a single piece of stone, but it does mirror the shape of these impressive structures as it is wider at its base than at its pyramidal top. During the time the monument was constructed in the 19th century, many people had been swept up in a wave of “Egyptomania,” a fascination with the imagery and ideas of ancient Egypt. Intended to evoke the timelessness of ancient civilizations, the monument’s construction was completed in 1884 and stands at a height of just over 555 feet.
2. See the sphinxes outside of the House of the Temple building
When walking around the Dupont Circle neighborhood, make sure to stop by the House of the Temple building located at 1733 16th St. NW to admire the two massive sphinxes flanking its entrance. A sphinx is a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion. The largest and most famous sphinx is the Great Sphinx of Giza near the west bank of the Nile River in Egypt. The sphinxes located at the House of the Temple building are adorned with Egyptian hieroglyphs. They are sculpted from two solid blocks of limestone and each weigh about 17 tons.
3. Stop by and admire the height of The Cairo—D.C.’s first residential skyscraper
The Cairo, located in Northwest D.C. near the intersection of Q St. and 16th St., was built in 1894, making it D.C.’s first residential skyscraper. Standing at 164 feet tall, the building is Egyptian-themed with elephant heads on the windowsills, Egyptian columns, and a carved stone facade. Complaints were made about the The Cairo’s height causing Congress to pass the Height of Buildings Act in 1910, which limits the height of buildings in the District’s residential and commercial areas. Fun fact: The Cairo was originally a hotel, boasting guests such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Edison.
4. See the queens of Egypt at the National Geographic Museum and enjoy our Family Day on Saturday, July 20
While there has been considerable intrigue surrounding the male pharaohs of ancient Egypt, very little has been revealed about its queens—until now. Visit the “Queens of Egypt” exhibition at the National Geographic Museum, located at 17th St. and M St. NW, to learn about the most powerful women in ancient Egypt including Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Nefertari. Walk among more than 300 artifacts including monumental statues of the goddess Sekhmet, embark on a 3D tour of one of the most lavishly decorated tombs in the Valley of the Queens, and be immersed in the daily life and afterlife of ancient Egyptians while admiring their impressive sarcophagi. The exhibition has extended its summer stay until September 15, so make sure to visit before it officially closes. One option would be to come for Family Day: Secrets of Egypt on Saturday, July 20 for access to the museum among other fun-filled Egyptian-themed activities like live talks from National Geographic Explorers, games and performances, and so much more.
5. Learn about eternal life in ancient Egypt at the National Museum of Natural History
Craving more info on mummification and the afterlife? Visit the National Museum of Natural History, located on 10th St. and Constitution Ave NW. One of the most important ancient Egyptian beliefs was that a person could not reach the afterlife if their body did not survive. This is why Egyptians embalmed and preserved the bodies of the deceased, creating mummies. The “Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt” exhibition includes artifacts excavated from Egyptian tombs such as pottery vessels, jewelry, tools, and mummies.
6. Admire ancient Egyptian art at the Freer Gallery of Art on the National Mall
While on the Mall, head over to the Freer and Sackler museums of Asian art, located on Jefferson Drive and 12th St. SW. The Freer’s impressive ancient Egyptian collection contains a standing figure of Horus, the falcon-headed Egyptian sky god, and his painted wooden shrine. The collection—developed by Charles Lang Freer from his trips to Egypt between 1906 and 1910—contains objects dating back to 2500 B.C. Other highlights include a pair of stone falcons, a world-famous collection of glass vessels, and a group of amulets depicting gods, goddesses, and sacred animals.
7. Visit The Textile Museum to see the vibrant colors and textures used to decorate medieval Egyptian homes
Textiles were everywhere in the villas, palaces, pavilions, churches, mosques, and homes of medieval Egypt. The Textile Museum’s newest exhibition, “Woven Interiors: Furnishing Early Medieval Egypt,” opens this August and invites guests to experience the stunningly ornate tapestries, wall hangings, curtains, bedcovers, pillows, and fabrics used in a range of sacred and secular spaces. The exhibition contains fragile and rare pieces from the fourth to 12th centuries of the finest material and with such beautifully weaved designs, leaving no question as to how ancient Egypt developed a reputation for their high-quality textile production.
8. Walk up Embassy Row and take a photo in front of the Embassy of Egypt
When walking up Massachusetts Avenue NW toward Cleveland Park, make sure to stop by the Embassy of Egypt, located at 3521 International Court NW. The embassy was built to replicate the architecture of a pharaonic temple and the building contains beautiful images of Egypt, many of which were captured by National Geographic photographers. They host a number of events throughout the year including lectures and talks on Egyptian history. Upon passing the building, make sure to wave to Ambassador Yasser Reda who has proudly served as Egypt’s ambassador to the United States of America for four years.
9. Venture over to Arlington, Virginia, to try koshary from the new restaurant King of Koshary
All this walking around town can certainly work up an appetite! Head down to Arlington, Virginia, to try out a new Egyptian restaurant: King of Koshary, located at 5515 Wilson Blvd., which serves delicious Egyptian and Mediterranean dishes. One such dish is called koshary—a vegan rice, macaroni, and lentils dish topped with chickpeas, tomato sauce, and fried onions. Koshary is the restaurant’s signature dish but they also offer a variety of kabobs, oxtail, and seafood all prepared in traditional Egyptian styles.
10. Eat healthy for a great cause at Fava Pot
Fava Pot, located at 7393 D Lee Highway in Falls Church, Virginia, began as a popular food truck in 2013 before it became a brick-and-mortar restaurant four years later. Their mission is to source high-quality ingredients to cook authentic Egyptian and Middle Eastern fare, and with each purchase they give back to Egyptian orphans in need. They’ve teamed up with Coptic Orphans to develop a program called Coptic Girls Rising, which offers a yearly scholarship to sponsor five ambitious girls working toward a college degree. Recommended dishes are their grilled Cornish hen, aish baladi or “village bread,” fava bean falafel, and kofta patties. Visitors to the Family Day event on Saturday, July 20 will have a chance to try some of these delicious dishes at the Fava Pot food truck, which will be parked at National Geographic headquarters for the day.
While on your Egyptian scavenger hunt, consider entering into our Experience Egypt in D.C. Instagram Contest. To enter: Take a photo at each location listed above, create an Instagram story, and tag @NatGeoMuseum. First five (5) complete entries will receive a National Geographic Adventure Backpack 15L by Eagle Creek. Approximate retail value of prize is $49. Contest is open only to U.S. citizens who are 18 years of age or older and have an Instagram account at the time of entry. Entries which contain, in the sole discretion of the Sponsor, obscene, provocative, defamatory, sexually explicit, or otherwise objectionable or inappropriate content; or promote alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco, firearms/weapons will be disqualified. Employees of National Geographic Society and related parties are not eligible. Entries must be received by 9/15/19 at 11:59 pm EDT. One entry allowed per person. Sponsor: National Geographic Society, 1145 17th Street NW, Washington DC, 20036.