The Unfinished Obelisk is a mass built in granite that measures 40 meters long and weighs more than 1,000 tons, whose function, if it had been completed, would have been that of all the obelisks of the years of the pharaohs: guarding the entrances of temples, such as the Karnak temple and Luxor temple.


Of all the mysteries surrounding Ancient Egypt related to archaeological finds, that of the Unfinished Obelisk is perhaps one of the most fascinating. And not because of curses or mystical questions, but because its scholars still do not fully understand or agree on aspects related to its construction.

The Unfinished Obelisk is a structure abandoned thousands of years ago in the quarries north of the city of Aswan. Archaeologists agree in attributing its construction to Hatchepsut, the pharaoh who ruled Egypt during the 18th Dynasty and who was the wife of Thutmose II. Under his rule the temple of Deir El Bahari on the west bank of Thebes was also erected. Hatshepsut reigned between 1490 BC and 1468 BC under the full name of Maatkara Hatshepsut and was the longest reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt.

In the time of the pharaohs and other cultures of the ancient world many obelisks were built but none as long or as large as the Unfinished Obelisk, that if it had been finished, it is believed to measure about 42 meters and weigh almost 1200 tons.

For its construction, the obelisk was excavated directly from the granite bedrock in which it stands today and at some point during its construction cracks began to appear in the rock, which is assumed to have caused the project to be abandoned. But the fact that the piece is unfinished for archaeologists is a real gift, because they can access the ornamentation of the whole and learn in great detail what techniques the ancient Egyptians used for their stonework.

Carving monuments directly into bedrock was a very common technique of ancient builders in Egypt. For the task, the masons evened out the area with stone balls to eliminate imperfections and thus ensure that the surface was always smooth. Some of these balls are still preserved in Aswan and their effectiveness was due to the fact that they were harder than granite, so they never broke or cracked when hit directly and repeatedly against another surface.

The first of the doubts that assailed the researchers who studied the Unfinished Obelisk was that, if the obelisk had not cracked and had been finished as planned, how would they have managed to remove it from the ground in which it was carved? Many years after this question arose, it was discovered that they used wet wooden planks that they inserted into rectangular cavities in the stone. The plank system worked like this: all the grooves were filled with sun-dried pieces of wood and then submerged in water, which allowed them to expand and push the carved rock away from the surface.

What is still the subject of controversy and debate among specialists is how they were able to carve pieces with such precision in a single block and from a rock as hard as granite. And even more: How did they manage to transport such heavy blocks hundreds of miles away? And the doubts continue. How did they manage to hoist those heavy and huge columns?

Some theories maintain that the obelisks were transported in boats on the Nile River, since many were found in temples near the coast. But even though they were close to the river, it has not yet been discovered for sure how they managed to move these granite masses to the ships or how the ships supported so much weight. But that’s the fascinating thing about the Egypt of the Pharaohs, that there is still so much to discover, that its history is still being written thousands of years later.

So, once you have read all this information, the best thing to do is to discover it for yourself in person and travel to this quarry north of Aswan to contemplate the magnificence of the Unfinished Obelisk. And once there, you can give free rein to your imagination and try out your own theories and explanations of a phenomenon that remains fascinating.

When you enter the Aswan quarry where the Unfinished Obelisk is located, you will see that there are several paths so that you can walk between the different levels and have all possible perspectives of the monument. You will also find in the quarry an exhibit of some of the artifacts that were used to carve the many monuments that originated here and there is a small store where you can buy souvenirs.

How to get to the Unfinished Obelisk

The Unfinished Obelisk is located in the northern quarries of Aswan, 4 km from the train station. If you go on your own, the best way is to go by cab, but we recommend that you hire a guided tour service that usually includes the transfer to your accommodation. Some Nile cruise packages, both those that start and end in Aswan, also often include a guided tour of the Unfinished Obelisk as an extra.


The site where the Unfinished Obelisk is located is open daily from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Visit prices

The normal entrance fee for adults is 80 EGP and for accredited students 40 EGP. Some travel agencies sell a package of guided tours with transfers including the Unfinished Obelisk, Aswan Dam, Lake Nasser and Philae Temple for a price ranging from 55 to 60 euros,

Photos of the Unfinished Obelisk in Aswan

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