Cleopatra’s Needle in London is one of three similarly named Egyptian obelisks and is located , on the Victoria Embankment near the Golden Jubilee Bridges. It was presented to the United Kingdom in 1819 by the ruler of Egypt and Sudan Muhammad Ali, in commemoration of the victories of Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and Sir Ralph Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801. Although the British government welcomed the gesture, it declined to fund the expense of transporting it to London.
Made of red granite, the obelisk stands about 21 m (69 ft) high, weighs about 224 short tons (203,000 kg) and is inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The obelisk was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III, around 1450 BC. Thutmose III had a single column of text carved on each face. Other inscriptions were added about 200 years later by Ramesses II to commemorate his military victories, these are in two columns on each face and these flank the original inscriptions. The obelisks were moved to Alexandria and set up in the Caesareum – a temple built by Cleopatra in honor of Mark Antony, but were toppled some time later. This had the fortuitous effect of burying their faces and so preserving most of the hieroglyphs from the effects of weathering.
The obelisk remained in Alexandria until 1877 when Sir William James Erasmus Wilson, a distinguished anatomist and dermatologist, sponsored its transportation to London from Alexandria at a cost of some £10,000 (a very considerable sum in those days). It was dug out of the sand in which it had been buried for nearly 2,000 years and was encased in a great iron cylinder.
The cylinder was dubbed Cleopatra and acted as a floating pontoon which was to be towed to London by the ship Olga. The effort almost met with disaster on 14 October 1877, in a storm in the Bay of Biscay, when the ship began wildly rolling, and became uncontrollable. Captain Booth (captain of the ship) reported the Cleopatra “abandoned and sinking”, but she stayed afloat, drifting in the Bay, until found four days later by Spanish trawler boats, and then rescued by the Glasgow steamer Spain for repairs. The William Watkins Ltd paddle tug Anglia, under the command of Captain David Glue, was then commissioned to tow the Cleopatra back to the Thames. A wooden model of the obelisk had previously been placed outside the Houses of Parliament, but the location had been rejected, so the London needle was finally erected on the Victoria Embankment on 12 September 1878.
On erection of the obelisk in 1878, a time capsule was concealed in the front part of the pedestal containing: a set of 12 photographs of the best-looking English women of the day, a box of hairpins, a box of cigars, several tobacco pipes, a set of imperial weights, a baby’s bottle, some children’s toys, a shilling razor, a hydraulic jack and some samples of the cable used in the erection, a 3 foot (0.91 m) bronze model of the monument, a complete set of contemporary British coins, a rupee, a portrait of Queen Victoria, a written history of the transport of the monument, plans on vellum, a translation of the inscriptions, copies of the Bible in several languages, a copy of John 3:16 in 215 languages,[ a copy of Whitaker’s Almanack, a Bradshaw Railway Guide, a map of London and copies of 10 daily newspapers.
Cleopatra’s Needle is flanked by two faux-Egyptian sphinxes, designed by the English architect George John Vulliamy. The sphinxes are cast in bronze and bear hieroglyphic inscriptions that say netjer nefer men-kheper-re di ankh, which translates as “the good god, Thuthmosis III given life”. These sphinxes appear to be looking at the Needle rather than guarding it, due to the sphinxes’ improper or backwards installation. On 4 September 1917, during World War I, a bomb from a German air raid landed near the needle. In commemoration of this event, the damage remains unrepaired to this day and is clearly visible in the form of shrapnel holes and gouges on the right-hand sphinx.
And here’s the location :