Skip to main content

A 3500-Year-Old Monument of Egyptian Antiquity in Central Park, New York, and Another in England.

History of Cleopatra's Needle and the journey from Egypt to the U.S. and England.

Temple of the Sun god, Egypt

Temple of the Sun god, Egypt

Map of Heliopolis, Egypt

Map of Heliopolis, Egypt

The History of Cleopatra's Needle

Some 3500 years ago, two obelisks were commissioned for Pharoah Totmes to stand outside the temple of the Sun in the city of Heliopolis, Egypt. They would stand there until 525 B.C. when the Persians invaded Alexandria destroying much of the city. . The obelisks were toppled and lay buried in the sand for 1500 years until Emperor Augustus moved them, Alexandria. That is probably why they were named Cleopatra's Needle, although she had nothing to do with them. And Cleopatra is a legend of Alexandria, and her palace was located there.

In 1878 the Egyptian government then gifted one to the United States and one to England. The obelisks weighed 220 tons, stood sixty-nine feet in height, with the base alone weighing fifty tons, and stood twenty-seven feet high.

Standing today in Central Park, New York, west of the Metropolitan Museum after its long journey from Egypt and with the financial help of William H. Vanderbilt, donating $103,000 for the cost of the transportation. Cleopatra's Needle, 3500 years old and even older than New York itself.

First, the ship Dessoug was commissioned to transport the obelisk from Egypt to New York, but it would be challenging. Finally, it was determined to cut a hole thirty feet long and twelve feet high to 'slide' the obelisk into the ship. After a long journey, the ship arrived at New York Harbor. A special railroad was built to load the obelisk for its journey to Central Park. It would take forty days to transport the obelisk to its site from the harbor. Thousands watched as the obelisk was on its way and then watched as a derrick stood the obelisk upright on its base.

Over the years, careful and tedious restorations have been done to preserve this piece of Egyptian antiquity, the last done in 2014.

Ship Dessoug

Ship Dessoug

Cleopatra's Needle  Central Park Location

Cleopatra's Needle Central Park Location

Time Capsule in Cleopatra's Needle in Central Park

Placed in a special box of the base of the Needle, the time capsule contains the following:

  • 1870 Census
  • The Bible
  • Webster's Dictionary
  • Complete set of Shakespear's works
  • A Guide to Egypt
  • A copy of the Declaration of Independence
  • Masonic Emblems

England's Cleopatra Needle.

The obelisk gifted to England stands in Westminster near the Golden Jubilee Bridge, drawing thousands of visitors each year. To transport the obelisk from Egypt, a special ship was built by the Dixon Brothers, and when finished, it resembled an iron cylinder 93 feet long and 15 feet wide. This ship was aptly named Cleopatra. The steamship Olga was towing her when a treacherous storm off the coast of France threatened problems. Volunteers were sent in a small boat to rescue the crew from the Cleopatra, but unfortunately, the small boat capsized, drowning all the volunteers. The names of the volunteers are on a plaque at the base of the obelisk in their honor. Thousands cheered when the ship arrived safely in England. Two large Sphinxes grace each side of Cleopatra's Needle.


Time Capsule of England's Cleopatra's Needle

In the time capsule beneath the Needle contains:

Scroll to Continue
  • Twelve photographs of the best looking women in England
  • Children's toys
  • A collection of British coins
  • A Bible
  • A map of London
  • A portrait of Queen Victoria


fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on May 04, 2021:

Pamela, thank you for your visit and comments. Hope you get a chance to see them.

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on May 01, 2021:

Thank you so much for your visit. I hope you will get to see them.

Amara from Pakistan on April 30, 2021:

How cool, I am a big fan of ancient Egyptians and everything about them.

Would love to see these monuments..

Interesting article..

fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on April 30, 2021:

Peggy, thanks for visiting. Amazing how they transported them.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 30, 2021:

These monuments must be something to see in person! Thanks for telling us about them, how they were transported, and what is buried with each of them.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 30, 2021:

I really enjoyed this wonderful article, Fran. It is wonderful that all artifacts are restored, and I know it is a tedious job. I wish I could go see them. Thanks for sharing this fascinating information.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 30, 2021:

This is a fascinating article. I have often wondered what the history of the needles was.

Related Articles