Anyone visiting London for the first time and walking along the Thames Embankment may be surprised to come across an original Egyptian obelisk.
This obelisk is known as Cleopatra's Needle …though it has very little to do with Cleopatra at all.
It was made in Egypt for the Pharaoh Thotmes III in 1460 BC, making it almost 3,500 years old. It is known as Cleopatra's Needle as it was brought to London from Alexandria, the royal city of Cleopatra.
It seems Britain wanted something big and noticeable to commemorate the British victory over Napoleon, sixty-three years earlier. The Needle arrived in England after a horrendous journey by sea in 1878.
The British public subscribed £15,000 to bring it over from Alexandria in Egypt, and waited eagerly for the 'needle' to arrive.
Cleopatra's Needle stands on the Thames Embankment close to the Embankment underground station. Two large bronze Sphinxes lie on either side of the Needle. These are Victorian versions of the traditional Egyptian original. The benches on the Embankment also have winged sphinxes on either side as their supports.
There are four plaques mounted round the base of the Obelisk giving a brief history of the 'needle' and its journey to London.