Cleopatra's Needle

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The Cleopatra's Needle in New York City

Cleopatra's Needle is the popular name for each of a pair of ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London and New York City during the nineteenth century.

Although these needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, their shared nickname is a misnomer, as they have no connection with the Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime. The London and New York needles were originally made during the reign of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose III. An earlier reference states Queen Cleopatra brought the London obelisk from Heliopolis to Alexandria for the purpose of decorating a new temple but it was never erected and lay buried in sand on the shore until presented to Great Britain in 1819. The New York needle was the first to acquire the French nickname, "L'aiguille de Cléopâtre",[1] when it stood in Alexandria.

London needle[edit]

Cleopatra's needle being brought to England, George Knight, 1877

The London needle is in the City of Westminster, on the Victoria Embankment near the Golden Jubilee Bridges.

It was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III, around 1450 BC. In 1819, Muhammad Ali Pasha gave Britain the obelisk as a gift. However, Britain's prime minister at the time, Lord Liverpool, hesitated on having it brought to the country due to shipping expenses.[2] It remained in Alexandria until October 1877 when its transport to London was funded by William James Erasmus Wilson.

New York needle[edit]

The New York City needle was erected in Central Park, just west of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on 22 February 1881. It was secured in May 1877 by judge Elbert E. Farman, the then-United States Consul General at Cairo, as a gift from the Khedive, Muhammad Ali Pasha[citation needed], for the United States remaining a friendly neutral as the European powers – France and Britain – maneuvered to secure political control of the Egyptian Government.[3]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lucas, Paul (1724). Voyage du sieur Paul Lucas, fait en MDCCXIV, &c. par ordre de Louis XIV dans la Turquie, l'Asie. Sourie, Palestine, haute & Basse Egypte, &c. 2. Rouen. pp. 24–25.
  2. ^ "Egyptians are upset by Britain's disregard for a gift". The Economist. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  3. ^ "Obelisk". The Official Website of Central Park NYC. Central Park Conservancy. February 12, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2019.

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