Explore Egypt with Google Earth… and vice versa

A few days ago I gave a talk “Explore Egypt with Google Earth” here in Cairo at the Dutch-Flemish Institute. How to bring a semblance of structure to such a topic?

The talk would not just be a good opportunity to show off Egypt’s charms using Google Earth; it would also a great way to show of Google Earth’s capabilities using Egyptian-themed content. Two ways into the talk… I felt a table coming on.

Along one axis, I sorted the content by subject matter into three themes — science, culture and history. Along the other axis, I listed some of Google Earth’s broad capabilities/functions: Democratization of access to data, collaboration, storytelling, geo-referencing and visualization. Then I populated the resulting cells with some favorite examples, like so:


It’s remarkable how quickly I found 25 different relevant items; even with each item getting on average only two minutes of limelight, my talk easily filled the hour.

I ended up doing my talk row by row, rather than column by column, but I think either works depending on the audience. And of course, this format could work with any country — just do a search on Google Earth Community and on a couple of the Google Earth blogs and KML repositories for a country name, and you should have a good selection. I also used some default layers and global content that is relevant to any country.

For reference’s sake, here are the links to the content I used:

Democratizaton of access to data

  • Craters: New crater discoveries in Egypt is one boon of free access to large amounts of satellite imagery.
  • Daily MODIS imagery including of Egypt.
  • Coral Reef monitoring: Monitor damage to coral reefs in the Red Sea.
  • Tracks4Africa (Default Gallery): A remarkably accurate crowdsourced mapping initiative for a continent often lacking good maps.
  • Amarna – new sites (GEC): Free satellite imagery helps archaeologists scour the region for new finds.



  • Wadi Al Hitan: Exploring a paleolithic site with GPS and a camera.
  • My Cairo: A collection of walks with georeferenced photos from Cairo.
  • National Geographic: Egypt’s hidden tombs, Gospel of Judas (Default Gallery)
  • Kom Firin: An archaeological dig in the Nile delta.


  • Geonames: The first line of attack for identifying places in Google Earth.
  • Coptic monasteries
  • Books (Default Gallery): Despite its rough edges, this layer works remarkably well on villages along the Nile, because every 19th century explorer of these parts mentions these towns.
  • Google Earth Community (Default Gallery): The first line of attack to identifying objects in Google Earth.


  • Avian Flu: Via which route did bird flu arrive in Egypt?
  • NASA Layer (Default Gallery): I used the example in the desert near the Sudanese border, where you can see an irrigation project expanding.
  • Population density (Default KML Gallery): See where Egypt’s population is concentrated (no surprises).
  • Yann Arthus-Bertrand: Georeferenced photos, but also “geopositioned” photos.
  • 3D Buildings (Default layer): Cairo, Luxor, St. Catherine Monastery
  • Khufu’s Pyramid in 3D
  • Tutankhamun’s tomb in 3D
  • Elephantine, by the German Archaeological Institute and the Vienna University of Technology: I left the best one ’til last. But this one needs a whole post to itself — coming up.

3 thoughts on “Explore Egypt with Google Earth… and vice versa”

  1. I am always very much fascinated by the mysteries of Egypt.One has to visit Egypt atleat once in life time, i dont think watching it through google earth will be so interesting.

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