If hearing the name Cleopatra makes you think of Elizabeth Taylor, then you really should think about planning a history lesson at the British Museum. But for a quick slice of Egyptian art and culture head over to the River Thames at Embankment, where you’ll find a 70ft-high red granite edifice called Cleopatra’s needle—a genuine ancient obelisk.
It was presented to the United Kingdom in 1819 by Mehemet Ali, the Albanian-born viceroy of Egypt, in commemoration of the victory of Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile. Historically, it has little to do with the famous queen and apparently owes its name to the specially-designed pontoon that allowed its transportation to the UK some 50 years after it was gifted to the country. A confusing little tale, but worth a brief examination—especially if you’ve checked off the similar monuments spread out in Paris and New York.