Cleopatra's Needle is the name given to an ancient Egyptian obelisk located on the north embankment of the river Thames in central London. Although it has nothing to do with Cleopatra herself, its story is still a fascinating one.

Standing about 70 feet (22 metres) high, the obelisk was first erected in Egypt for the Pharoah Thothmes III in about 1500 BC. It was one of a pair which were found by western archaeologists during the 18th century and they were originally used to flank the Great Temple at Heliopolis. About 1500 years later they were moved to Alexandria which is probably where they picked up their association with Cleopatra.

In 1819 one of them was presented to Britain in recognition of Nelson's victory over the French fleet during the battle of the Nile -- the other ended up in the United States several years later and now stands in Central Park in New York City (more information about that one).

London's needle is flanked by two enormous bronze sphinxes and even the benches on the streets and the street lights in the area have been given an Egyptian motif. Hieroglyphics inscribed into it tell of the glories of the Pharoah who ordered it built, as well as later tales added by Rameses II to praise and celebrate his military successes. Slightly easier to read are the four plaques around the base of the needle which give a brief history of its origins and also comemmorate the sailors who drowned when the ship bringing the obelisk to Britain was wrecked during a storm.