Quirks & Quarks·Analysis

Travel to far-off places and far back in time through VR

Bob McDonald's science blog: Here are some exotic locations you can visit virtually while you're physically distancing at home.

Bob McDonald's science blog: Technology gives us a chance to visit exotic locations

A view inside the basilica of the 4th century Coptic Orthodox "Red Monastery" of St Pishay in Egypt's southern Sohag province, about 500 kilometres south of the capital Cairo. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)

If you are feeling confined at home, you can escape to the tombs of Ancient Egypt and other historic sites using 3-D web sites.

Thanks to Egypt's Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and some collaborators, a range of the country's archeological wonders are available as 3-D tours that can be explored through your home computer. 

They've been making announcements of new 3D tours of historic sites on their Facebook page, and the tours available so far are stunning.  

The interiors of two Ancient Egyptian tombs and another cemetery site, a 14th century cathedral and a medieval mosque and historic synagogue have been scanned in high resolution detail. Some of them have further information embedded in the tours from historians and archaeologists. 

They include: 

The tomb of Menna located near the town of Luxor. Menna was an official in Ancient Egypt, probably during the reign of Amenhotep III, roughly 1350 years BCE.  The tomb is one of the most photographed by visitors because of the abundance of colourful paintings on the walls.

Details are seen on the wall of the tomb that belongs to Queen Meresankh III at the historical site of the Giza Pyramids, near Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

The tomb of Queen Meresankh III, the wife of Pharaoh Khafre who lived about 4600 years ago. The tomb features unusual wall carvings and a stairway that leads even farther underground to the actual burial chamber. It is an eerie experience taking a virtual walk down the narrow stone stairs. You really feel like you are there.

Beni Hasan is a cemetery with 39 tombs, dating to the Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, with burials from the 21st to 17th centuries BCE

The Red Monastery is a Coptic Orthodox Christian monastery dating back to the 4th century, located in the city of Sohag. You can go right up to the Altar, positioned under an elaborately decorated dome and imagine what it must have been like to attend a ceremony there.

Statues are seen at the tomb that belongs to Queen Meresankh III at the historical site of the Giza Pyramids, near Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012. When Queen Meresankh III died shortly after the reign of Khafre, Meresankh was buried in an extensively decorated mastaba tomb at Giza along with a rock-cut chapel. Inscriptions on the tomb provide both the time of her death and the date for her funeral, which followed some 272 days after her death. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

The Ben Ezra synagogue in Old Cairo is a beautiful building, famous for the trove of historical and religious documents found in it during a renovation in the late 19th century.

The Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Barquq Has an open air court and many side chambers to explore.

In some ways, visiting these sites allows you to see more detail than if you were there in person. During the height of the tourist season, Egyptian archeological sites can become crowded with busloads of people trying to take photos, tour guides speaking loudly and pressure to keep moving because there is a line of people waiting outside.  Virtual tours allow you to explore at your own pace and see close up details you might otherwise miss.

Hopefully, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities will continue to scan other sites, such as the interior of the Great Pyramid of Cheops or the tomb of King Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings so they can be explored from the comfort of home as well. 

The citadel of Machu Picchu is seen during its reopening in Cuzco, Peru. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)

Until then you can visit other historical sites through Google Earth. It doesn't provide the scientific background but does give you a sense of being there.  Here are a few fun ones.

And get right out of this world with this tour of the International Space Station.

The Italian-made Columbus lab module of the International Space Station (NASA)

About the Author

Bob McDonald is the host of CBC Radio's award-winning weekly science program, Quirks & Quarks. He is also a science commentator for CBC News Network and CBC-TV's The National. He has received 12 honorary degrees and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

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