All dwelling houses, built of timber or of sun-baked bricks, have disappeared; only temples and tombs, constructed in durable materials, have survived. The belief in existence beyond death resulted in sepulchral architecture of utmost impressiveness and permanence. Even during periods of foreign rule Egyptian architecture clung to its native characteristics, adopting almost no elements from other cultures.
Exterior and interior walls along with columns and piers were covered with hieroglyphic and pictorial frescoes and carvings painted in brilliant colors. Many motifs of Egyptian ornamentation are symbolic, including the scarab (sacred beetle), the solar disk and the vulture. Other common motifs include palm leaves, the papyrus plant and the buds and flowers of the lotus. Hieroglyphs were inscribed for decorative purposes as well as to record historic events or spells.
Corbels were widely used in stone buildings; and corbelled arches continued to be constructed a long time after the true arch had been invented. They can be found in pyramids and occasionally in temples. The use of corbelled instead of true arches limited the width of the free space underneath, but required less dressing of stones.
Scant tree growth prevented the extensive use of wood as a building material, but because fine clay was deposited by the floodwaters of the Nile, the ceramic arts developed early. Both sun-dried and kiln-dried bricks were used extensively. Fine sandstone, limestone, and granite were available for obelisks, sculpture, and decorative uses.
Most roofs of Egyptian buildings were flat and were used as additional floor space. In temples the roof was covered with tightly fitting stone slabs and in private houses they were waterproofed with mud, which, through the heat of the sun, became impervious to the rare, short rainfalls. The water had to run off - how this was problem was solved in the case of mud constructions is unknown, in stone temples on the other hand the solution dates back to the Old Kingdom: the water was collected in runnels running along the whole length of the roof and ending in a water spout. Since the time of Niuserre these spouts often took the shape of the fore part of reclining lions. But unlike in medieval gargoyles the water did not exit through their mouths but flowed off between their fore legs.
Temples were of two main classes; the mortuary temples, for ministrations to deified Pharaohs; and the cult temples, for the popular worship of the ancient and mysterious gods. The mortuary temples developed from the offering chapels of the royal mastabas and pyramids, assuming early permanence and ever greater importance... Cult temples began in the worship of the multifarious local deities.
The mastaba is the oldest remaining form of sepulcher; it is a rectangular, flat-roofed structure with sloping walls containing chambers built over the mummy pit. The pyramid of a sovereign was begun as soon as he ascended the throne. Groups of pyramids remain; those at Giza, which include the Great Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops), are among the best known. Many Middle Kingdom tombs were tunneled out of the rock cliffs on the west bank of the Nile, among them the remarkable group (c.1991–1786 BC) at Bani Hasan. New Kingdom temples in the environs of Thebes, such as those of Medinet Habu and the Ramesseum, derived their form from the funerary chapels of previous ages.
Ancient Egyptians believed in after life and did their best to build lasting tombs, to preserve the body, and to bury with it the finest commodities that might be needed for the sustenance and eternal enjoyment of the deceased. Such tombs are nowadays known as Mastabas, from their resemblance to the low benches built outside the modern Egyptian house.
For most of Egypt's ancient history, it was a land of fortifications. To some extent, all Egyptian ceremonial buildings, including temples and even funerary complexes, were intended to function as bastions of order and harmony, requiring at least symbolic fortifications to protect them from the surrounding chaos. And from the very beginning, we find references to Egypt's attempts to fortify their country, for the Memphis of Menes, united Egypt's earliest King, was known as Ineb-Hedj, meaning "the White Wall".
The most famous structure in all of Egypt, the Pyramids are still one of the world’s best architectural achievements. The first true pyramid i.e the ‘step’ pyramid of the Pharaoh Zoser at Sakkara demonstrates the most important stages of the evolution of a pyramid from a mastaba. Further stages of development are marked by one at Meydum and by two at Dahshur by Seneferu, first king of the Fourth Dynasty, including the so called ‘bent’ pyramid. The finest true pyramids are the famous three at Gizeh, built by the Fourth Dynasty successors of Seneferu.
Labourers working on great projects like the building of a pyramid stayed together for years and developed an ésprit de corps. They gave their crews names which they wrote on blocks of stone, immortalizing them. From Giza the teams of the "Pure Ones of Horus Medjedu", "Horus Medjedu is the One who Purifies the Two Lands", the "Companions of Horus Medjedu", the "White Crown of Khnumkhufu is pure", and the "Pure Ones of Khufu" participated in the erection of Khufu's pyramid, while Menkaure had crews like the "Companions of Menkaure" and the disreputably sounding "Drunks of Menkaure" serving him