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A cradle of civilization, learning, and culture, Egypt is as old as mankind and unlike anything else in the world. It has been called the first tourist destination in the world, having attracted the ancient Greeks and Romans to come peer at its storied architectural marvels. Located where Asia touches Africa, it exquisitely blends the tradition and timelessness of both continents. With a mysticism and uniqueness of culture that sparks the imagination of globetrotters unlike almost anything else, is it any surprise that Egypt ranks with the world’s foremost travel hotspots?
Sporting a Red Sea coastline teeming with posh resorts, as well as unrivaled heritage tourism (the pyramids! the Sphinx!), Egypt’s siren song echoes powerfully across the desert. The Nile wends its way across the otherwise starkly dry land, bringing life and vibrancy wherever it goes. History is engraved on Egypt unmistakably, the centuries written on the landscape: there are medieval churches, rubble created by the ravages of World Wars, and countless temples, mosques, and landmarks erected by pharaohs, conquerors, and kings as dynasties came and went with the slipping by of eons.
Ride camels over the sand dunes, dive phenomenal coral reefs, and gaze up at the impassive, eternal face of the Sphinx as the day slips into night in smudgy washes of violet and blue. Revel in everything Egypt has to offer, and spare a moment to appreciate how many before you have trod these roads.
Top Egypt Attractions
Enormous and densely populated, Cairo dwarfs every other city in not just the Middle East, but Africa as well. This is your gateway to the pyramids of Giza! Visit Coptic Cairo, the oldest part of the city and the birthplace of Christianity in Africa. The enormous Egyptian Antiquities Museum contains countless treasures from the pyramids and beyond—pharoahs’ jewels, sarcophagi, and clay pottery. The golden death mask of King Tut is here! The pyramids of Dahshur and Saqqara may not be as well known as those at Giza, but they are well-worth a visit and you’ll have to compete with a lot fewer tourists to get a peak. In particular, the stone step pyramid of Saqqara is a standout! Don’t miss the bustling city market scene, or the mellow social joys of sharing a water pipe with friends at a hookah bar.
The historical gateway to the Valley of the Kings is also considered the world’s largest open-air museum. The city was constructed on the ruins of Thebes, one of the great cities of the ancient world. The necropolis of Thebes is still a major attraction, drawing millions to gaze at the ruins and tombs of the West Bank. Check out the Luxor Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built around 1400 BC, as well as the Luxor Museum, which contains a number of Theban artifacts. History buffs will enjoy the Mummification Museum, where you can learn all about the ancient embalming process that preserved the pharaohs. A relaxing felucca boat ride is another quintessential experience while in town.
Named for Alexander the Great, who hand-selected it as the capital of his vast empire, it’s not hard to understand why “Alex” was considered fit for a king. It perches on the Mediterranean Sea, all shining water and grandeur. The twentieth century has seen the rebuilding of the library here, in honor of the ancient one that was burned (along with a fair bit of the world’s written knowledge at the time), a shining and magnificent thing with a planetarium, conference center, and attached museum. One of Alexandria’s most enjoyable areas is the Corniche, a shopping, dining, and retail hub that runs along the waterfront. Stroll the storefronts, take in a bite to eat, or sunbathe on the beach. Notably, the booksellers of Alexandria are some of the best-stocked and numerous in the world… bibliophiles will go mad with excitement here.
The Pyramids of Giza
The pyramids of Giza hardly need an introduction. Iconic symbols of Egypt and an instant visual association with the country, these structures are a priceless treasures and a mindblowing testament to man’s architectural ingenuity in a time before construction equipment and cranes. The largest of the pyramids, the Great Pyramid, is the only surviving Wonder of the Ancient World. Don’t miss a visit with the timeless Sphinx, a massive creature constructed from a single block of sandstone and guarding his own temple. Most of the pyramids are open for visitation and exploration, although ongoing restoration and preservation efforts close them down from time to time. For an unforgettable treat, take a nighttime tour and bask in the glory of the pyramids rising from the gleaming sand under the moonlight.
Nile River Cruising
For millennia, the Nile River has been the lifeblood of Egypt, bringing hydration and fertility to the desert as well as a natural means of conveyance. Boats still sail the Nile today, and many of them do so simply for the pleasure of soaking in Egypt’s beauty from her most famous waters. Shuttle between Cairo and Aswan in luxury and comfort, drinking up every landmark along the way. Many of the ships that cruise the Nile are actually floating hotels, so extensive, luxe, and fantastic are their accommodations. This is an experience that truly combines the best of land and sea. Claim a sun chair, sip a drink, and watch a panorama of history go by!
|Primary Airports: Cairo International Airport (CAI), Hurghada International Airport (HRG), Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport (SSH), Borg El Arab Airport (HBE)|
|Government: Provisional government|
|Currency: Egyptian pound (EGP)|
|Population: 80,720,000 (2013 est.)|
|Electricity: 220V/50Hz (Schuko plug)|
|Time Zone: UTC +2|
Egypt Travel Reviews
Egypt, an Opportunity of a Lifetime
I had the wonderful opportunity to explore Egypt when I was working there throughout a 10-year period. Just a weekend away can be exciting and satisfying. One of my favorite weekend excursions was a trip to the Red Sea to the Sharm El Sheik Resort that I booked through SEEGYPT Travel. Sharm, for short, is the place to go to relax on the beaches but is most known for its coral reefs and marine life which can be seen when diving or from a glass bottom boat.
I never got tired of taking a day trip within and around Cairo city limits, minutes away from the Great Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx; downtown Cairo and the Egyptian Museum; shopping at the mammoth City Stars Center, housed with the Intercontinental Hotel in Heliopolis; or the authentic and old-time outdoor bazaar and market called the Khan el Khalili where bartering is expected and enjoyed; then ending the day with Egyptian local cuisine at places like the famous Felfela Restaurant in Giza or Downtown.
For history buffs I highly recommend Ibrahim Morgan Tour Guide and Egyptologist. Find him on Facebook. Ibrahim’s demonstrative way of sightseeing through historical Egypt is most fascinating and entertaining. He is wealthy in knowledge and will soon make you a friend for life.
Never leave Egypt without experiencing a Nile Cruise straight through to Luxor, Aswan, and Abu Simbel where Ancient Egypt is seen at its core to understand this country that merged civilization around 3150 BC.
Desert Adventures in Egypt
Egypt is an amazing place, filled with unique history, amazing artifacts, and undiscovered treasures. I spent a significant amount of time teaching and living in Egypt, and was fascinated by so many of its hidden treasures. I also enjoyed the finest coffees, sweetest tasting grapes, mangoes, and pomegranates in the world. Egypt is a mix of the old and the new, with a brilliant sun, towering ancient statues, women in long dresses, and palm trees swaying in a tropical breeze.
One of the best Egyptian treasures lies in the Esckeet Valley, in the Wadi El Natroun desert. El Sourian monastery dates to the third and fourth centuries, and is famous for its ancient religious art, bones of saints and martyrs, and ancient religious practices. It is just beyond vibrant olive farms, green grass, and dusty desert paths.
When I visited El Sourian, I was mesmerized by its tomb-like rooms and ancient fresco paintings. These paintings swirled across ceilings, walls, and ancient columns. Monks, still roaming halls, cobblestone streets, ancient bell towers, and secret rooms, all added to the mystery and charm of this ancient place.
A short trip away is Alexandria, home to the Kom El Shoqefa catacombs, where mystic worshippers were laid to rest. It dates from the 1st and 2nd centuries, when Rome ruled Egypt. Worship of the ancient God Horus and others are depicted in art, inside its mystical entrance. Filled with ancient passageways, and various tombs, I found this wonder of the world nothing short of fascinating.
Egypt: The Experience of a Lifetime
I’ve been to Egypt multiple times thoroughly enjoyed it every time. I’ve seen the Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum and part of the Citadel. Bring several pairs of walking shoes. You will walk everywhere in Egypt. Also brace yourself to deal with massive crowds.
The Pyramids are enormous. Each block is probably about the height of three people.
The police officers are actually really nice, despite all appearances. My mom, who had never seen a camel in person before, asked a police officer riding a camel if she could pet it, which he allowed.
The Egyptian Museum’s mummy exhibit was absolutely packed with people wanting to see Ramses II. Looking at a mummy is like looking at a train wreck: you know it’s terrible, but you cannot tear your eyes away. They also show off ancient relics from several tombs, including King Tut’s.
The Citadel is actually multiple museums in one, including a Military Museum, a Police Museum, and the actual Citadel itself. They do let non-Muslims into Muhammad Ali Mosque at the top of the Citadel between prayers, so you will not miss anything.
No matter where I went the people were always warm and friendly. I was treated more with curiosity than disdain at the fact I was an American and I never once felt like I wasn’t safe. I cannot wait to go back to Egypt someday. The kindness of Egypt’s people makes you feel like you never left home. Egypt’s rich history and warm culture is not to be missed.
Egypt Is Much More Than Just the Pyramids
When one thinks of Egypt, images of pharaohs, pyramids, and ancient ruins come to mind. But Egypt is more than its venerable civilization. I visited Egypt not long after its 2011 revolution. For the first time in years, Egyptians were talking about their present and future more than their past. Visiting the pyramids, while private thanks to the revolution, was an underwhelming experience; I kept getting the feeling I'd seen every angle of them already on some post card. Same went for the National Museum, filled with Egyptian relics, but sadly not as good as the British Museum or the Louvre. Instead, it was the Western Desert that took my breath away. The Western Desert, not far from the Libyan border, is an eight hours' drive from Cairo, but is such an unexpected and wonderful experience outside the norms of ruins and burial sites. The White Desert is a vast landscape of chalky erosions that give rise to mushrooms-shaped rocks; they crumble to the touch. In between rise picturesque sand dunes that our guides took us dune bashing on; we held on for dear life as we swirled and danced through the desert in our SUVs. The Black Desert, a volcanic expanse, was equally beautiful, full of dead volcanoes. For a completely different type of experience, find time for the Western Desert and experience the majesty of a sorely overlooked natural wonder.
Sightseeing in Cairo, Egypt
My family has traveled to Cairo, Egypt every summer for about a decade. We always find something new to discover in this ancient city. A perfect starting point is the Citadel, just off Salah al-Salem Rd. heading east from Cairo Airport. Salah al-Din used it as a military defense in the 12th century. Another favorite discovery is the Khan al Khalili Bazaar where we like to buy handmade, Egyptian souvenirs like clothing, jewelry and artwork. Haggling is a respected art form here. We love to take a “Faluka” boat tour of the Nile at night. There are many places to rent a sail boat along the “Korniche”. This road runs along the Nile and is also an excellent place to find authentic Egyptian food as well Western fare. Tipping is very appreciated. The Museum of Antiquities is located near Tahrir Square and it houses a collection of pure gold artifacts from King Tut’s tomb. There are also collections of fascinating, everyday objects used by people, like make-up tools for women and beard accessories for men. We found two graduates from the College of Tourism at Cairo University who gave us an escorted tour for a small fee. The Pharonic Village is also a fun place to visit. We rode a boat through scenes of ancient Egypt with actors portraying slaves, scribes and royalty. At the end, you can dress up as an ancient Egyptian and get your picture taken. Egyptian people are always friendly and love visitors.