Egypt

Egypt is one of Africa’s major tourist destinations with the main drawcards being the Red Sea, Egyptology and the Nile. The Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx and the Valley of the Kings need no introduction in the world of antiquity, the sun-soaked beaches of the Red Sea with their scuba diving are a massive attraction to those from colder climes, and a cruise on the Nile floods back memories of Cleopatra. Aside from these famous attractions, this desert country houses ancient ruins and mystical Oases and in Cairo ancient cultures remain, blending with the very modern. Egypt offers so much more than its world-famous pyramids. Visitors can enjoy desert trekking, scuba diving, golfing, fishing, bird watching or floating along the Red Sea.

Nile River Egypt

 

Flowing through northeastern Africa, the infamous Nile River is Africa’s longest river. This majestic river cuts through the mysterious country of Egypt which boasts archaeological treasures, a rich ancient cultural heritage and spectacular landscapes. Visitors can look forward to exploring the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites dotting its banks such as the Valley of the Kings, the Temples of Karnak and Luxor, the tomb of King Tutankhamun, the beautiful Temple of Philae and the Great Sphinx of Giza and the world-renowned Pyramids of Giza. Don’t miss a scenic cruise down the Nile, ride in a traditional sailboat, and enjoy top-notch shoreline accommodations.

 

Cairo

Resting on both banks of the River Nile, Cairo is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world. Cairo has been inhabited for over 6000 years and has served as the capital of numerous Egyptian civilisations. At the heart of the city is Tahrir Square, a busy tourist hub which features the world-renowned Egyptian Museum displaying an array of antiquities including royal mummies and gilded King Tutankhamun artefacts. Nearby, Giza is the site of the iconic pyramids and the Great Sphinx, dating back to the 26th century BC. While these and countless other ancient treasures are undoubtedly the main drawcards, the cosmopolitan Cairo is certainly not lacking in modern attractions. Visitors can get to know the locals at boisterous Baladi bars, enjoy excellent shopping at the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, watch the sunset from the impressive Cairo Tower, or catch a show at the stately Cairo Opera House.

 

Hurghada

 

Stretching along 40 kilometres of beautiful Egyptian coastline, Hurghada is best known for its world-class scuba diving. With its magnificent setting on the Red Sea Coast, it’s not surprising that Hurghada, formerly a quiet fishing village, has developed into one of Egypt’s largest cities and busiest tourist centres. The Red Sea’s warm, tranquil waters and abundant coral gardens are a diving and snorkelling mecca, teeming with vividly coloured marine life, while windsurfing and yachting are also popular oceanic pursuits. The city is served by an international airport and has an extensive range of lodging options as well as a thriving nightlife.

 

Edfu

 

Resting on the west bank of the Nile River between Esna and Aswan, the historic town of Edfu is the location of the famous Temple of Horus. Considered the best-reserved temple in Egypt and dating back to the Ptolemaic times (237 – 57 BC), the temple has played a dramatic role in today’s understanding of ancient Egypt, including our knowledge of its religion, lifestyle, and language. The temple is decorated with intricate and varied scenes depicting marriages, deities, and the birth of its namesake god, and exhibits a combination of both Egyptian and Greek architectural elements. Other highlights include the ruins of one of seven small provincial step pyramids, and two temples considered second only in importance to the Temple of Dendera. Modern Edfu is a bustling hub producing renowned pottery.

Marsa Alam

 

Situated along the Red Sea in Egypt, the resort town of Marsa Alam is best known for its excellent diving and serves as a convenient base from which to explore the southern reaches of Egypt’s expansive Eastern Desert. Marsa Alam features crystal-clear aquamarine waters, idyllic white-sand beaches and spectacular coral reefs. It is a holiday destination straight out of a travel brochure. As Egypt’s southernmost beach resort it is also one of its less developed, though it is growing fast and travellers would do well to visit before the crowds discover it. The Red Sea’s plethora of coral reefs and prolific marine life facilitate world-class diving and snorkelling, while adventure seekers can try their hand at kitesurfing, game fishing, or quad biking across the vast sands of the Sahara Desert.

 

Minya

 

Resting on the western banks of the Nile River, in Upper Egypt, and set about 245 kilometres south of Cairo, Minya is an extraordinary town known for its fascinating ancient sites, and being the home of several significant figures in history. The town boasts several important archeological discoveries, with Greek, Egyptian, Christian, and Islamic heritage, namely Tuna el-Gebel, Tel Al-Amarna, and El-Bahnasa. The latter is a city that lasted through various eras and occupations and features Egyptian, Roman, Islamic and even modern monuments. History lovers should also make sure to visit the incredible Malawy Museum. Other highlights include the area’s delicious molasses and locally farmed fresh produce.

 

Luxor

 

Resting on the east bank of the infamous Nile River in southern Egypt, the city of Luxor is renowned for its many well-preserved monuments, so much so that it has been described as the world’s greatest open-air museum. Luxor is often divided into three different areas; the city of Luxor on the east side of the Nile, the town of Karnak further north and Thebes on the west side of the Nile, across from Luxor. Visitors can look forward to a variety of accommodation and an abundance of exciting activities – Luxor knows how to accommodate tourists as it has been doing since ancient times. Don’t miss the Karnak and Luxor Temples, as well as the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.

 

Alexandria

 

Situated in northern Egypt, the port city of Alexandria is a renowned historical city, which serves as a commercial hub and the cultural capital of Egypt. This dazzling jewel of the Mediterranean was founded by the legend, Alexander the Great and ruled by the iconic Queen Cleopatra. It is home to the Great Library of Alexandria and the colossal Pharos Lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Soak up the old-world atmosphere whilst sipping coffee at a cafe, wander through the vibrant souk, stroll along the harbour area and take in the impressive Belle-epoque-era architecture. Don’t miss the ultra-modern, disc-shaped Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Other highlights include a number of Greco-Roman landmarks, some lovely sandy beaches and a 15th-century seafront Qaitbay Citadel, which has been converted into a popular museum.

 

Dahab

 

Located on the southeastern coast of the Sinai Peninsula in the Gulf of Aqaba, the laidback village of Dahab has developed into a popular beach resort town. This former Bedouin fishing village has earned a reputation as one of the world’s most spectacular scuba diving and snorkelling destinations, with a mesmerising underwater world that draws divers from all over the globe. It is famed for the notorious ‘Blue Hole’, Egypt’s most dangerous dive spot, located a few kilometres from Dahab central. The town itself offers a host of different lodging options and a lively cafe and nightlife culture. Popular activities include: kitesurfing, windsurfing, horse riding, camel safaris, yoga and freediving.

Siwa Oasis

 

 

The captivating Siwa Oasis lies in a depression about 60 feet below sea level. The oasis has witnessed a visit from Alexander the Great, who came to consult an oracle here in 331 BC, and an attempted and failed attack by the King of Persia and his large army, who got lost in the unforgiving environment. This harsh but beautiful area is known for its dates and olives and the people that gather these desert fruits. The Siwans have their own, distinct culture with unique customs and the Berber language known as Siwi. During October, they have a three-day festival and during this time, Siwans must settle all disputes. For visitors who want to learn about the traditions of a new culture, this is the place to be, otherwise there are various sites they can visit, including the warm springs and Lake Siwa.

 

Mount Sinai

 

Towering 2285 metres above sea level in the centre of the Sinai Peninsula, Mount Sinai is believed to be the place of the biblical story of Moses and the Ten Commandments. However, there is some debate as to whether the peak is actually the site mentioned in the Bible. Visitors are offered a choice between climbing the 3750 ‘Steps of Repentance’, or the less physically strenuous but longer ‘Camel Path’. The journey is typically undertaken at night to avoid the intense heat and you are almost certain to share the path with hordes of pilgrims, tourists, camels and Bedouin guides. Despite the crowds, the remarkably starry sky, the awe-inspiring sunrises and the panoramic views from the summit undoubtedly make for an astonishingly scenic experience.

 

Suez Canal

 

Stretching over 150 kilometres, this impressive artificial waterway connects Egypt’s bordering seas – the Mediterranean and the Red Sea – via two sections which flow into the bitter lakes that lie between Port Said and Suez. The Suez Canal is famous for its engineering, its effect on world trade and subsequently world politics. It is wide enough to accommodate ships as large as 150,000 deadweight tons fully loaded with a draft of 16 metres. It took 15 years to plan and build and was opened over 100 years ago in 1869. Linking the east with the west, it allowed vessels to bypass the treacherous journey around the southern tip of Africa.

 

Aswan

 

Situated on the east bank of the Nile in the south of Egypt, Aswan is an arid, modern and popular city with a relaxing, Northern African atmosphere. The city is home to a number of significant archaeological sites and makes an excellent base for exploring the many world-class attractions of the surrounding area. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful views by way of slow walks along the wide corniche, or while dining on fresh seafood at one of the town’s charming floating restaurants. In the evenings, Nubian dancers, musicians and folklore troupes performing at the Cultural Centre, provide memorable entertainment. City highlights include: a large, lively central market and the Nubian Museum showcasing some of Southern Egypt’s most important historical artefacts.

 

Sharm El Sheikh

 

Commonly known as ‘Sharm’, this popular beach resort town is sandwiched between the desert of the Sinai Peninsula and the warm waters of the Red Sea. With its sheltered white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, colourful coral reefs, and the legendary Pyramids of Giza just an excursion away, the town attracts countless tourists who flock here to enjoy the warm, sunny weather and the countless activities on offer. These include among others: guided desert safaris, horse riding, go-karting, quad biking, windsurfing, kayaking, kitesurfing, camel trekking, snorkelling and scuba diving. Must-see attractions include: the vibrant Sharm Old Market; the exquisite Naama Bay, with its palm-lined promenade filled with lively bars and restaurants; and the exceptional Ras Mohammed National Park, surrounded by some of the world’s most impressive dive sites.

 

Kom Ombo

 

Situated north of Aswan, on the eastern bank of the Nile River in Egypt, the ancient city of Kom Ombo is famous for its unusual riverside double-temple honouring Horus the Elder (Haroeris) and Sobek (the crocodile god), and its attached crocodile museum. The building is especially distinctive in its dual, mirror image structures and even features a double altar. At the crocodile museum, visitors can see crocodile mummies and other artefacts which give insight into the sacred place the animals had in ancient times. The town is also notable for being home to an original community of peasant farmers as well as a large population of Nubian people and is surrounded by beautiful sugar-cane fields. Kom Ombo makes for a fantastic day trip from both Luxor and Aswan and is a popular stop on river cruises.

 

Abu Simbel

 

Located just 40 kilometres north of the Sudanese border in southern Egypt, the laidback town of Abu Simbel is renowned for its ancient temple complex, the temples of Ramses ll. The town serves as a convenient stopover for visitors wanting to spend more than a few hours exploring the temples and surrounding area. These famous 3200-year-old Egyptian temples are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nubian Monuments stretching from Abu Simbel to Philae. It is also Egypt’s second most visited attraction. The temples are comprised of two structures featuring four massive seated figures representing the pharaoh. Visit on February 22 and October 22 to catch the magnificent solar alignment which illuminates these colossal statues and its 56-metre-long inner chamber that leads to a series of hidden rooms and halls.

 

Esna

Resting on the western bank of the Nile, just south of Luxor, the market town of Esna boasts a scenic riverfront, a collection of ancient structures and a vibrant weekly market. It once served as an important stop along the camel-caravan trade route between Egypt and Sudan during the 18th Pharaonic Dynasty and today it is a popular stop for cruises. This hidden gem of a city features a tranquil atmosphere which is livened up by Esna’s tourist-oriented market on Saturdays, where visitors can purchase fabric and have one-of-a-kind clothes made. Visitors can also explore the old streets and temples, stroll along the scenic banks of the Nile and admire the ancient architecture of Esna’s old houses, featuring fine brickwork and elaborate mashrabiyya (wooden lattice screens). The undeniable highlight is the Temple of Khnum, also known as the Temple of Esna featuring grand pillars and well-preserved carvings from as late as the 3rd century AD. Don’t miss the opportunity to view the Fatimid-era Emari minaret, one of the oldest in Egypt.

 

Valley of the Kings

 

 

Situated along the west bank of the Nile River, the Valley of the Kings is home to the famous tomb of King Tutankhamun, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Also known as Biban el-Moluk, the ‘Gates of the Kings’, the Valley of the Kings is the ancient burial site of many New Kingdom pharaohs and powerful nobleman laid to rest between the sixteenth and eleventh centuries B.C. The valley contains 63 unique tombs and chambers and the entire valley has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can explore this ancient landscape featuring arid lunar terrain, discover the hidden tombs and view the work of the finest artisans of the ancient world, who paid homage to the pharaohs in detailed frescoes and wall reliefs.