In a land where the past sits overlooking the present, Egypt is a country that fills the senses. Despite experiencing a great deal of social and political upheaval in recent years, the country and her people are still as welcoming and enticing as ever. The desert in Egypt is its own character – making up about 95% of the country. Combine that with the Red Sea and the old world charm of empty beaches and gloriously undisturbed sunrises, and the beach scene here is a huge draw. Cruises down the Nile River to visit some of history’s most incredible monuments are also something that you really can’t miss. This is the land of the Valley of Kings, King Tut’s tomb, and the temples of the pharaohs. You’ll find the Egyptians proud of their heritage and ready to show you all the Egypt has to offer.
Sinai is a place of sundrenched seaside resorts. It’s a major holiday destination and over the years has really developed a personality unlike the rest of Egypt. It’s a beautiful area and as soon as you see the empty desert stretching for miles away from you, you’ll absolutely agree. Historically, there is a great deal of religious importance here and for centuries Sinai served as a crossroads for change and progress. Once you’ve soaked up all you can of the beach life, step away from the holiday makers and see what the heart of the Sinai Peninsula is about. In the mountains you’ll find the Bedouin working to preserve their traditions as modern life moves forward. It’s an enchanting place at the top of everyone’s must see list.
2. Sinai Coast
This historic region is best known for the sandy beaches and gorgeous coral reefs. In fact, one of the most famous diving spots in the Red Sea is in Ras Mohammed. It’s consistently rated as one of the top five dives on Earth. Not only will you see plenty of fish and the coral walls, you’ll also get a look at the remains of the Jolanda – a freight that sank there in 1980. You’ll also love the Gardens, which are really more like three spots in one. Far Garden is where you’ll find a colourful overhang located in deep waters known as the Cathedral. The Middle Garden slopes down toward a large bed of sandy trails, and Near Garden is where you’ll find an astounding chain of pinnacles. The culture in the region is primarily Bedouin and locals will love telling you about the intricate history of these isolated shores.
3. Ras Mohammed National Park
Named for nearby cliffs that form the shape of a man’s profile, Ras Mohammed National Park sees over 50,000 guests per year. The coast line is considered some of the most desirable in the Red Sea. Guests are given a taste of some of Earth’s most stunning coral reef ecosystems. There are about 1000 species of fish in the Red Sea, and almost all of them can be found within the park. You’ll have the chance to sport hammerheads, whale sharks, and manta rays. Be sure to explore the entire park, which includes the surrounding desert, Tiran Island, and the coast between Nabq Protectorate, and Sharm el-Sheikh harbour.
4. Red Sea Coast
This is one for the history buffs. The Red Sea coast of Egypt is home to many important sites in early Christianity. Prehistoric trade routes cross the region and ancient rock art dots the land. Don’t miss the desert ruins in this surprising area. You’ll enjoy the loud and over-the-top city of Hurghada, the Eastern Desert, and even more great diving. The area is now famous for the incredible holiday packages and that can be off-putting for some. But all you need to do is scratch beneath the surface to find the many hidden gems of the Red Sea coast.
Although no signs of Alexander the Great remain in modern day Alexandria, this city is the stuff of legends. The list of unbelievable aspects of this city are long: once home to Queen Cleopatra, the Pharaohs lighthouse (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), and the Great Library. These days, Alexandria is a key commercial hub for Egypt and the cultural renaissance is alive and well. It’s now home to writers and poets who are struggling to find their voice in an uncertain political climate. The modern library is a landmark of innovation for the entire country. Be sure to plan enough time to cover the historical circuit in order to visit the museums and monuments. Then spend a day or two relaxing in an old world café and soaking up the atmosphere.
Originally a destination spot for diving, the city has suffered in recent years from overdevelopment. But a gem like Hurghada is not to be tossed aside lightly and many NGO’s have come in with an aim to restore this stretch of coastline. Many visitors love to combine a stop in Hurghada with a tour of the Nile Valley sites. You’ll find three main areas to explore. In the north is Ad-Dahar which is considered by most to be the most Egyptian part of the city thanks to the lively souq in the neighbourhood. There’s also the Sigala area that hosts plenty of shops and restaurants as well as the lovely Gebel al-Afish mountain. Along the coast is the resort strip home to more upmarket resorts and hotels.
There is very little on Earth that can compare with the breathtaking spectacle of the monuments in Luxor. So much has survived from ancient Thebes and most visitors are blown away by the beauty of the place. The Nile River flows directly between the modern city and the necropolis, tombs, and temples on the west bank. There is a great deal of history to discover in Luxor as you explore these unprecedented archaeological sites.
One of the most popular beach destinations in the entire Middle East, Dahab is laid back and relaxed. One an enclave for beach bums seeking a secluded shack on the beach, this tourist village boasts safe diving, a great tourism infrastructure, family friendly activities and accommodations, and a little something for almost every kind of traveller. Many people use Dahab as their base for excursions into the desert or Mt. Sinai. The atmosphere is a fusion of hippie chic and the entire town is so charm that some people rearrange their plans to spend their entire vacation here.
9. Suez Canal
Cutting through the Suez sand for 163 kilometres is the Suez Canal. This amazing feat of engineering separates Africa from Asia and Egypt from Sinai. Completed during a period of grand dreams for the Egyptians, today the area has a distinctive, if dated, architecture and atmosphere. It’s not a big tourist draw, but there is a ton to learn about modern Egyptian history here. Be sure to visit the canal-side towns of Ismailia and Port Said to experience a slower paced and more relaxed Egypt.
The Egyptians call Cairo Umm ad-Dunya, or the Mother of the Word. With a population of over 20 million, Cairo comes with all the draw backs of the world’s biggest cities, but it also has an energy that’s fantastic and surprisingly charming. Check out the pyramids of Giza, the plethora of palaces and grand avenues, and the many stunning mosques. The capital of Egypt is located on the Nile River and at its heart is Tahrir Square with its incredible Egyptian Museum where you can see the artefacts collected from King Tut’s tomb. Don’t miss Cairo Tower, which stands at almost 190 metres and offers astounding views of the city.
11. Pyramids of Giza
The most famous structures are easily the Pyramids of Giza and there is nothing like getting a close up view. Guarded by the magnificent Sphinx, these ancient tombs have been drawing visitors for centuries. Truly, no trip to Egypt is complete until you’ve been there. Showcasing the power and ambition of the pharaohs, you’ll see keystone monument, the Pyramid of Cheops. Also known as the Great Pyramid, it was built for Pharaoh Khufu by over 100,000 men for three months out of every year. If you like, you can tour inside and view the incredible masonry and sarcophagus for yourself.
12. The Valley of the Kings
Sitting on the west bank of the Nile River, opposite modern day Luxor, is the Valley of the Kings. Over the course of 500 years tombs where built here for many nobles and pharaohs of the time. So far, over 60 tombs and rooms have been discovered – one tomb is so grand that it has over 120 rooms! Unfortunately almost all the tombs were robbed at some point but it is still easy to get a sense of the majesty of these places and of the lives of the men and women buried here. Roughly 18 of the tombs can be visited, though you’ll need to do a bit of planning ahead of time, as officials open and close tombs on a fairly regular basis. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979, roughly 5,000 tourists visit each day.
13. El-Hassana Dome
North of Cairo is El-Hassana, a natural rock formation that was created when Cretaceous limestone broke through the Earth’s surface. The dome was formed roughly 50 million years ago and the folding and contorting of the crust is remarkable. You can even spot marine fossils in the formations.
If you’re looking for a bit of natural beauty during your visit, be sure to stop by El-Ahrash. The name means “the bushes” in Arabic and this region features Mediterranean coastal sand dunes that reach up to 60 metres high. It’s a lovely little eco-system, well worth an afternoon excursion if you’re on the Sinai Coast.
15. Al-Azhar Park
The hillside area of Al-Azhar Park is surrounded by some of the most interesting historic areas of Islamic Cairo. Perhaps the most popular destination, the park is located in the heart of this historic area and provides a phenomenal view of the city. Created in 1984 by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the basic idea behind the park is the Islamic belief that all people are caretakers of our planet. Visitors will love this oasis as they tour the city’s monuments and neighbourhoods.