A remarkable tribute to one of mankind's greatest ancient civilizations lies along the Nile River valley. This is the land of the Pharaohs. A place that continues to lure the masses intent on viewing the pyramids, tombs, and monuments. For these wonders of the world stand to this very day, as a reminder of an illustrious power that long ago influenced and helped shape western civilization. The grand scale of these early triumphs has never ceased to hold onlookers spellbound. After the main attraction, many visitors avail themselves of the abundant and equally fascinating adventures to be experienced in Egypt. Scuba diving in the Red Sea is a definite highlight for those interested in the fabulous undersea world along Egypt's east coast. Others, meanwhile, might enjoy a romantic cruise on the Nile or a few exciting nights on the town in one of Egypt's bustling cities. Luxury hotels, five star restaurants, and cultural extravaganzas are all part of the modern day Egyptian travel experience.
Egypt occupies the northeast corner of the African continent, bordered on the east by the Red Sea and in the north by the Mediterranean Sea. Libya is found to the west while Jordan, Israel, and the Gaza Strip are located just to the northeast of the Sinai Peninsula. Sudan shares Egypt's southern border. Sand is everywhere! Deserts surround the fertile Nile valley and delta region conspiring to intrude upon the delicate ecological balance. The northern portion of the Sinai Peninsula is mostly sandy desert while in the south, rugged mountains tower above the Red Sea.
Alexander the Great founded the city of Alexandria on Egypt's northern coast in 332 BC. A formidable port emerged with the construction of a breakwater running from the mainland out to the island of Pharos. The Mediterranean ambiance is unmistakable. A cooler climate attracts many Egyptians to relocate from Cairo. Alexandria provides a great base for explorations of the delta region and along the coast.
Cairo has everything. Cairo has great hotels, entertainment, restaurants, and monuments spanning the entire history of Egypt. It even has bowling allies and several golf courses to choose from. The capital city, sitting on the banks of the Nile, is often the point of entry for most people visiting Egypt. It is a sprawling conglomeration of sharp contrasts where ancient construction clashes with ultra-modern architecture. A maze of crowded back streets and bazaars lend a lively atmosphere to the old quarters where donkey and cart are still a viable form of transport. In the 19th century, a new European style city based on Baron Georges Haussmann's grand plans for renovating Paris was built next to the old one. The 20th century saw unprecedented growth as millions took up residence in Cairo. The population explosion has created a city that is the largest on the African continent. While in Cairo, visit the nearby Giza Pyramids (Great Pyramid), Saqqara (Step Pyramid) and be sure to tour the Egyptian Antiquities museum. A blend of religious encounters can be had by touring the Citadel and Khan el-Khalili market in Islamic Cairo and the churches and Coptic museum in Old Cairo.
Luxor is on the Nile in the Valley of the Kings. It is the southern half of the site of ancient Thebes and contains ruins of a great temple built in the 14th century BC. Al Karnak occupies the northern half of ancient Thebes. Many tourists visit Luxor because of the archaeological sites it shares with Al Karnak. Luxor can be thought of as a living museum with vast numbers of ancient Egyptian monuments. Visit the west bank where many monuments and tombs are to be found, including some of the finest in Egypt. Do this in the morning in order to avoid the heat of the afternoon. Then, one afternoon or one day could be spent on the east bank, where the Luxor and Karnak temples are located, as well as the excellent Luxor museum. Other activities might include a visit to the local bazaar.
Aswan is probably the least visited of the popular tourist regions, but it has great hotels, along with the huge Lake Nasser just to the south. Fishing for some of the largest freshwater fish in the world has become a regular activity on Lake Nasser with fishing expeditions being organised for the tourist trade. Visits to Elephantine Island, St. Simeon's Monastery, the unfinished Obelisk, the Nubian Museum, the High Dam and Philae Island are but a few of the attractions in the area. A frequent addition to the standard tour is the temples at Abu Simbel. This will usually add a day to your Aswan tour. Most tourists will fly to Abu Simbel and back in one day. Other less common tours may utilize a bus to Abu Simbel, with possibly a stay in a local hotel.
The region comprised of El Gouna, Hurghada and Safaga contain all the trappings beach-loving vacationers expect and enjoy. Water sports of every sort, golf courses, and casinos are all standard activities for the many repeat visitors to this region.
Sharm El Sheikh, and the surrounding area including Sharks Bay is the Sinai destination that boasts most everything any tourist might wish for. There are even some wonderful Christian monuments nearby, and the water sports, as at Hurghada, are all inclusive.
Religious tours include the Holy Family Route, the Exodus Route, and unstructured religious tours. Unstructured religious tours simply have no grand plan, such as following the Holy Family or Exodus Route. On the other hand, they may present a more balanced survey of all religious sites in Egypt. Simply put, the Holy Family and Exodus tours attempt to follow the routes of these holy journeys, while unstructured religious tours may cover a spectrum of religious sites including those on both the Holy Family Route and Exodus Route. In any event, many such religious tours can and often do include visits to the most important pharaonic sites such as the Pyramids and the Egyptian Antiquity museum. Furthermore, unstructured religious tours and the Exodus tours will often include the Sinai, so even a short beach stay might be included.
Golfing tours usually include a classical element. Normally they include one or two courses in Cairo, then perhaps Luxor and possibly the Red Sea coast or the Sinai. Many such tours are set up for a morning or afternoon of golf, with the remainder of the day spent sightseeing. Getting in a round of golf in Egypt does not necessitate taking a golfing tour; a round of golf may be arranged at several locations, as there are now a variety of courses spread out over Egypt.
Of course, it is possible to fish most anywhere along the Nile, and visitors will see Egyptians doing so even on the bridges and banks in Cairo. However, of growing popularity, as well as being unique, is Lake Nasser fishing. Some of the largest freshwater fish in the world are found in this lake. Because Lake Nasser is just south of Aswan, fishing expeditions to the area may include some classical sightseeing. While somewhat rare, there are also deep-sea fishing opportunities in the Red Sea at Hurghada and Nuweiba in the Sinai.
Bird watching has become popular in Egypt, since it lies along the migratory path of many interesting species. While birds may be found throughout the Nile Valley and the Sinai, the most popular areas appear to be near Aswan, and the Northern Sinai. Bird watching around Aswan is usually accompanied with a classical tour, or may simply be an addition to a standard classical tour. There are few ancient monuments in the Northern Sinai, so these tours rarely involve a classical component.
Most commonly, nature treks occur in the Sinai, and specifically in the mountainous region of middle southern Sinai. Trekking in the Sinai Mountains can be as much spiritually oriented as nature oriented.
By far, most visitors to Egypt come for beach vacations than for any other reason. This might be a surprise to many, who might think that classical tours would lead the pack. But for many Europeans, Egyptian beaches offer the least expensive means of a sand and sea holiday. Traditionally, the Sinai and Sharm el-Sheikh was for wealthier vacationers, while the Red Sea Coast and Hurghada provided the economy resorts. Now, however, El-Gouna (just north of Hurghada) has provided the Red Sea Coast with luxury class accommodations. These hotspot destinations can become packed with vacationers, so for a less frantic exclusive location, consider Soma Bay on the Red Sea, or Taba on the Sinai. Less crowded budget areas include Safaga on the Red Sea and, Nuweiba and Dahab on the Sinai.
Egypt's Red Sea has some of the best scuba diving in the world, and people come from everywhere to explore the pristine reefs and many shipwrecks. Most destinations for scuba diving are the same as for beach vacations: in Sharm el-Sheik, Taba, Dahab and Nuweiba on the Sinai and El Gouna, Hurghada, Soma Bay and Safaga on the Red Sea coast. Many people take advantage of the warm waters to receive either initial or advanced diving training.
The Western desert is becoming very popular with tourists. The current rage is the Bahariya oasis. This is where the valley of the golden Mummies was discovered not too long ago, and where new discoveries seem to be cropping up almost continuously. The Siwa Oasis where Alexander the Great visited the Oracle of Amun in 331 BC has been for many years a consistent favourite among the oasis. While the deserts are sometimes the primary destination for tours, it is more often an add-on for the more common classical tours.