Located mostly in North Africa, a portion of this transcontinental country also extends to Asia where it shares borders with Israel and the Gaza Strip, while on the African side, the country is bordered by Libya to the west and by Sudan to the south.
One of the world’s leading tour and travel destinations, Egypt has much to offer in terms of history, culture, adventure, cuisine, and more.
From the luxurious resorts of Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada to the awe-inspiring monuments of Aswan and Luxor and to the Mediterranean grandeur of Alexandria, Egypt is truly an extraordinary blend of the present and its mesmerizing past.
Home to more than two-thirds of the world’s monuments, this exotic and mystic land of the Pharaohs is virtually an open-air museum, with its greatest asset being its warm and friendly people.
Throughout the centuries, Egypt has been a sparkling oasis of accomplishment in the vast Saharan expanse, attracting conquerors, adventurers, poets and mystics alike.
Cairo –City of a Thousand Minarets
Home to some ten million people, this vibrant metropolis is Egypt’s largest city, as well as its capital, split into two by the gently flowing Nile.
There is no better example than Cairo, where the past and present have combined so gloriously to make it one of the most popular destinations among world travelers.
Luxurious hotels, modern high-rises, high-end shops, restaurants and coffee houses conveniently merge with the historic old town and Islamic Cairo, right up to the pyramids of the ancient capitals of Memphis and Giza.
This Saharan city is abuzz with activity 24×7; where you will get to hear the calls of the ‘muezzin’ five times a day from the city’s countless mosques and minarets, summoning the believers to offer their obligatory prayers; where your senses will be overwhelmed by the scents of spices and perfume as you browse through the exotic bazaars; and where you will travel back centuries in time as you gaze at the great pyramids of Giza.
Start your sightseeing from one of Egypt’s oldest churches and still the center of Coptic worship in Old Cairo – the Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church, also known as the Hanging Church.
Here in Old Cairo, built by Coptic Christians and once known as Babylon, you will also see the Ben Ezra Synagogue, also referred to as El-Geniza Synagogue or Synagogue of the Levantines.
Local folklore has it that this Hebrew place of worship sits on the location where baby Moses was found by Bithiah, the daughter of a Pharoah – portrayed as Seti the First’s sister in the Cecil B DeMille epic, “The Ten Commandments.”
While in the old town, make it a point to visit the St. Sergius Monastery, as well, believed to be the final abode of the holy family as they escaped King Herod.
Islamic Cairo, the medieval heart of the city located around the Citadel of Cairo and the old walled city, is famous for its numerous mosques and minarets as well its Islamic schools, tombs, rustic eateries and Islamic era fortifications.
Take a walking tour of this Islamic part of town and enjoy the old world ambience the place has to offer along with its magnificent attractions such as the Alabaster Mosque, one of Cairo’s oldest and most famous, built in the 1830s and 1840s by Muhammad Ali Pasha in memory of his oldest son Tusun Pasha, who died in 1816.
This imposing alabaster-adorned mosque sits on the Citadel’s highest point and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city.
The Al-Azhar Mosque is another must-see Islamic place of worship, built in the 10th century under the auspices of the Fatimid Dynasty’s fourth Caliph, Abu Tamim Maad al-Muizz li-Dinillah (953 to 975).
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Historic Cairo,” the Saladin Citadel sits atop Mokattam Hill in Islamic Cairo. Once an Islamic fortification, the place is, today, a preserved site of mosques and museums and a great place to visit while in that neck of the woods.
End your tour of Islamic Cairo at the great bazaar of Khan Al-Khalili, which boasts more than a thousand stalls and shops selling all kinds of goods, mostly directed at attracting the tourist dollar, although it’s a favorite with the locals, as well.
All through the market, you will find plenty of restaurants and street food stalls as well as traditional coffee houses where you can enjoy a smoke or two of “Shisha,” or “Hookah.”
And as they say, your tour of Cairo can’t be complete without a look at Tutankhamun’s stunning treasures at the Egyptian Museum, in addition to a vast collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities.
End your day of sightseeing with a relaxing dinner aboard one of the floating restaurants on the Nile, with most of them offering live entertainment, including the famous belly dancing.
Set aside one full day for the awesome sights that await you at Memphis and Giza.
Built-in 2816 B.C. by Pharaoh Zoser and his chief architect Imhotep, the Sakkara step pyramid in Memphis served as mausoleums for the Pharaohs of the time. It is one of the world’s oldest surviving pyramids.
While you may have seen them many a time from afar, because it’s a sight that you can’t avoid for long in Cairo, be prepared for the stunning visual impact of Giza’s pyramids up close – especially the Great Pyramid of Giza dominating the other two smaller ones on its flanks.
Adjacent to the three pyramids is the iconic face of the magnificent Sphinx, featuring the face of a man – believed to bear resemblance to Pharaoh Khafra – and the body of a lion. Carved from a single gigantic piece of limestone, this human-faced lion, or lion-bodied human, has sat there for centuries as if guarding the Giza pyramids.
Having seen most of what Cairo had to offer, it’s time now to take a short one-and-a-half-hour flight to Egypt’s southernmost city Aswan – the starting point of your 3-night upstream cruise along the Nile.
However, before you embark on your Nile adventure, it would be a good idea to first check out the sights and sounds of this historic city, which occupies one of the most picturesque parts of the Nile, featuring palm-fringed islands and an armada of white-sailed feluccas – a traditional wooden sailboat.
Your Aswan sightseeing must include visits to the Aswan High Dam, built between 1960 and 70, followed by a tour of the Philae temple complex – which includes ruins of the 4th-century columned Temple of Isis.
Also, check out the Temple of Khnum on Elephantine Island before you end your sightseeing with a scenic ride aboard a felucca to the botanical gardens located on Isis Island in the middle of the river.
If money is not a constraint, The Nile Dolphin would be an ideal choice of cruiser for its elegance and comfort, superior onboard cuisine, great entertainment and high level of service from a friendly crew.
With a maximum passenger limit of only 130, spread over three decks, the Nile Dolphin features 170 square-foot cabins, all boasting French balconies, great Italian-inspired design, TVs, mini-refrigerators and, of course, air-conditioning.
The public areas of the ship are no less stunning, what with a spacious lobby, a souvenir shop, reading room, library, an evening lounge with live entertainment, a gym, spa, beauty salon and a wonderful covered sun deck, with a bar, pool, and a Jacuzzi, and a magnificent restaurant that can seat all 130 passengers under one roof.
Kom Ombo, the first stop of your Nile cruise, is famous for its temple dedicated to the crocodile-headed Sobek and the falcon-headed Horus.
After exploring the temple on foot, return to the ship for lunch as you sail on to Edfu, where a short carriage-ride will take you to the temple of Horus (the Falcon God) – one of the best-preserved temples in all of Egypt.
Return to the ship for a festive dinner followed by onboard parties, belly dancing as you sail on to Luxor.
Built on both banks of the Nile, great Luxor consists of the town itself and the village of Karnak on the east bank and the villages and tombs of the Valley of the Kings and Queens on the west bank.
Your sightseeing will begin at the Valley of the Kings, where tombs of the Pharaohs were dug deep into the desert, centuries ago. Here, 64 of Egypt’s Pharaohs were buried, including famous names such as Ramses II and the only tomb found undisturbed – that of the teenage King Tutankhamun.
After some free time allowing you to venture down into one of the tombs, your tour will take you to the Valley of the Queen, where, rising in a series of terraces, looms a spectacular sight – the fabulous temple of Queen Hathor.
In the afternoon, visit the east bank’s magnificent Luxor and Karnak temples, built mostly by the great Pharaoh Amenhotep III.
The Luxor temple is connected to the Karnak temple by way of Avenue of the Sphinxes. Of the original 730 human-headed, lion-bodied beasts, 58 still remain.
The Temple of Karnak is a spectacular complex of sanctuary, pylons and obelisks, highlighted by the Great Hypostyle Hall constructed around 134 lotus-blossomed pillars.
After a leisurely breakfast, bid your lovely crew goodbye as you transfer to the airport for the short one-hour flight to Cairo, where you will spend the final night.
The balance of the day is free to explore on your own, shop for those last minute souvenirs or relax in the comfort of your hotel as you pack your memories away and prepare for your flights back home.