EGYPT – TOP THINGS TO SEE
Home of the ancient Pharaohs, Egypt is a destination full of dazzling temples and tombs that wow all who visit.
With vast tracts of desert for 4WD adventures, the Red Sea’s world-class coral reefs and wrecks for divers, and cruising on the famed Nile River, there are plenty of things to do for all types of travelers.
Beach lovers head to the Sinai or the Red Sea Coast to soak up the sun, while archaeology fans will have a field day in Luxor.
Cairo is the megalopolis that can’t be beaten for city slickers, while Siwa oasis and the southern town of Aswan offer a slice of the slow pace of the countryside.
With so much to see and do, Egypt offers visitors a chance to create itineraries that combine culture, adventure, and relaxation all on one trip.
1. Pyramids of Giza
The last surviving of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Pyramids of Giza are one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks.
Having awed travelers down through the ages, these tombs of the Pharaohs Cheops (Khufu), Chephren (Khafre), and Mycerinus (Menkaure), guarded by the enigmatic Sphinx, are usually top of most visitor’s lists of tourist attractions to see in Egypt and often the first sight they head to after landing.
Today, sitting on the desert edge of Cairo’s sprawl, these megalithic memorials to dead pharaohs are still as wondrous a sight as they ever were and an undeniable highlight of any Egypt trip.
2. Luxor’s Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings
Famed for the Valley of the Kings, Karnak Temple, and the Memorial Temple of Hatshepsut, the Nile-side town of Luxor in Upper Egypt has a glut of tourist attractions.
This is ancient Thebes, power base of the New Kingdom pharaohs, and home to more sights than most can see on one visit.
While Luxor’s East Bank holds the modern city, with its vibrant souq; the two temples of Karnak and Luxor; and the museum; the West Bank’s lush farmland and barren cliffs are where the vast majority of Luxor’s tourist attractions sit, with so many tomb and temple sights that it has been called the biggest open-air museum in the world.
3. Explore Islamic Cairo
The atmospheric, narrow lanes of the capital’s Islamic Cairo district are crammed full of mosques, madrassas (Islamic schools of learning), and monuments dating from the Fatimid through to the Mameluke eras.
This is where you’ll find the labyrinth shopping souk of Khan el-Khalili, where coppersmiths and artisans still have their tiny workshops, and stalls are laden with ceramics, textiles, spice, and perfume.
Surrounding the market is a muddle of roads, home to some of the most beautiful preserved architecture of the old Islamic empires.
There is a wealth of history here to explore. Visit Al-Azhar Mosque and the dazzling Sultan Hassan Mosque, and make sure you climb to the roof of the ancient medieval gate of Bab Zuweila for the best minaret-speckled panoramas across the district.
4. Egyptian Museum
A treasure trove of the Pharaonic world, Cairo’s Egyptian Museum is one of the world’s great museum collections. The faded pink mansion in downtown Cairo is home to a dazzling amount of exhibits.
It’s a higgledy-piggledy place, with little labeling on offer and chronological order severely lacking, but that’s half of its old-school charm.
The museum’s two highlight collections are the haul of golden treasures unearthed from Tutankhamen‘s tomb in the Valley of the Kings and the fascinating Royal Mummies exhibit room.
Every corner you turn here, though, is home to some wonderful piece of ancient art or statuary that would form a highlight of any other museum.
5. Siwa Oasis
Sitting in isolation, in the western corner of the Western Desert, Siwa is the tranquil tonic to the hustle of Egypt’s cities.
This gorgeous little oasis, surrounded by date palm plantations and numerous hot-water springs, is one of the Western Desert’s most picturesque spots.
Siwa town is centered around the ruins of a vast mud-brick citadel, known as the Fortress of Shali, which dominates the view, while various temple remnants, including the Temple of the Oracle where Alexander the Great is said to have come to receive advice, are scattered throughout the wider oasis area.
This is a top spot to wind down and go slow for a few days, as well as being an excellent base from which to plan adventures into the surrounding desert.
Egypt Properties inscribed on the World Heritage List:
- Abu Mena (1979)
- Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis (1979)
- Historic Cairo (1979)
- Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur (1979)
- Nubian Monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae (1979)
- Saint Catherine Area (2002)
- Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley) (2005)