Egypt

Egypt

Captivating explorers for hundreds of years already, Egypt continues to beguile travellers with its amazing array of jaw-dropping monuments, stunning scenery and other-worldly treasures.

Possessing the sole remaining wonder of the ancient world sets Egypt apart, but there is so much more than just the pyramids of Giza that draws in travellers to explore the wonders of Egypt. Every trip here almost inevitably starts in Cairo, a huge megalopolis of 20 million plus residents, heaving at the edges and seemingly falling apart at times, but somehow managing to remain a totally civilised and fascinating place to visit. From its European style boulevards and squares to the narrow medieval alleyways and architecture of Islamic Cairo, the city is one of amazing contrasts, especially when this is then complemented by the surrounding desert and the most significant feature of all, the magnificent Nile River that dominates as it snakes through the city.

Once you’ve ticked off the brilliant Egyptian Museum for the best in Pharaonic Egypt, head over to take a boat trip of varying types on the Nile, before ducking off to Khan el Khalili for an amazing insight into the medieval markets and streetlife of everyday Cairo. And, then there’s Giza, home to numerous pyramids (including the big 3), the Sphinx, and a cavalcade of photo opportunities amidst the tourist touts and obligatory opportunities to ride camels. Further afield, the (quite architecturally different) pyramids of Saqqara are a short (donkey/camel) ride away.

If you can tear yourself away from Cairo, there’s adventures to be had at all points of the compass. The well worn route takes you south (via boat, train or plane) to Luxor for the unbelievable Valley of the Kings and Temple at Karnak, and then further south again to Aswan, jumping off point for Abu Simbel, the rescued 13th century BC masterpiece of Ramses II, now found on the shores of Lake Nasser. Up and down the Nile, the temples ate Edfu and Esna provide wonderful stopping-off points, and also a great chance to experience the Nile in all its glory as it creates a blue and green swathe through an otherwise barren desert landscape.

Head north from Cairo, and only an hour away is the European-style sophistication of Alexandria on the Mediterranean, a complete contrast to the rest of the country – only the presence of minarets, and its smells and sounds remind you that you’re very much still in Egypt. Alex is a destination in its own right, but also a stopping point en-route to the oasis at Siwa, an ancient fortress (and still functioning town) on the border with Libya, complete with olive groves, palm trees and stunning oasis & desert views.

East from Cairo and you head into the Sinai, home of the beautiful Mt Sinai (complete with the Ten Commandments) and St Katherine’s Monastery. But, more commonly, it’s for the incredible diving and snorkelling opportunities along the Red Sea. At Sharm El-Sheikh and also Hurghada, resorts and diving operations service masses of tourists coming for the abundant coral reefs and marine life as well as some sublime beaches.

The whole travel experience is enhanced by a couple of constants that are with you for the entire trip. Egyptians are warm and offer incredible hospitality to travellers, always seeking to help and offer advice. And, if you let yourself go and really embrace the local food, there are wonders to be had on street corners, in the markets and in the restaurants and cafes of all the cities. From shawarma and all manner of meat delicacies to the wonderful vegetarian options that are so much a part of the religion and culture, there’s something for everyone on the tables of Egypt. Enjoy!

Image by matrioshka, Shutterstock