Located in the north of Africa, Egypt is one of the oldest and most historic countries in the world. Civilization has been flourishing here for more 6000 years. Most of Egypt is a desert, a continuation of the great Sahara Desert of North Africa. The fertile Nile River has enabled humans to live in this area for thousands of years. Egypt is the bridge between Africa and Asia and faces the Mediterranean Sea in the north, the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south and Libya to the west. A map of Egypt will illustrate the country’s strategic position.
The weather of Egypt is hot and dry throughout the year in most regions. The coastal strip in the north enjoys a Mediterranean climate. The best season to visit is winter while spring (March to May) or autumn (September to November) are also good travel times. Summer tends to be very hot: temperatures in the south can reach up to 50 °C in the summer months. In the desert, temperatures vary greatly, between boiling hot conditions during the day and very cold temperatures at night.
Here are some of Egypt’s most famous tourist attractions:
- Cairo: Located in the north of Egypt, Cairo is the country’s capital and the largest metropolitan city in Africa. Cairo is one of the world’s most densely populated cities and has earned its nickname “the City of a Thousand Minarets” due to a predominance of Islamic architecture. The Egyptian Museum has 120,000 rare collections which include the mask of King Tutankhamun. The Islamic part of the city features well-preserved medieval architecture while Old Cairo with its narrow alleyways is home to many historic Coptic sites.
- About 20 km southwest of Cairo are Egypt’s most well-known attractions: the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx. The Sphinx is believed to have been built around the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C., constructed around the same time as the Great Pyramid of Giza, which was the tallest man-made structure on the globe for more than 3,800 years. As part of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, these are Egypt’s most iconic landmarks.
- Alexandria: Named for its founder, Alexander the Great, Alexandria is the second largest city in Egypt and was founded in 331 B.C. It faces the Mediterranean Sea and is the most important port of Egypt. More than 2000 years ago, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and its remains can still be found on the sea floor in the harbor of Alexandria. With its mild climate and European-style architecture, this beautiful city is called the “Pearl of the Mediterranean”. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is an important modern library and cultural center that commemorates the Library of Alexandria, the most important library of the ancient world which was destroyed during Roman times.
- Mount Sinai: Located in the middle of the Sinai Peninsula, Mount Sinai is 2,285 meters high and its summit is said to have been the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Sinai Mountain is known as a sacred place in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic traditions. One of the main draws for visitors is to climb the mountain, starting at midnight and witnessing the sunrise from top of the mountain. Those that are not sure of their physical strength can ascend the mountain on camelback, but whether on foot or by camel, using the help of a guide is always recommended.
- Sharm el-Sheikh is a very popular sea-side resort town at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Its nickname “City of Peace” refers to the many international peace conferences that have been held there. Visitors to Sharm el-Sheik often take side trips into the desert, make visits to the Coloured Canyon and go on excursions to Mount Sinai. Sharm Old Town is also a nice place to see.
- Abu Simbel: This site in the far south of Egypt features two immense rock temples with status of Ramesses II that were saved during the construction of the Aswan Dam by being relocated to an artificial hill. Originally carved around 1200 BC, these temples are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Egypt’s most popular destinations.
- Aswan: Located in the south of Egypt, Aswan stands on East bank of Nile and its main attractions include the Nubian Museum and the stone quarries which hold an unfinished obelisk and provided the rock for many gigantic statues, obelisks and pyramids throughout Egypt.
- Luxor: Located in southern Egypt, Luxor (also known as “Thebes” in antiquity) is one of Egypt’s most well-known destinations. The Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens are located on the west bank of the Nile River while the East Bank features the Temple of Luxor and the Temple of Karnak as the main attractions. One of the granite obelisks of the Temple of Luxor is located on the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
- Red Sea (also called the Gulf of Arabia): Located in eastern Egypt, between Africa and Asia, the Red Sea is a dream destination for divers from around the world. Its climate is warm throughout the year and about 1200 species of fish and 200 kinds of corals exist in this tropical sea.
Egyptian cuisine is flavourful and combines Mediterranean and Middle Eastern elements. Vegetables like tomatoes and onions are heavily used and even vegetarian travelers will find plenty of meal options in Egypt. Thick pita bread is a staple that is eaten at almost every meal. The most famous local foods are falafels (the Egyptian name is Ta’miya) and kushari (also called koshary or kosheri), a dish made of rice, lentils, chickpeas and macaroni. After a meal, many travelers enjoy a shisya (hookah). Water pipes are also popular souvenirs for the tourists.
If you want to buy high quality and inexpensive merchandise like bags, accessories or hand-crafted objects, you can find these items in one of the many bazaars that are located in each city. It can be an exciting experience to negotiate with a storekeeper about the price of an item. More modern merchandise can be purchased at one of the many large shopping malls in Egypt.
A grand historic country, Egypt is shrouded in the mysteries of its ancient cultures. For travelers who enjoy learning about 6000 years of world heritage, Egypt is an ideal destination.