Egypt

Philae Temple

Few countries can match Egypt’s wealth of ancient monuments and temples. The relics of Pharaonic culture have been drawing visitors for centuries. From the bustle of Cairo to the austere adventure of the Western Desert; from the coral of the Red Sea to the cultural wealth of the Nile Valley temples; from the lush Delta region with its cosmopolitan cultured city of Alexandria to the endlessly fascinating pyramid fields around Cairo.

Thirty royal dynasties ruled Egypt over a three thousand year period, creating glorious cities filled with then-unrivalled art and architecture so magnificent that when the Greek Herodotus showed up in Egypt in the fifth century BC, he wrote, "Nowhere are there so many marvelous things, nor in the whole world beside are there to be seen so many things of unspeakable greatness."

The Greeks ushered in a new age in Egypt’s history, a time when a succession of invaders would bring new influences to the land. The Greeks were followed by the Romans, the Mongols, the Arabs, the French and finally the British before Egypt asserted its independence in 1922. Today the country is the bedrock of the Middle East and North Africa. It is a land filled with the splendor and stateliness of thousands of years of history. It is home to the wide and powerful Nile River and the tropic shores of the Red Sea, to deserts and oases.

CAIRO

Cairo is a city where ancient and modern are intertwined. As well as the Pyramids, the Sphinx at Giza and the fabulous museums; there are early Christian churches and Ottoman and Mamluk mosques. The old souqs, alleys and houses are clustered together with five star modern hotels, restaurants and fantastic shops.

The Citadel (Al-Qalaa), dating from the 12th century, contains fascinating mosques, museums and battlements which reflect a diverse heritage. Nearby is one of the largest and oldest mosques in Egypt, the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, built entirely of mud brick.

Bazaar at Khan al-Khalilli

The world’s oldest bazaar, Khan al-Khalilli sells antiques, textiles, handicrafts and low-quality souvenirs.

For a day or two’s excursion out of Cairo visitors can take a felucca up the Nile to the Nile Barrages at Qanater, a good picnic spot. Heading south out of Cairo the road leads to Saqqara, the site of the Pyramid of Djoser, which is much older than the Great Pyramids and less crowded. Further down the road are the even more isolated pyramid site of Dahshur and Fayom Oasis, Egypt’s largest oasis, with its lush vegetation. Closer at hand are the three pyramids of Abusir and the site of the ancient city of Memphis with a small museum.

THE NILE VALLEY

For an abundance of tombs and temples head to Luxor and Thebes. No one can fail to be impressed by the Valley of the Kings, the temples of Karnak and Luxor and the Luxor Museum.

A cruise down the Nile allows you to take in various temples, including Edfu, Kom Ombo and eventually Abu Simbel.

Most Cruises stop at Aswan whose two famous dams (Aswan Dam and High Dam) are extraordinary feats of engineering.

LUXOR

Luxor

Modern Luxor grew out of the ruins of Thebes, once the capital of ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC). The monumental temples at Luxor and Karnak were famed throughout the ancient world and have attracted tourists since Greek and Roman times. Across the Nile, on the West Bank, lies the Theban Necropolis, perhaps the world’s richest archeological site. To foil thieves, the Theban kings hid their tombs deep in the surrounding hills, away from their mortuary temples on the flood plain. Visiting the Luxor monuments is straight forward, but due to the number of sights and the distances involved some planning is needed to get the most of a visit to the West Bank.

Luxor has returned to prominence as the tourist mecca of the Nile Valley. The exciting excavations that were led by European Archeologists in the 19th and early 20th centuries especially the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, aroused international interest in the town and visitors have been coming to marvel at the amazing concentration of ruins ever since.

KARNAK: TEMPLE OF AMUN

Egyptian Great Sphinx

At the heart of the immense Karnak complex lies the Temple of Amun, dedicated to the king of the gods. With its endless courts, halls and colossi and huge sacred lake, the scale and complexity of this sprawling temple is overwhelming. From its modest 11th Dynasty beginnings, pharaoh after pharaoh added to and changed the existing buildings, seeking to make their mark on the country’s most important temple. No expense was spared and during the 19th Dynasty some 80,000 men worked in the temple as labourers, guards, priests, and servants. The temple lay buried under sand for more than 1,000 years before excavation work began in the mid-19th century.

THEBES: VALLEY OF THE KINGS

Thebes: Valley of the Kings

The remote, barren Valley of the Kings was the necropolis of the New Kingdom pharaohs. By digging their tombs deep in the Theban Hills, pharaohs from Tuthmosis 1 (c 1500 BC) on hoped to stop robbers from stealing the priceless possessions buried with them. it was an unsuccessful strategy.  Despite their hidden locations, every burial chamber was raided except for those of Yuya and Tuya, and Tutankhamun, discovered by Howard Carter in 1922, its glorious treasures still intact. But for all that, the structures themselves remain, their dramatic corridors and burial chambers stunningly adorned with symbolic accounts of the journey through the underworld and ritual paintings to assist the pharaohs in the afterlife.

Sixty-two tombs have been found in the Valley of the Kings.. among others Tomb of Tuthmosis III; Tomb of Tuntankhamun, Tomb of Ramses VI; Ramses IV;  Ramses IX; Ramses III; Ramses I.

ABU SIMBEL

Abu Simbel

Hewn out of a solid cliff in the 13th century BC, the Great Temple of Abu Simbel and the smaller Temple of Hathor are a breathtaking sight. Although dedicated to the patron deities of Egypt’s great cities – Amun of Thebes, Ptah of Memphis and Ra-Harakhty of Heliopolis – the Great Temple was built to honor Ramses II. Its 33m (108ft) high façade, with four colossal enthroned statues of Ramses II wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, was intended to impress and frighten, while the interior revealed the union of god and king.

In the 1960’s as Lake Nasser threatened to engulf the temples, UNESCO cut them from the mountain and moved them to an artificial cliff 210m (688ft) back from and 65m (213 ft) above their original position.