Ancient Egypt is epitomized by two icons, one man-made and one natural. The Pyramids of Giza, at Cairo, are the only remaining wonders of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, burial memorials for pharaohs whose remarkable construction has baffled observers for millennia.
The timeless Nile River is now best explored by river cruise ship. Stops along the way include Luxor, site of the ancient Temple of Karnak, and the Valley of Kings, where King Tut is buried. Egypt remains a "must-see" on any bucket list.
Luxor, Karnak and the Valley of the Kings
There are so many treasures for the eyes and mind to feast on here that it may seem a little overwhelming! The Valley of the Kings itself contains hundreds of tombs: fortunately not all of them are open every day so some of the selecting is done for you. The valley is broken up into two sections called the East Valley and West Valley.
Upon entering the site, you would purchase a general admission ticket which allows you entry into the valley. It also allows you to explore three tombs that are open to the public that day. But tickets to the tombs of Tutankhamun, Ramesses VI, and Ayare sold separately. One of the most popular tomb at the site isKing Tut’s which was was found largely intact when it was excavated in 1922.
However, it should be noted that when you visit the tombs most of the artifacts have been taken out, especially the case for King Tut’s crypt. But the intricate detailing and decoration of each room definitely makes the visit worth it. And you can always make a trip to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo which harbors most of the artifacts that were found in the tombs.
For those looking for adventure, a donkey ride in the hills above the valley of the kings is something you won’t forget, or for those seeking even more height there may be an opportunity to enjoy a ride in a hot air balloon ride over the valley.
What a wonderful way to witness the sun rising and look down on the mighty Nile river!
Karnak Temple, known to some as the temple from the James Bond movie ‘The Spy who Loved Me’ is simply unmissable. Built as a place of worship in ancient Egypt, the Karnak Temple is one of the largest ancient religious site ever built. It dates back to the Middle Kingdom but remained an active place of worship until the Roman succession in 30 BCE. Today, you can walk through its many courts and temples. The hundreds of tall columns and statues in its grand hall are likely to take your breath away.
A Word about the Pyramids
There’s no denying the Pyramids of Giza will take your breath away and fully deserve their status as a wonder of the world. Don’t be surprised however, when you arrive at the pyramids to find that they appear to be in the middle of a Cairo suburb. This much is true, but the good news is that at least from one side, the Pyramids do back onto desert.
As with all big attractions, it’s best to head there early in the morning to skip some of the crowds and midday heat. And there’s so much more to discover than the ‘headline attraction’!
While in Cairo don’t forget to pay a visit to the Egyptian Museum, whose contents were miraculously kept safe during the uprisings in Cairo in 2011, and if you like to bargain hard while you shop: head to the Khan el Khalili market.
Cruising the Nile: Slow Style
Geographically, the Nile River is the longest river in the world. It is mentioned throughout history for its physical and metaphorical vigorousness.And today, you can experience its beauty and tranquility like the ancient pharaohs did thousands of years ago. There are hundreds of large cruise ships ploughing the Nile River in Egypt; particularly on the stretch between Luxor and Aswan.
Why not travel like a true Nubian in a slow style and in a more environmentally friendly way on the river by taking a traditional Egyptian sailing boat ‘Felucca’ for a ride? Check if your tour includes the option for this, many do.
Visiting Aswan and Abu Simbel
Aswan marks the south of the navigable Nile river as beyond lies the Aswan Dam and the shores of Lake Nasser. At the southern end of Lake Nasser lies Abu Simbel, a magnificent temple carved directly into the rock, and whose figures seem to watch over the river themselves.
When Lake Nasser was (somewhat controversially) created by the installation of the Aswan Dam and the flooding of the riverbanks surrounding it, the Abu Simbel temples were physically dismantled and moved, piece by piece, some 65 meters back from the river banks and up the cliffs to save them.
Beyond the Nile Basin
Egypt offers a wealth of other interesting destinations that are a little more off-the-beaten-path. The red sea is unrivaled for its Scuba Diving, and the desert in the west of the country is famous for its beautiful oasis towns such as Dakhla and Siwa.
Travel Safety and Security in Egypt
Egypt is truly unique in the sights it has to offer, its history, landscape and people. Since 2011 Egypt has been suffering from intermittent but well publicized political turbulence, and visitor numbers has been affected. Much of the area of the country frequented by tourists (Cairo, the Nile basin including Luxor & the Valley of the kings, Aswan, Abu Simbel) are some of the safest parts of the country and do not have travel warnings in place. For full and up to date information about safe travel in Egypt check the travel advisory website of your country’s government.
In general understanding the culture a little, staying away from large crowds or political gatherings and using your common sense will help make your trip even safer. For women travelers, dressing conservatively in light, non fitted clothing that covers your legs and upper arms will help decrease any unwanted attention from would be admirers.
One of the best points of going on a guided tour is that you will have local information and support at all times during your trip - therefore providing a bit of extra security.