EGYPT
Egypt, new dimensions, new frontiers

Introduction - Facts for the travellers - Where to go, what to see? - History: Pharaonic history -
Coptic history
- Islamic history - Modern history - Holy Family - Useful Arabic


Where to go, what to see

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CAIRO

"Marvelous and maddening, full of secrets and surprises, peopled with the whole spectrum of humanity... This is Cairo, my home. Please come and enjoy it." - Omar Sharif

Cairo is an agglomeration of half a dozen cities, the earliest of which came into existence 2500 years after ancient Memphis. It was the first capital of pharaonic Egypt, founded (c.3100 BC) across the river and to the south. During the heydey of the Old Kingdom, vast necropolises developed along the desert's edge as the pharaohs erected ever greater funerary monuments, from the first Step Pyramid at Saqqara to the unsurpassable Pyramids of Giza. Meanwhile, across the Nile, there flourished a sister-city of priests and solar cults known to posterity as ancient Heliopolis.
It took centuries of Persian, Greek and Roman rule to efface both cities, by which time a new fortified town had developed on the opposite bank. Babylon-in-Egypt was the beginning of the tale of cities that culminates in modern Cairo. Oppressed by foreign overlords, Babylon's citizens almost welcomed the army of Islam that conquered Egypt in 641. For strategic and spiritual reasons, their general, Amr, chose to found a new settlement beyond the walls of Babylon - Fustat, the "City of the Tent", which evolved into a sophisticated metropolis while Europe was in the Dark Ages.

Under successive dynasties of khalifs who rule the Islamic Empire from Iraq, three more cities were founded, each to the northeast of the previous one, which itself was either spurned or devastated. When the schismatic Fatimids won the khalifate in 969, they created an entirely new walled city - Al-Qahira - beyond this teeming, half-derelict conurbation. Fatimid cairo formed the nucleus of the later, vastly expanded and consolidated capital that Salah al-Din (Saladin) left to the Ayyubid dynasty in 1193. But their reliance on imported slave-warriors caused power to ebb to these Mamlukes, ushering in a new era.

Mamluke Cairo encompassed all the previous cities, Salah al-Din's Citadel (where the sultans dwelt), the northern port of Bulaq and vast cemeteries and rubbish tips beyond the city walls. Mamluke sultans like Beybars, Qalaoun, Barquq and Qaitbey erected mosques, mausoleums and caravanserais that still ennoble what is now called "Islamic Cairo". Following the Turkish takeover of Egypt, the city's renaissance - and the ultimate shift from Islamic to modern Cairo - is owed to Mohammed Ali (1805-48), an Ottoman servant who turned against his masters and raised a huge mosque and palaces upon the Citadel. Under Ismail, the most profligate of his successors, a new, increasingly European Cairo arose beside the Nile. By 1920, the city's area was six times greater than that of medieval Cairo, and since then its residential suburbs have expanded relentlessly, swallowing up farmland and desert.

Cairo has now become a modern, bustling metropolis, with most services and facilities readily available. Modern high-rise buildings line the Nile river, and new restaurants are popping up everywhere. One could say that Cairo has truly become the Manhattan of the Middle East.

Pharaonic Cairo

The Giza plateau

Giza is on the west bank of the Nile and takes in an 18-km-wide swathe which includes the Great Pyramids. Despite the crowds that visit every year, these Pyramids are truly overwhelming when you stand before them. They have survived the rise and fall of great dynasties and conquerors and they share the flat desert surrounds with the Sphinx and a number of smaller pyramids and temples.

The great pyramid

One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great pyramid is the oldest and the largest of the Guiza plateau and that of the IV dynasty pharaoh Khufu better known as Cheops, built c 2550 BC.

The Solar Boat Museum

Located to the south of the Great pyramid, this humidity controlled pavillon contains a cedarwood craft boat. This 43-metre-long vessel called by the Egyptologists "Solar boat" was built to take the Pharaoh through his journey to the afterworld.

The second pyramid

The Sphinx and the pyramid of Chephren


Built by King Chephren (or Khafre) south west of that o his father Cheops. This pyramid seems taller than Khufu's because sited on higher ground.

The third pyramid

Built by King Mycerinus (Menkaure) son of Kephren. Because its lower half was sheathed in Aswan granite, this is sometimes called the Red Pyramid. Its structure is estimated to contain 200,000 blocks.

The Sphinx

Not far from the pyramids is the Great Sphinx of Giza, which dates from the time of Chephren (2540 BC). Hewn from natural yellowish limestone and standing 65 feet high and 187 feet long (20x60 m), this unforgettable statue combines the head of a pharaoh with a lion's body.

Sound and light Show

Don't forget the most essential after dark experience, the sound and light show at the pyramids, a dramatic fusion of light and music recounting the story of antiquity in different foreign languages.

Saqqara

Saqqara is the most exciting historical and archeological areas in all Egypt. There are so many periods represented there that the site could almost be a book, in whose pages the story of Egyptian civilization through the Pharaonic, Greek and Roman periods could be read. Discoveries are still being made today.

The step Pyramid

The site is dominated by the famous step Pyramid of King Zozer. It was the first pyramid to be buit in ancient Egypt (in the 27th century BC), preceding those of Giza by many centuries, and is the work of the famous architect Imbotep.

The Mastaba of Mereruka, Ti, Kagemni and Ptah-Hotep

Carved and painted tombs vividly illustrate everyday life more than 5000 years ago.

The pyramid of Unas

Noted for its funerary chamber covered with mortuary literature called the " Pyramid Text ". The alabaster walls are covered with inscriptions listing the rituals and prayers to help the pharaoh to his afterlife. These pyramid texts are the earliest known example of decorative writing within a pharaonic tomb chamber, and formed the basis of the New Kingdom "Book of the Dead".

The serapeum 

Discovered by Mariette in 1851, the rock-cut galleries of the Serapeum held the mummified corpses of the sacred Apis bulls put down in enormous basalt or granite sarcophagi.

Memphis

Memphis, which is one of the oldest cities on earth, served as the capital of Upper and Lower Egypt some 5,000 years ago during the 1st Dynasty. Menes, the first Pharaoh of this dynasty, built a great white-walled palace and the Temple of Ptah here.

The site includes:
-The colossal statue of Ramses II
-The temple for embulbing the Sacred Bull, Apis
-The alabaster Sphinx.

The Egyptian Museum

Golden Mask of Tutankhamun

One of the world most famous museums and the most important depository of Egyptian antiquities in the world. It features artifacts from the Pharaonic and Graeco-Roman periods, including the celebrated mummies of ancient Egypt's kings (Ramses II, Seti I), sarcophagi and the fabulous treasures from Tutankhamun's tomb.

Coptic Cairo

Coptic Cairo was originally built as a Roman fortress town. It pre-dates the founding of Islamic Cairo by several hundred years and was home to one of the world's first Christian communities. It is, however, a holy place for Jews and Muslims as well as the Coptic Christians who lived there. The one remaining part of the Fortress of Babylon is a tower which was built in 98 AD and originally overlooked an important port on the Nile before the river changed course.

The hanging Church (Al-Muaallaqa)

The Hanging Church was built on the 4th century over the southern gate of the fortress of babylon. Dedicated to Virgin Mary, its treasures include a 14th century painting of the Nativity.

Church of St. Sergius (Abu Serga)

A 5th century basilica, built over a crypt where the Holy Family is believed to have stated during their flight into Egypt (the our section "The Holy Family") [faire un link to "HOLY FAMILY"]

Church of St. Mercurius (Abu Sefein)

It boasts an unique collection of coptic art including 175 icons that depicts scenes from the Old and New Testament, wall paintings, etchings and stained glass.

Greek Orthodox Church of Mari Girgis

Built on the towers of Babylon Fortress, this basilica is round in structure with a doomed roof.

The Coptic Museum

Coptic Museum is at the foot of the tower of the Babylon Fortress and its exhibits cover Egypt's Christian era between 300 and 1000 AD. This stunning collection includes religious and secular art, and includes stonework, illuminate manuscripts, woodwork, metalwork, paintings and pottery, icons and textiles.

Islamic Cairo

Mohameds Ali's Mosque

Islamic Cairo (no more Islamic than the rest of the city) is the old medieval quarter, and stepping into its neighbourhoods is like moving back six or seven centuries. This is the most densely populated area of Egypt, and probably the whole Middle East. Districts like Darb al-Ahmar are full of tiny alleyways, mud-brick houses, food hawkers, and goats, camels and donkeys. There are mosques and temples everywhere and the air is filled with the pungent smells of turmeric and cumin, and animals and squalor.

The Citadel of Saladin

Built between 1176 and 1182 AD, it provides a panoramic view of Cairo from Al-Moqattam Hills. The Citadel complex, which is an awesome medieval fortress that was the seat of Egyptian power for 700 years, includes the Alabaster Mosque of Mohamed Ali, " Al Gawhara Palace ", and the military museum..

Mosque of Amr Ibn Al-Aas.

Founded by Amr Ibn Al-Aas in 642, it is the oldest mosque in Egypt and Africa. It represents schools of architecture from different periods.

Al-Nasir Al-Mansour Qalawun, Barquq complex.

A medieval comples of mosquies, mausoleums, and madrassas (schools) built by Mamluk sultans.

Mosque of Ibn Tulun

Built between 876 and 879 AD this is one of Cairo's intact mosques characterized by its unique minares. It is still in use today.

Next door is the Gayer Anderson house, (Al-Kretleya), an Ottoman-style residence of a british major, resorted and furnished in the period style and boasts his collection of islamic art.

The Mosque and Madrassa (school) of Sultan Hassan

A masterpiece of mamluk architecture, it includes bronze doors inlaids with gold and silver, marble panelling, and a fountain that used to run with " sherbet " on special occasions.

Al-Azhar Mosque

The first Fatimid mosque and the oldest islamic University in the world, founded in 972 AD.

Cairo Gates .

Part of the city's fortifications which dates to 968-1091. These gates are Bab El-Nasr (Gate of Victory), Bab El-Futtuh (Gate of Conquests), Bab El-Mitwalli and Bab Zuwayla on whose towers the minarets of Mosque of El-Muayyad where added in the 15th century.

The Museum of Islamic Art

It is regarded as the largest Islamic museum in the Middle East, housing 102,000 antique art treasures ranging from large architectural pieces rescued from mosques to ceramics, manuscripts and tapestries dating from the down of Islam to the end of Ottoman period.

ALEXANDRIA & MEDITERRANEAN BEACHES

Pompey's Pillar

The mighty Macedonian, Alexander the Great, came to Egypt after conquering Greece and selected a small fishing village on the Mediterranean coast to establish his new capital, Alexandria. The ancient city once had a great library that contained more than 500,000 volumes, and at its peak the city was a great repository of science, philosophy and intellectual thought and learning.

Alexandria is a city to explore at random. The city center now streches back from Saad Zaghloul square, on the seafront, where there is a statue of the nationalist leader. This was formely the site of Caesareum, a magnificent temple begun by Cleopatra for her lover Antony and subsequently completed by their enemy Octavius ans dedicated to himself. Two famous obelisks (one known as " Cleopatra's Needle "), now on the embankment in London ; the other in New York's central Park) were once here but all traces of the temple have disappeared.

Today post-colonial architecture, like as pseudo Moorish Hotel Cecil, vies with more modern buildings

Graeco-Roman Alexandria

Little of the greatest city of antiquity remains to be seen today. However an international project to rebuilt Alexandria Library, wich once housed laboratories, observatories and a library of over 500 000 volumes, will put Alexandria back on the map of an international centre of learning.

The Roman Amphitheatre

Over 30 years of excavation have uncovered many Roman remains including this well-preserved Amphiteatre with marble seats for up to 800 spectators, galleries and sections of mosaic-flooring, In Ptolemaic times this area was the Park of Pan, a recreational surrounded by Roman villas and baths.

Al-Anfushi Tombs

Dating from about 250 BC and painted to simulate alabaster and marble, these limestone tombs are decorated with pictures of Egyptian dieties and daily life, besides graffiti that date back to the same period.

Pompey's Pillar

A 25 m high red granit column that measures 9 metres around its girth, constructed in honour of the emperor Diocletian. When the Christian Crusaders came to Egypt they credited this to Pompei, however the pillar is in fact all that remains of the very grand Serapeum. The pillar was erected in 297 AD in the centre of the Serapeum for Diocletian, and when the Crusaders came around 100 years later they destroyed the Serapeum and Cleopatra's library leaving only the pillar standing. Other remains include two pink granite sphinxes. Nearby are subterranean galleries were the sacred Apis Bulls were buried.

The catacombs of Kom El-Shaqafa

This warren of tombs, on three levels, also houses the triclinium where relatives used to sit on stone benches to feast the dead, and a central tomb with reliefs of bearded serpents. Inside are 2nd century statues of Sobek and Anubis wearing Roman armour.

El-Shatby necropolis

Built along the lines of the old greek houses, it comprises a doorway, corridor and two chambers. It dates to the 3rd century BC and lies north of St. Mark's college.

The graeco-Roman Museum

The collection, wich covers the period from thr 3rd century BC to the 7th century AD, is a fascinating. record of a civilization in the process of change as religions merged and society evolved. In Alexandria Graeco-Roman and Pharaonic religions mingled in the cult of Serapis the shift from pagan religions to christanity can also be seen in the exhibits wich includes mummies, Hellenistic statues busts of Roman emperors, Tanagra figurines and early Christian antiquities.

Islamic Alexandria

Al-Gomruk and Al-Anfushi are interesting neighbourhoods to explore for their souks and streetlife as well as Ottoman mosques and mashrabeyya decorated houses.

El Attareen Mosque

It is so called due to its location nearby El-Attareen market place (souk). It is adjacent to an ancient mosque established by Amr Ibn El-Aas, known as Mosque of a thousand columns. The current building dates from the 14th century.

The Mosque of Abu El-Abbas Al Mursi

Dedicating to the patron saint of Alexandria's fishermen and sailors, this is the city's biggest mosque.

Fort QaitBey

On the northern tip on the Eastern Harbour, Sultan Qaitbey Fort is an alexandrian landmark. The fort is on the original site of pharo's Alexandria's ancient light-house, built in 279 BC. The Fort houses a mosque and the Naval Museum ; it also provides wonderful views of the city and the Mediteranean.

Landmarks gardens and Museums

Montazah Palace and Gardens

Montazah Palace, a grand structure built in a mixture of turkish and florentine styles, is now a state guest house. Pleasant afternoon can also be spent in Shallalat Gardens, wich include rockeries and an artificial pond, Nozha garden near the zoo, and Antoniadis Garden where classical statuary is set among what were once the private lands of a greek family.

Museums

The Fine Art Museum has a collection ranging from drawings of rural life to surrealist paintings. Exhibitions of works by contemporary Egyptians and international artists are held regularly and every two years it hosts the Alexandrian Biennale.

Cavafy's Appartment has been recreated as a museum on the top of the greek Consulate.

The royal Jewllery Museum in Zizinia, is set in a former palace and has a magnificent collection af the jewllery accumulated by Mohammed Ali and his descendants as statues and paintings.

Day trips from Alexandria.

There are numerous day trips from Alexandria along the western coast of the Mediteranean. At Borg El-Arab about 50 km from Alexandria, near Abu Sir, you can still see the walls of an ancient temple dedicated to Osiris. Climb the limestone ridge for views over the lake Mariout marshes and the sea and walk over to a ptolemaic lighthouse (or Borg Al-Arab), a scaled-down replica of Pharos which was once part of the chain stretching from Alexandria to Cyrenaica along the Mediteranean coast.

Back on the coast road, a further 60 km west takes you to El-Alamein an essential stop for anyone interessed in military history. Here, in 1942, Rommel and Montgomery fought the decisive battle in the Second World War. The famous battle between the Eighth Army under Montgomery and the Africa corps under Rommel which took place in El-Alamein, marked a turn in the Allies' fortunes and the beginning of the end of the German forces in North Africa. The battle claimed over 80 000 lives and many of those who died rest in the cemeteries here. The war museum is only a 10 minutes walk from the Allied, Italian, and German war cemeteries. El-Alamein is the host of beautiful sandy beaches which are complemented by the clear blue water of the Mediterranean.

OASES

Egypt's oases are juste that : unspoilt refuges from the modern world. Pockets of civilization in the dramatic setting of the desert. Egypt's oases are still the most varied in the world, each with a special character of its own.

Fayoum

Only two hours from Cairo by road, Fayoum is renowned for its year-round warm climate, numerous water wheeles (intruduced by the Ptolemies in the 3rd century BC) and lush agricultural land. Opposite the local marketplace in Fayoum City is the Hanging Mosque built above fice arches, and nearby is the 5th century Mosque of Kwawand Asla-Bey built by Sultan Qaitbey.

Fayoum has been a traditionnal hunting ground since pharaonic time when Crocodilopolis centre of cult of Sobek, was the capital of the region. There are many pharaonic sites in the area for example the red granit obelisk of Senusert I, and the Pyramid of Senusert II at Lahun, the pyramid of Amenemhat III at Hawara and the remains of the ancient city of Karanis, where you can camp and visit the site museum.

Nature

Birdlife still abound around lake Karoun, bordered by semi nomadic bedouin settlements an fishing villages. Here on the edge of the desert, you can sail, windsurf swim and fish. Other places of oustanding natural beauty near Fayoum are the mineral springs of Ain El-Sillin, Ain El-Shoer, and the waterfalls at wadi El-Rayan, 40 km towards Bahariya oasis which are also suitable for swimming and picnics.

Bahariya

Set in a depression Bahariya Oasis is surrounded by block hills. Most of the villages and cultivated land can be viewed from the top of the 50-meter-high jebel El-Maysarah, together with the massive dunes.Wildlife is plentiful, especially birds such as wheatears ; crops include dates, olive, apricot, rice and corn. Bawiti is the largest village in the oasis Its picturesque hillside quarter overlook lush palm groves irrigayed by Ain El-Beshmo, a natural spring hewn from the rock in Roman times which gushes water at 30C. Nearby at Qarat Hilwa you can still see tombs with paintings dating from the 26th dynasty. Bahariya is famous for its mineral and sulphur springs, including Bir El-Mathar and Bir El-Ghaba.

Kharga

Kharga used to be the last but one stop on the Forty Days Road, the infamous slave trade route between North Africa and the tropical south. Today, it is the biggest New Valley oasis. Outside the main center is the Temple Of Hibis, built on the site of a Saite, Persian and Ptolemaic settlements. One of the few Persian monuments in Egypt, the 6th century BC temple is welle-preserved with painted vultures and huge reliefs of Darius greeting Egyptian gods on the outer walls. 10 km away the necropolis of El-Bagawat houses 263 mud-brick chapels with coptic murals, including the Chapel of Peace and the Chapel of the Exodus. Pharaonic monuments include El-Ghawayta temple which dates from 522 BC. Ancient monuments include the Roman Temple of Dush, dedicated to Isis and Serapis. Archeologists are still unearthing the ancient city of Kysis in which the Temple is included.

Dakhla

Centred around the towns of Mut and Al-Qasr, this oasis is nearly 200 km from Kharga Oasis and more than 250 km from Farafra Oasis. Mut is a labyrinth of old laneways and mud-brick houses which cling to the slopes of the hill. Atop the hill are the remains of an old citadel which once was the town proper. The views from this hill over the medieval town and the empty backdrop of cliffs, dunes and desert are quite fantastic. There's an old Islamic cemetery near the new town centre. There are also several hot sulphur springs around the town.
Nearby, Al-Qasr is an ancient little town with much of its traditional architecture still intact. The medieval atmosphere is accentuated by the narrow covered streets (built to provide shelter from the summer sun and from desert wind-storms) and the animals that roam through them. Many of the houses and buildings have lintels above their front doorways inscribed with the builder's name, the home-owner's name, the date and a passage of the Qu'ran - the earliest of these dates from 924 AD. The city was originally a Roman settlement which later became the medieval capital of Dakhla. The old town is a labyrinth of mud-walled alleys narrowly separating houses. There is also an Ayabid mosque. There are three buses daily from Cairo to Dakhla.

The capital Mut houses the Museum of Heritage, a traditionnal house with intricate wooden combination lock, that showes different aspects of Dakhla culture and family life.


Day trips from Dakhla-Mut

Other day trips from Mut can include the first century El-Mazawaka tombs and Dair El-Hagar, a temple which was originally dedicated to the Theban Triad and later rebuilt by the Romans. After visiting the temple, bathe in the hot sulphur spring nearby. Visit Bashendi to see Roman tombs and a factory where carpets are still woven with scenes of Dakhla life. At nearby Balaat village, a trading post with ancient Nubia, archeologits are still uncovering dozens of 6th dynasty mastabas.

Farafra

Farafra known as "Ta-iht" or The Land of the Cow in pharaonic times, is a single village. The oldest part of the village, on a hilside, is next to peacefull walled palm groves. A short ride away, there are hot sulphur springs at Bir Setta and El-Mufid Lake. The Oasis houses Kasr El-Farafra and Kasr Abu Minkar which are remains of Roman buildings. Beautiful hand-knitted camel-hair sweaters socks and scarves are local products. Day trip by jeep and camel treks from here to the white Desert. Bahariya, Dakhla and Siwa can be arranged.

The White Desert

A trip to the The White Desert is something that no visitor to the New Valley should miss. Travellers coming Bahariya will cross through the Black Desert passing the tiny oasis of El-Heez on the way. Nearby, there are some Roman, ruins, including a church with coptic graffiti. Bahariya and Farafra are separated by huge golden sand dunes. Once through El-Sillim pass, you enter the tiny oasis of El-Heez, a unique handscape of surreal wind-eroded rock formations which is particularly magical at sunrises or sunsets ? Camel and jeep trips, including a hot meal and fresh bread , made in the sand Bedouin style, can be arranged from Farafra.

Siwa

Siwa is one of the most fascinating oases. On the edge of the Great Sand Sea, its rich history includes a visit from Alexander the great to consult the Oracles of Amun in 331 BC. Siwans have their own culture and customs and they speak a Berber language, Siwi, rather than Arabic. Many women stil wear traditional costumes and silver jewellery like those displayed in the Traditional Siwan House Museum at the town center. Siwa remains one of the best places to buy jewellery, rugs, baskets, traditional robes and head-dresses, decorated with antique coins.

The original settlements, Aghurmi, was superseded by Shali, founded in 1203. Set among thick palm groves, walled gardens and olive orchards, with numerous fresh-water springs and salt lakes, modern Siwa clusters beneath the remains of ancient Shalli. Climb though the ruins of the old city for magnificent views of the whole oasis. Walk, hire a bicycle or ride in a "caretta" (donkey cart) to outlying sights and bathing places. These include 26th Dynasty tombs with murals and inscriptions at Jebel El-Mawta (the hill of the dead) and the Oracle of Amun, an acropolis temple dating from around 550 BC. Near the Oracle is a ruined Temple of Amun and the famous Cleopatra Bath, a deep pool of bumbling water where you can bathe. Another favourite bathing spot is Fatis Island, on the salt lake of Birket Siwa, surrounded by palm trees and beautiful scenery.

LUXOR

Luxor was built on the site of the ancient city of Thebes, and the magnificent monumental architecture and its excellent condition make Luxor one of Egypt's greatest tourist destinations. For many hundreds of years people have been visiting the temples of Luxor, Karnak, Hatshepsut and Ramses II.

As "Weset" it was the capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom (1570-1090 BC), as Thebes it was described by Homer as " the hundred gate city ". Its later name, "El-Oksor", means " City of the Palaces ". On the East Bank of the Nile in the City of the Living, Luxor and Karnak Temples greet the sunrise. The sunset on the West Bank throws shadows through the City of the Dead : the Tombs of the Nobles, the Valley of the Kings, Queen Hatshepsut's Temple.

East Bank

Karnak Temple

Known to the ancient Egyptians as " Iput-Isut " the most esteemed of places, Karnak temples are built on a massive scale. The temple complex covers a hundred acres. Its history spans thirteen centuries. The temple start with the Avenue of Rams, representing Amon, symbol of fertility and growth. Beneath the rams, heads, statues of Ramses II were carved.

The Sound and Light Show. This spell binding show, through the exquisite use of words, light and music, tells the story of these magnificent Karnak Temples. It is presented in many different languages.

Luxor Temple

Luxor Temple was built by Pharaoh Amenophis III (1417-1379 BC) on the site of another Thebian temple and added to by Tutankhamun, Ramses II, Nectanebo, Alexander the Great and various Romans. Excavation work has been underway since 1885.

Louxor Museum

The museum is situated between the temple of Louxor and Karnak. It houses pharaonic relics from Luxor and the nearby areas. From Tutankhamun's tomb in the valley of the king come a funerary bed, two model boats and a stumming gold-inlaid cow's head representing Meri-Weri (an aspect of Hator).

West Bank

The Colossi of Memnon

The two huge famous colossi are the only remains of Amenhotep Mortuary Temple.

Medinet Habu Temple

One of the most important building in Medinet Habu is Ramses III temple characterized by its well-preserved religious and military scenes.

The Ramesseum

Ramses II's stupendous mortuary temple at western Thebes, inspired Shelley's sonnet " Ozymandias ". Its murals record the renowed Battle of Kadesh

Queen Hatshepsut Temple (Deir El-Bahari)

Hatshepsut, the only woman to rule over Egypt as Pharaoh, named by her temple "Djeser-Djerseru" the Splendour of the Splendours.

Valley Of the Kings

Tutankhamun's Tomb

Tutankhamun's Tomb

The most famous tomb in the Valley of the kings, c.1352 BC. In 1922, Howard Carter's discovery of King Tutankhamun's fabulous treasures caused it worlwilde sensation.

Seti 1st Tomb

Found in 1817, Seti's tomb is the longest (100m) and finest in the valley.

The valley of the Queens

Nefertary's Tomb.

The most renowded at the valley of the Queens. It boasts vivid murals and inscriptions. The tomb have been recently opened to the public after restoration.

Day trips

Luxor is an ideal bas for day trips to Esna, Dendera and Abydos.

Esna

Esna boasts the Temple of Khnum, the ram creator god. Nearby is an early christian monastery.
Deir Manayus Wal-Shuhada, built in the 4th century AD, "The Monastery of Three Thousand Six Hundred Martyr's", comprises two churches, the wall of one are covered with vibrants 10th century murals.

Dendera

At Dendera you can visit the Temple of Hator dedicated to the cow-headed godness of healing. This Graeco-Roman temple is famous for its astronomical ceiling painted with symbools of the heavents bodies.

Abydos

Abydos was the chief seat of worship Osiris god of the underworld. The Temple of Seti I with its painted reliefs is the best preserved among the ruins of Abydos, while the Temple of Ramses II is particularly preserved.

ASWAN & NUBIA

The Nile

Aswan, Egypt's southernmost city, has long been the country's gateway to Africa and a prosperous market city on the crossroads of the ancient caravan routes. It sits at the `other end of the Nile not far above the Tropic of Cancer. It was a garrison town known as Sunt in ancient times and it was also important to the early Coptic Christians. The Nile has Elephantine Island in its centre and this is where the main town and temple area of Sunt were located (the island was known then as Yebu, and later renamed by the Greeks). The temples and ruins here are not nearly as well preserved and impressive as those elsewhere in the country, but there are other good reasons to visit. The Nile is glorious here as it makes its way down from massive High Dam and Lake Nasser, and watching the feluccas glide by as the sun sets over the Nile is about as moving as any travel experience gets.

Plantation Island

Almost the whole Island is a botanical garden, filled with exotic plants and trees imported from all over the world.

Elephantine Island

Walk through the Nubian villages to the small museum set in shady gardens. Nearby is a Nilometer settled by ancient Egyptians who believed it to be near the source of the Nile. The remains of the many temples that were built here can still be seen, including the Temple of Khnum, a graeco-Roman necropolis and the Temple of Satet built by quenn Hatshepsut.

Aga Khan Mausoleum

Take a felucca to the mausoleum, atop a hill at the southern end of the west bank. Aga Khan was buried here in this magnificient mausoleum modelled on the fatimid tombs in Cairo.

The monastry of St. Simeon

Ride a camel or climb to te ruins of the Coptic Monastery of St. Simeon, originally founded in the 7th century. Rebuilt in the 10th century, the monastery was a base for missionary monks who converted the Nubians to Christianity. Frescoes of the Apostles still remain in the roofless Basilica.

The Unfinished Obelisk

The unfinished Obelisk still lies where a crak was discovered as it was being hewn from the rock. Possibly intended as a companion to the Lateran Obelisk, originally at Karnak, now in Rome it would have mesured 120 feet (36,6m) and weighed over 1 150 tons when complete. It is a concrete example of how the ancient Egyptians went about fashioning these graceful monuments. Nearby is the Fatimid Cemetery which includes hundreds of mud-brik tombs dating back to the 9th century.

The Tombs of the Nobles

The northen hills of the west bank are filled with the rock-hewn tombs of princes dating from the Old Kingdom to the Roman period. Inside, the tombs are decorated with vivid murals depicting scenes of everyday life, hieroglyphic biographies and inscriptions showing the noblemen's journeys into Africa.

Philae Temple

Philae Temple, dedicated to Isis, was dismantled and reassembled on Agilika Island about 500m from its original home on Philae Island, in the wake of the High Dam. Its various shrines and sanctuaries, which include a temple of Hathor, a Birth house and two pylons, celebrate all the deities involved in the Isis and Osiris myth. At night enjoy the Sound and Light Show.

The high Dam

Built in 1960, the high Dam provides today irrigation and electricity for the whole of Egypt and together with the old Aswan Dam, 6km downriver, offers wonderfull views for visitors. From the top of the two miles long High Dam you can gaze across lake Nasser the huge resevoir created when the Dam was built, at Kalabsha temple in the south and the huge power station to the north.

Nubian Museum

It houses 3000 rescued artefacts representing different eras : prehistoric, Pharaonic, Graeco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic.

Aswan Cultural Center

Every night Nubian dancers and musicians perform in th Cultural Center, just of the Corniche. Folklore troupes recreate scenes from village life and êrfomr the famous nubian mock stick-fight dances.

Day Trips from Aswan

Kom Ombo and Edfu are both easily accessible from Aswan by day cruise, bus or taxis.

Kom Ombo

Arriving by boat at the temple is recommended : the magnificent Ptolemaic temple is in a dramatic setting on high ground beside the Nile surrounded by sugar cane fields. Dedicated joinly to Haroeris the God Doctor, and Sobek, the crocodile god, the temple is famous for its twin entrances, halls and sanctuaries. A tour of the temple could be combined with a visit to Daraw Camel market where camels that have made the trek from northern Sudan are sold every Tuesday.

Edfu

Edfu is a longer trip (105 km from Aswan) but it houses the best preserved cult temple in Egypt which is an essential landmark for archeological enthusiasts. Dedicated to Horus, the falcon'headed god, it was built during the reigns of six ptolemies. The temple that rivals those at Luxor in grandeur, also comprises a Nilometer, a court of offering and a huge pylon at its entrance.

NUBIA

Once the ancient kingdom of Kush, Nubia is the stretch of land next to the Nile from Aswan to Khartoum in the South. Nubians are depicted in many tomb paintings and reliefs, usually as mercenaries or traders. Nubians still have distinct traditions, architecture and language, even though many migrated either to Aswan and Kom Ombo or south to Sudan after Lake Nasser. Nubia houses dozens of sites of archeological interest, 24 temples as well as fortresses and tombs which were menaced by the water of the High Dam, including Dendour, Ellessiya, Amada and wadi El-Sebowa. Some have been moved most notably Philae, Kalabsha and Abu Simbel Temples. Today you can take a luxury cruise round Lake Nasser ans discover the " New Nubia " viewing temples that because of their former inaccessibility, have rarely been seen since the begining of the nineteenth century.

Kalabsha Temple

Kalabsha Temple was moved to its present location in 1970 together with other monuments from Nubia. Reachable by taxi or by boat depending on the water level, the standstone edifice was built by the Roman Emperor Octavius Augustus and dedicated to the fertility god Mandulis. The Kiosk of Kertassi with its two Hator-headed colomuns was moved at the same time and now stands near the water. Nearby, dug into the hillside, is another of Ramses II's nubian monuments painting to military might : Beit El-Wali.

Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel, Temple of Ramses II

Not only are the two temples at Abu Simbel among the most magnificient monuments in the world, but their removal and reconstruction were historic events in themselves. When the temples (280km from Aswan) were threatened by submersion in Lake Nasser, due to the construction of the High Dam, the UNESCO launched a world-wide appeal. During the salvage operation which began in 1964 and continued until 1968, the two temples were dismantled and raised over 60m up the sandstone cliff where they had been built more than 3000 years ago. Here they were reassembled, in the same proportions and covered with an artificial mountain.

The design of Abu Simbel Temples is unique Rock-hewn "grotto" temples, although unusual in Egypt, are frequently found in Nubia, but there is no other example of twin sanctuaries in this case dedicated to Ramses himself and to his wife Nefertari. Unlike all the other Nubian temples, Abu Simbel was never transformed into a church but was left alone, untouched by later religions, until it was recovered from the sand in 1817. Even today you can feel the full might of the pharaoh-god in this edifice dedicated to masculine prowess and military power.

RED SEA

Egypt's Red Sea coast runs from the Gulf of Suez to the Sudaneese borders. Its mineral rich red mountains ranges inspired the mariners of antiquity to name the sea Mare Rostrum, or the Red Sea. Remarkably, the Red Sea, one of the worlds richest stretches of water is surrounded by desert. It is said to have been formed by a great rift that in Biblical times separated two great continents; Africa and Asia. The rift forks in the north forming the Gulf of Suez to the west and the Gulf of Aqaba to the east. The area enclosed by the two gulfs is the Sinai Penninsula, formerly geographically considered a part of Asia.

Geology

The geology of the Red Sea is relatively young and is still forming by the process of continental drift, as the African plate and Arabian plate split apart. Saudi Arabia is drifting away from Africa at a rate of 1-2 cms per year. The rocks being formed now are somewhat similar to rocks that were formed when the Americas split away from Africa and Europe 165 million years ago. Think what the diving must have been like then.

Marine Biology

The marine biology of the area is of the richest and most varied in the whole world. Beautifully coloured coral gardens bursting with life, all the fishes of the Red Sea, some incredible seasonal sights, like schools of Hammerheads dancing around in spring and summer, Grey Tip Reef Sharks mating in the winter, Manta Rays.

Suez

Suez has been a commercial port since the 7th century. The spice trade and pilgrimages to Mecca made it prosperous throughout the Middle Ages. It became a naval base in the 15th century and, in 1869, the opening othe Suez Canal ensured its developement as a modern city. Today Suez is one of Egypt's largest ports.
Port Said

Situated on the northern entrance to the Suez Canal on the Mediterranean coast, Port Said is a very young city by Egyptian standards. The city was founded in 1859 by ruler Said Pasha when the excavations began for the Suez Canal. Port Said was bombed in 1956 over the Suez Crisis, and again in the 1967 and 1973 wars with Israel, and the damage can still be seen here and there, although it was extensively rebuilt. It was built on land reclaimed from Lake Manzela and sits on an isthmus connected by causeways to the mainland. Ferries cross Lake Manzela to Al-Matariyya and across the canal to Port Fouad. The site of the huge ships that line up to enter the canal is something special. Unlike many of Egypt's other Mediterranean towns, Port Said does not get overrun with local tourists seeking sun and sea. Nor do many international travellers come to Port Said, but it is an unusual destination for Egypt with turn-of-the-century colonial architecture and several good museums and gardens.

Ismailia

Ismailia lies half way between Port Said in the north and Suez in the south and 120 kms from Cairo on the western shores of the calm waters of Lake Timsah (Crocodile Lake). Ismailia retains much of its colonial architecture with decorative gardens lending relaxing atmosphere to this pleasant town. Ismailia is well known for its beautiful scenery and its numerous beaches. A haven for water sports enthusiasts including sailing, skiing, watching and rowing.

El Ain El-Sukhna

El Ain El-Sukhna, the arabic for "hot spring" was named after the nearby sulphur springs . Close enough to Cairo for a day-trip, this popular weekend resort has fine beaches coves and coral reefs. It is also an ideal site for fishing and water sports.

Hurgada

Founded in the early 20th century, Hurgada has gone on to become the foremost tourist resort of the Red Sea coast and an international centre for aquatic sport. The unique underwater gardens offshore are some of the finest in the world. Make a day trip to Giftun Island for snorkeling and a fish barbecue.

When you are not in the sea, you can visit the Aquarium or the Roman remains nearby Gebel Dukhan.

Safaga

Safaga is a working port with several tourist villages specializing in diving holidays. The unspoilt beaches and stiff breezes made it an ideal venue for windsurfing. Day trip to Tobia-Island or Mons Claudianus in the Red Sea Mountains can be arranged with local guides.

El Quseir

El-Quseir has a long history as one of the major ports of the Red Sea : from here Queen Hatshepsut launched her expedition to the Land of Punt. The 16th century fortress of Sultan Selim is still standing in the town. Todayu El-Quseir is a quiet resort with sandy beaches clear waters and coral reefs.

Mersa Alam

A village with a small harbour and stone quay marsa Alam is the ideal base for fishing holidays. There are some fine offshore coral reefs and diving facilities are available. A nature reserve stretshes from here to Gebel Elba in the South.

Berenice

The ancient city of Berenice, named by Ptolemy II, became a trading port in 275 BC. A ruined Temple of Semiramis is located near the modern town ; inland, there are the remains of the emerald mines of wadi Sakait which were worked from pharaonic to Roman times. The coast is lined with mangrove swamps and unspoiled bays and coves. Offshore visit the tectonic island of Zabargad a geological phenomenon which is also famous as the source of the semi-precious gem olivine, mined here from 1500 BC until the mid-20th century.

Monasteries
St. Anthony's Monastery and its neighbour St. Paul

Those monasteries are the oldest monasteries in Egypt hidden deep in the Red Sea mountains and setting on springs for their water supply. Both still observe rituals that have hardly changed in 16 centuries. There are accessible by special tours from Cairo, Suez or Hurgada an a stay in either monastery can be arranged in advance. St. Anthony's was founded in 356, just after the saint's death. Today, it is a self-contained village with gardens, a mill, a bakery and five churches with exceptional wall painting and icons. Thre is also a library that boasts over 1700 manuscripts. St. Anthony's Cave, where he lived as a hermit, as a 2km high from the monastery and 680m above the Red Sea.

SINAI

The route to promised land ; where Isis sought Osiris and the Pharaohs found gold. A meeting point for Three religions, at the crossroad of Africa and Asia : where Moses witnessed the burning bush, the Holy Family passed along during its flight into Egypt.

El-Arish

Shady palm-lined beaches. Mediteranean waves and the glowing colours of Bedouin Craft.

Sharm El-Sheikh

Both a summer and winter resort due to its year round mode climate. It is the paradise for who seek exploring underwater wonders. There are several well-equiped diving centers. Close to the tip of the Sinai peninsula, Sharm El-Sheikh is now a thriving holiday resort, excellent for sun-worshippers, diving enthousiasts, and well placed for desert safaris. There is also an Institute for Environmental studies. Located 20 kms from Ras Mohamed at the southern most tip of the tip of the peninsula, Sharm is accessible by both road and air.

Ras Mohamed

Situated at the peak of Sinai Peninsula, it is renowned for having the more exquisite coral reefs in the world and being a refuge in rare marine life. It has recently been proclamed natural reserve and it most fit for diving.

Mount Sinai

- Among all the stupendous work of nature, not a place can be selected more fitting for the exhibition of Almighty power ", John Lloyd Stephens.-

Monastery of St. Catherine

St. Catherine's monastery

Built in the 6th century and dedicated to the daughterof the ruler of Alexandria who converted to christianity and was subjected to great torture. It is a spectacular natural setting for priceless work of art.

Dahab

Located on the south-east of the Sinai Peninsula overlooking the Aqaba Gulf, it is said to be the most beautiful oases in all Sinai. Situated 81 kms from Sharm El-Sheikh. Dahab means "Gold" and the town was so called because of the golden colour of the sands.Within easy reach of all the major attractions of the area including St Catherine's Monastery and Mount Sinai. Dahab, a haven for budget travellers because of its abundant cheap restaurants and basic accommodation in the Bedouin village Assaia. It is also famous for its beautifull sandy beaches and diving sites, in particular Blue Hole and Canyon.

Nuweiba

Famous for its beautiful sandy beaches it is a other setting place for underwater fun. You will see both the imposing mountains of South Sinai and green oases along palm-fringed beaches. Nuweiba, a former fishing village, is a small secluded resort with magnificent beaches honoured by the presence of a friendly dolphin who is only too happy to play with visiting snorkellers.

Taba

A meeting borders, Taba is at the tip of Aqaba Golf, overlooks Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabian.
Geziret Faraon (Pharaoh's Island)
Take a boat to a trip to the Islan crowned by Saladin fortress founded in 1170


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© World INvestment NEws, 2000.
This is the electronic edition of the special country report on Egypt published in Forbes Global Magazine.
August 7th 2000 Issue.
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