One of the oldest tourist destinations on Earth, Egypt has been enticing visitors to explore its wonders for thousands of years. Travelers come here to marvel at such triumphs as the Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza, the Valley of the Kings, and the rock-cut sun temple, Abu Simbel. But monuments are not all Egypt has to offer. In the 21st century, Egypt tempts visitors with the legacies of ancient history and so much more: In Cairo, medieval mosques and ancient, Coptic churches are interwoven with the skyscrapers of modern life; on the Nile River, luxury cruise vessels pamper guests while winding their way through the timeless Nile Valley; and along the seacoasts, sumptuous beach resorts and exquisite coral reefs draw divers and snorkelers from around the world.
The city of 1,000 minarets, Cairo unfolds along both banks of the Nile River with a staggering mix of history and cultures. The immensity and diversity of the city is astonishing, making it easy to understand why Egyptians think of their capital as the “Mother of the World.”
Cairo‘s Europeanized city center is filled with broad streets and rococo apartment buildings that reflect the style of late-19th-century Paris. The Islamic Quarters is a fascinating jumble of medieval lanes, bustling bazaars, and wondrous monuments; and the Coptic quarter is Cairo’s oldest inhabited section on the east side of the river.
No visitor to Cairo can miss a day trip to the three Great Pyramids and lion-bodied Sphinx, just beyond the outskirts of Giza City. You can explore inside the Great Pyramid of Cheops, the largest and oldest of the three, in the morning or afternoon and witness the magical Sphinx Sound and Light Show in the evening.
The world’s longest river, the Nile is the timeless lifeblood of Egypt. Nearly all of Ancient Egypt’s cultural and historical sites lie along the banks of this almost mythical river. A cruise down the Nile-whether for a few hours or a few days-is a magical journey through 5,000 years of history and the highlight of any Egyptian itinerary. If you have time, a 7-day cruise is the best way to soak up your surroundings and fully explore the magnificent monuments and temples en route. Set sail from Luxor or Aswan and retrace the routes once taken by Egypt’s great kings and queens. You’ll pass the great Pharaonic temples of Esna, Edfu, and Kom Ombo; Luxor’s Karnak and Luxor temples; and the legendary Valley of the Kings.
If your schedule is tight, half- or one-day cruises are available from spots all along the Nile. You’ll enjoy spectacular views that are only visible from the water and the onboard
guide will point out the highlights. Cruises are also available on Lake Nasser, south of
Aswan. These three- or four-day excursions offer one of the best ways to visit the breathtaking Sun Temple of Ramses II, Abu Simbel, as well as some otherwise inaccessible sites.
While many travelers may associate Egypt with its vast tracts of arid land, divers from around the world look at the country’s palm-fringed coasts as the star attraction. On the Sinai Pensinula, with its sun ¬kissed beaches and luxury hotels, resort areas cater to both experienced and novice divers. Nuweiba is a good spot for beginners and snorkelers. Dahab is known for the difficult Blue Hole and Canyon. And Sharm el-Sheikh, at the tip of the peninsula, offers some options for beginners, though the best known sites (such as Pas Mohammed Reserve) are for experienced divers only.
The Red Sea Coast, especially the town of Nurghada, is also renowned for its dive sites. The Red Sea boasts a truly unique ecosystem with more than 250 species of coral and 1,248 species of fish, many of which exist no where else in the world. There are some shore dives here but most sites are accessible via daylong boat trips or extended dive safaris.