Egypt – a state in North Africa and the Sinai Peninsula in Asia, occupies 1 million square kilometers of land, and its population is mainly concentrated on the banks of the Nile. It is a country of seaside resorts and ancient sights, enjoys a special love among our people despite all the turmoil that occasionally shakes it.
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Egypt’s long and glorious history stirs the imagination of the modern world. The ancient empire, which flourished from 3200 B.C. almost until the advent of Christianity, was one of the world’s greatest civilizations. Since the early nineteenth century, after Napoleon sent his officers to scout the coastal territories and received the first drawings of half-sanded statues and columns, the Western world’s interest in Egypt has remained steady. In 1922, when Howard Carter peered into the dusty tomb of Tutankhamun and, in his words, “saw wonders,” he confirmed the pharaohs’ incalculable wealth, and a few months later, after the sudden death of the excavation sponsor Lord Carnarvon, public opinion was unequivocal: people believed the curse placed on the pharaoh’s mummy was to blame. These days, pseudoscientific theories about the origin and purpose of the pyramids fill the shelves of bookstores and documentary TV channels. Interest in Egypt and all things Egyptian seems inexhaustible.
People come to Egypt with an anticipated sense of delight and a set of preconceived notions. But nothing can prepare them for the beauty, grandeur and stunningly well preserved archaeological sites. Colossal statues rise to the sky, the exquisite murals in the tombs are breathtaking, the pyramids seem like miracles of engineering, and the huge temple complexes are titanic in scale.
One can understand why some archaeologists who come here for one season never leave Egypt: the ruins and artifacts, like the mysterious smile of the Sphinx, offer questions for which there are still no answers.
River of Life
Of course, most visitors are drawn to the mysteries of the ancient world, but archaeological sites are not in a geographical or cultural vacuum. Egypt in the 21st century. – is a land of contrasts, but some things remain the same. Just as in ancient times, Egypt cannot exist without the Nile. The longest river in the world carries its abundant waters from the heart of Africa and irrigates a narrow flowering valley, flowing through the vast Egyptian desert. Its banks are dotted with small villages with modest mud-brick houses surrounded by fields. Ducks paddle through the mud, laden donkeys wander home, and oxen plow the fields.
The Nile River and Cairo in the background
The inhabitants of Egypt praise the Nile, but profess Islam and Christianity. Islam is the leading religion: 90% of the population is Muslim. The calls of the muezzins resound over the cities and towns, gathering the faithful in prayer five times a day. Egypt also has a Coptic Christian minority with a history that goes back to St. Mark, the author of one of the four Gospels, whose remains were buried in Alexandria until the Venetians stole them in 828. The Copts (the word comes from the Arabic pronunciation – gibt – of the Greek word Aegyptios, meaning Egypt) are well integrated into Egyptian society and have given it leaders in many areas.
People performing namaz in the street
Egypt is rife with contrasts. Egyptians are religious people, but the country is one of the most secular states in the Middle East, with a constitution and judicial system based on democratic Western models rather than Islamic religious Sharia law. More than 90 percent of the land is uninhabited desert, but large cities suffer from overcrowding. Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is the largest city in Africa. More than 19 million people live in this dusty and noisy metropolis lit by neon lights.
Most of the population lives in cities, but many Egyptians still work the land in the countryside, and Bedouin and Berber tribes live in the desert and oases. The Egyptians are proud of their ancient heritage, and although religious and social orders have changed greatly, some ancient rites are still preserved. The scenes that can be seen in the modern countryside resemble the exquisitely carved images in ancient tombs.
Merchants in the streets of Cairo
Egypt’s diversity is due in part to its location at the crossroads of three cultures — African, European and Middle Eastern. It has long been influenced by them, in varying degrees, and has assimilated their customs and achievements. African gold brought wealth in antiquity, and the dark-skinned Nubians developed trade ties with Egypt. The Nubians, living in the south around Aswan, remain close to their roots and strong musical traditions. The Arabs who invaded from the east brought with them the new Islamic faith as well as the arts and social order that changed the way of life in Egypt forever. European colonization in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries left its mark: the Egyptian khedives borrowed their administrative methods to govern the country, and today many Egyptians speak English and French.
The center of Egypt is now Cairo, not Thebes. It became a leading city in the early Muslim era, and the legacy of that time is preserved in an area of medieval Islamic architecture that has no equal in the world. One of the engines of the modern economy, Cairo is also the headquarters of the Arab Council and the site of diplomatic negotiations on the peace process in the Middle East, which is very important in our turbulent times.
Traveling in Egypt
Egypt is home to the greatest civilization that ever existed on earth, and the sacred Nile River, which runs through the country, has been a symbol of life for centuries. On its banks there are still majestic temples and tombs, the water keeps the secret rituals of the ancient Egyptian priests and, as before, gives life, endowing the fields with fertility. The cities of Khartoum, Aswan, Luxor, Cairo, and Alexandria are located on the Nile, and the river valley is home to almost the entire population of modern Egypt.
Whether you are drinking coffee on the waterfront in Alexandria or waiting for sweet hibiscus petal tea on the main street of the capital, or haggling in the famous Khan el-Khalili market in Cairo, you always feel that the river is near. Egypt is a land of wonders, created by both nature and man, that has always attracted attention. Its rich heritage has made it the place where the whole world relaxes today.
Hiking in the Black and White Desert
While in Egypt, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the nearby Black and White Deserts.
Start with the oases of Bahariya or Farafrah and enjoy the lush greenery, because later you’ll have to forget about it. The Black Desert, which gets its name from the color of the volcanic rocks that densely cover its surface, presents only black and gray colors. Follow your guide and photograph the unique play of light and shadow in the mountain spurs, sift sand and pebbles through your fingers, and enjoy the view of stark beauty.
After that, head to the White Desert. Here, as the name implies, white prevails. Many millions of years ago the place of today’s desert was an ocean floor, but today only huge limestone blocks, which took fanciful shapes, resembling mushrooms and icebergs, thanks to the wind, remind you of it.
Walk among amazing sculptures created by nature, capture the most unusual of them. See the White Desert before sunrise – the white rocks and sand turn a subtle shade of pink at first light.
Walking in Memphis
Not far from Cairo, amidst Egypt’s desolate countryside, are the ruins of the once great city of Memphis. It was the first capital of united Egypt, founded by the legendary ruler Min.
Today the city lies in ruins, but even by these you can judge its former greatness. When you arrive in Memphis, see the remains of impressive ancient temples and palaces, such as the mighty walls of the temple of Ptah. Walk among the columns standing on the site of the temple of Hathor, see the remains of the palace of Pharaoh Aprias. Of particular interest in Memphis are the ancient necropolises, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Be sure to get to Saqqara to see the stepped pyramid of Djoser and the entire funeral complex of this pharaoh, perfectly preserved to this day. Drive to Dahshur to see the Broken and Pink Pyramids, the first examples of Egyptian pyramid building. Photograph the Sahour Pyramid at Abusir, unlike the famous tombs at Giza.
The Conquest of Mount Moses
On Mount Sinai, according to the Bible, God appeared to Moses and handed him the tablets with the Ten Commandments. Unfortunately, the exact location of the sacred mountain is not known. Historians and religious scholars argue about it. Mount Sinai is now considered the second highest peak of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. However, this does not embarrass tourists – climbing to the top in any case will be an interesting experience.
Before you start climbing, visit St. Catherine’s Monastery, one of the oldest active monasteries of Christianity. See the building, the murals and mosaics, and the idea that this remote sanctuary houses a magnificent collection of ancient manuscripts, slightly inferior in number to the Vatican library.
Climb the mountain by a short and difficult path (used mostly by pilgrims) or a long but easy one (you can do part of the way on a camel). Along the way, take pictures of the Holy Trinity Church and the mosque at the top of the mountain and meet the sunrise at the top. There is a belief that when you see the first rays of the sun on Mount Sinai, you can get full absolution.
To the Egyptian pyramids.
Many cities and countries in the imagination of millions of people are firmly associated with only one landmark that eclipses all other beauties. For example, Rome with the Colosseum, Barcelona with the Temple of the Holy Family, Cambodia with the giant Angkor Wat complex. The list could go on and on forever. Egypt is no exception.
There is not a single guidebook, textbook or postcard that would not use the Egyptian pyramids as the main symbol of the country. However, this is not surprising, because these massive majestic ancient structures – an extraordinary spectacle, and even the mass replication does not reduce their charm. To see for yourself, drive to the ancient city of Giza, and from there to the pyramids.
Visit the tomb of Cheops, the largest pyramid, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, preserved to this day. Touch the ancient stone slabs and imagine how hard it was to move them, walk through the inner passages and look at the Pharaoh’s chambers.
Do not ignore the pyramids of Chephren and Mikerin.
Be sure to stop in front of the Great Sphinx, the largest sculpture carved from a monolithic piece of stone. As you leave the pyramids, find a point where you can see them clearly and take a few pictures to remember them from.
Vacation in Cairo and Port Said
Cairo and Port Said are opposites cities. In the Egyptian capital, Africa’s largest megalopolis, life is boiling day and night. Port Said is a small and young city with a slightly provincial colonial spirit.
Start your trip in Cairo, visit the Egyptian Museum to see the mummies extracted from the pyramids, walk through the “city of the dead” and check out the pretty Coptic Quarter. Magnificent mosques, citadels, and Baron Empayne’s Cambodian temple-style palace await you. Leave the visit to the pyramids to the end – seeing the three tombs and taking pictures of the Sphinx will take you quite a while.
Tired of the noise and crowds of Cairo, go to Port Said to sit quietly in a cafe overlooking the Suez Canal, admire the cute houses of the XIX century and visit the local museums. On a walk through the city, find a Coptic church and a Franciscan temple, admire the tall minarets of the local mosque, and walk across the suspension bridge over the Suez Canal.
To the temples of Abu Simbel
Aswan is located in the south of Egypt. It, like many other major cities, stands on the banks of the Nile below the river’s first rapids. Aswan is called the ancient Egyptian gateway to Africa. Despite its small size, it is very popular with tourists – here you can see the traditions and life of the Nubians. Visit Elephantine Island and see the ruins of the temple of fertility god Khnum.
Relax at the botanical garden, stroll the halls of the Nubian Museum and go to one of the traditional villages, of which there are many in the vicinity of the city.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the great Aswan Dam and the island of Philae to see the magnificent temple complex where the god Osiris was buried, according to legend.
Then go to Abu Simbel, a rock located in the Nubian Desert on the border with Sudan. There are two temples carved into it, decorated with statues-colossuses 20 meters high. See the temples of Ramses II and his wife Nefertari and the unusual ornaments with baboons. Linger here until evening for a light and music show.
Journey to Antique Alexandria
Alexandria is Egypt’s main seaport. This city is literally woven of legends: it was founded by Alexander the Great, the great queen Cleopatra ruled here, the entrance to the harbor was lit by the colossal lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the local library housed the largest number of books at the time. None of these legends can be either refuted or confirmed: no records remain from the time of Macedon, Cleopatra’s city was flooded, the Alexandria Lighthouse was destroyed, and the priceless treasures of the library were burned. However, if you try hard, you can find traces of its former splendor in Alexandria.
See the ruins of the Roman theater and the necropolis of Kom el-Shukafa catacombs, Pompey’s Column and the Greco-Roman Museum. Dive into the East Bay to see submerged ancient ruins. Take pictures of the al-Mursi Aboul Abbas Mosque, the most beautiful mosque in Egypt. And, of course, sunbathe on the beaches of Alexandria – a vacation would be incomplete without it.
Cruise on the Nile
Nile – the sacred Egyptian river, the cradle of ancient civilization. The life of the Egyptians depended on its “character”. The floods of the great river made the soil in its valley fertile and allowed the local people to collect a good harvest. The Nile is still one of Egypt’s main waterways. On its banks rise ancient temples and sanctuaries.
To see the great river in all its glory, go on a cruise on it. But before you do, watch the sun’s disk plunge into the waters of the Nile, one of the most impressive moments that is a must-see.
In Aswan, visit Elephantine Island, the botanical garden, the tombs of the nobility and the ruins of St. Simeon Monastery. Stop at the sandstone temple of Kom Ombo and see the magnificent temple of Horus in Edfu. In Luxor, explore the magnificent Temple of Hatshepsut, take pictures of the colossi of Memnon, see the tombs of the Valley of the Kings, and buy souvenirs at the lively market.
If you have time, visit the Karnak Temple. Tour the funerary temple of Seti I and the Ramesseum, less popular with tourists.
Walks in Luxor
The ancient capital of the New Kingdom, Thebes, built some 4,000 years ago and now known as Luxor, is an unusual combination of provincial city and historical charm. The concentration of ancient monuments here is very high: they, like silent witnesses of bygone eras, rise above the daily bustle of the city, making it one of the most attractive places on Earth.
Luxor is conventionally divided into two parts – the “city of the living” and the “city of the dead”. The first, as the name implies, is a residential area. There are many hotels, stores and other infrastructure. Of the sights, check out the Luxor Temple with its magnificent obelisks, columns and Sphinx Alley and the huge temple of Amon-Ra (aka Karnak), which is over 4,000 years old. Walk along its thick walls, examine the drawings and hieroglyphics.
Do not miss the statue of the sacred scarab, which is said to grant wishes. In the “dead” part, on the other side of the Nile, you will see antiquities.
Walk through the Theban necropolis, imagine how ordinary Egyptians felt standing in front of the colossi of Memnon, see the temple of Hatshepsut and the burial temple of Ramses III. Buy an image of a scarab as a souvenir.
Exploring the Sinai Peninsula
The resort town of Dahab attracts tourists with its cheap accommodation, golden sandy beaches and rugged mountains surrounding the city. It beckons adventurers, making you stay here for weeks at a time.
After a first trip to Dahab, many return again and again to this paradise corner of the Sinai Peninsula. It is not for nothing that Dahab is called the Egyptian Goa. It has everything for a good rest: delicious food, golden beaches, beautiful sea and sandy cliffs.
After resting in Dahab, go on a tour through the natural wonders of the Sinai Peninsula (for example, the Color Canyon) on camels or jeep.
After taking a break from hiking, devote yourself to diving. Ras Mohammed National Park, the place with the most beautiful coral reefs is perfect for this.
If that’s not enough, dive the area where the British warship Thistlegorm sank during the Second World War.
Visit St. Catherine’s Christian monastery in the Sinai desert, one of the oldest in the world. Hike through the desert with Bedouins, remembering to save your energy for the ascent to the sacred Mount Sinai. At the top, photograph the magnificent sunrise.
Holidays on the Red Sea
Resorts on the Red Sea for many people in Russia have become home places. There is always a Russian speech, and not only from the tourists, but also from the staff.
If you want to have a fun and noisy, go to the colorful Hurghada. This resort is always buzzing with life, you can both swim and dance, and go on an excursion to the pyramids. Sophisticated and well located Sharm el-Sheikh offers not only luxurious beaches and hotels, but also excellent places for diving, as well as the opportunity to visit Jerusalem – the Israeli border is very close. Resort Dahab is beloved by downhikers, respectively, the prices for housing here are low, and by the coast there is the famous Blue Hole, a favorite diving spot.
If you want solitude, go to Marsa Alam. Perhaps in the future this resort will turn into such a “seething cauldron”, as Hurghada, but for now it is quiet and clean. Take a trip to the national park “Wadi el-Himal”, stroking dolphins and snorkeling, looking at the fish.
Oases of Egypt.
Deserts cover most of Egypt’s territory. But that doesn’t mean it’s a sun-scorched wasteland. Many Egyptian cities drown in greenery, and natural parks with mangroves are not uncommon here. Emerald spots on the map – a wonderful oases growing among the lifeless sands.
While in Egypt, be sure to devote a day to Fayoum Oasis, the greenest place in the country. It is located in the Nile Valley and is fed by its waters. There is a lot of agricultural activity on the territory of the oasis. Cotton, figs, grapes and olive trees are grown here.
Also visit the oasis of Siva: after 300km of desert road, this island of life will seem like heaven.
Walk among the olive and fruit trees, walk among the date palms, under the dense shade of which clay houses hide. It has a unique culture that is radically different from the rest of the country. Taste fresh mineral water from 400 springs in Baharia Oasis, and don’t miss the three green islands of Farafra, Dahla, and Hargou when you travel through the Libyan Desert.
To the Beaches of the Mediterranean Sea
When choosing a resort for a vacation in Egypt, many people forget that this country is washed not only by the Red Sea, but also by the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean resorts of Mersa-Matrouh and Alexandria are very popular with the locals.
If you want peace and quiet and to be at one with the sea, go to Mersa Matruh in autumn, when the flow of tourists decreases. The beaches are gorgeous – swim in the caves and grottoes of Agiba beach, visit the museum at Rommel beach, or take a boat ride to the unique Cleopatra Baths (a natural pool in the rocks). Legend has it that the famous queen loved to rest here.
Do not miss the fort of Ramses II and the Coptic temple and the military cemetery.
Be sure to go to Alexandria, Egypt’s most European city, a favorite place of Egyptian artists, musicians, and filmmakers.
In addition to relaxing on the beach, take time to visit the Roman amphitheater and the Catacombs of Kom el Shugaf, walk along the waterfront and feel the atmosphere of Alexandria.
Active recreation in Egypt
The first thing people come to Egypt for is to relax on the beach. The pyramids of Giza and the temples of Luxor are a nice addition to a vacation by the warm sea. But what to do if you don’t want to look at the ancient landmarks under the scorching sun, and lying on the beach is boring? Of course, go in for sports! In Egyptian resorts you can easily master the basics of surfing and diving.
If you want to get on a board, then on any of the Egyptian resorts, whether it’s noisy Hurghada, Dahab, a paradise for downshifters, or the elegant Sharm el-Sheikh, you can take a short training course in a surfing school. There are many great places to dive in Egypt.
Head to Ras Mohammed National Park near Sharm el Sheikh to see mangrove trees from under the water and enjoy the view of coral reefs.
Jackson, Woodhouse and Gordon reefs are equally picturesque. The town of Marsa Alam is a mecca for divers, here you can explore the wreck of the Abu Ghuzun and touch the back of a passing dolphin. Swim in the turquoise waters of Abu Galawa Reef and go to Dahab for a variety of coral in bizarre shapes and colors. Explore the Blue Hole and the coral amphitheater at Abu Hilal Reef
Holidays in Hurghada
Hurghada is probably the most famous Egyptian resort, attracting tourists with its democratic prices, various entertainments and of course the warm Red Sea. You will never get bored in Hurghada. Here you can swim and sunbathe to your heart’s content, and if you get tired of that, go sailing or scuba diving.
There are many wonderful coral islands off the coast of Hurghada, teeming with butterfly fish, moray eels, turtles, and even sharks. In the waters near the city lie on the side of the wreck of the minesweeper El-Mina and the ship Karnatik. Local dive centers offer swimming with dolphins, which often come to the reef El Fanus. However, if you get tired of noisy Hurghada with its endless parties and shows, go to exquisite El Gouna.
This resort is sometimes called little Italy: there are many narrow canals and bridges. There are a lot of narrow canals and bridges, and cute little boats that carry tourists along them. In El Gouna, you can relax quietly and without fuss on the beaches with wide shoals or go kitesurfing.