ContentsP.6-9P.10-19P.10-11P.12-13 WELCOME TO THE NILE VALLEY ATMOSPHERE u ROMANCE...SAILING THE NILE RIVER URBAN LIFEP.14-15 NATUREP.16-17 GASTRONOMYP.18-19 PHARAONIC EGYPTP.20-41 GEOGRAPHICAL APPROACHP.20-21 THE COAST: FROM MARSA MATRUH TO DAMIETTA AND PORT SAIDP.22-23 ALEXANDRIAP.24-27 CAIRO AND GIZAP.28-29 EL FAYOUM TO HERMOPOLISP.30-31 ASYUT TO DANDARAP.32-35 LUXOR AND THE EAST BANKP.36-37 VALLEY OF THE KINGS AND THE WEST BANKP.38-39 ASWANP.40-41 ABU SIMBELP.42-45 PLANNING THE TRIPP.46-47 PRATICAL INFORMATIONP.48-51 ACCOMMODATIONP.52-53 ALTERNATIVE PRODUCTSP.54 DO’S & DON’TSP.55 EGYPT GENERAL MAP 5
Nile ValleyE G Y P T G U I D EWelcome To TheThe land of pharaohs, intriguing legends, ancient civilizations andamazing temples, Egypt is one of the world’s greatest and mostcaptivating countries. GEOGRAPHYEgypt enjoys a strategic location in North the Nile flow into the Mediterranean. AlongAfrica close to the Middle East. Officially the coastline are the towns and cities of Elthe Arab Republic of Egypt, it borders Libya Alamein, famed for its Second World Warto the west, Sudan to the south, and Israel battles and museums, along with Marsaand the Gaza Strip to the east via the Sinai Matruh and Sallum to the west of Alexan-Peninsula and a land bridge that crosses dria, while to its east is the historic Rosetta,the Suez Canal. It is, however, far from where the Rosetta Stone, an important ar-landlocked. Its north coast is lapped by the tefact that was key to deciphering ancientMediterranean, while its lower east coast Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, was discov-and south Sinai lie alongside the Red Sea. ered. Further along the coast is Damietta and Port Said.The country has long played an importantrole in connecting Africa with Asia, and The Nile Valley stretches from the delta tothe Mediterranean with the Indian Ocean, Egypt’s southernmost border with Sudan,and as such has been at the centre of the and along with its great cities is home toworld’s political and economical arena some of the world’s most iconic symbolsfor centuries. It is a vast country, totalling of ancient civilizations. It is here visitorswell over million square kilometres. That’s can see the three Great Pyramids of Gizafour times the size of the United Kingdom and the Sphinx that ‘guards’ them, theand twice the size of France, and yet most fabulous Luxor Temple and the Karnakof its cities like Cairo, Aswan, Asyut and Temples in Luxor, the Valley of the KingsLuxor hug the shores of the Nile Valley. Even and, of course, the Nile River itself. TheAlexandria, the country’s second largest Sahara Desert, the world’s second largest,city after Cairo, is in the Nile Delta. makes up much of Egypt’s distinct desert and oasis areas, which are fascinatingEgypt has four distinct areas. The Nile Delta, if sparsely inhabited, while the Sinai Peitself, is a stretch of land that fans out north ninsula and the Red Sea coastline andfrom a point close to Cairo where the Nile resorts are the country’s top spots for familysplits into smaller flows of water, reaching a fun and water sport themed holidays.stretch of coastline that runs from Alexan-dria to Port Said. At the coast the waters of ENVIRONMENTA fabulously rich history and achieve- Nile Valley that leave you breathlessments sit comfortably with the Egypt of at their bustling cities and ancient tem-today. Deserts that stretch for kilometres ples. Visitors arrive in their thousands, areinto the distance and holiday resorts with totally captivated and return time aftertop notch hotels offering family fun such time. Whether it’s a view of the sun goingas swimming and diving in the Red Sea down behind the centuries-old pyramids,contrast well with the Nile Delta and the turning the sky to a magical bright orange,
Nile Valleyor seeing the mesmerising sun-scorched Muslim, although over 12 million are Chris-Sphinx, the priceless treasures contained tians. The atmosphere is one of friendship.tantalisingly behind glass in Cairo’s Egyp- Egyptians like to work hard and live life totian Museum or standing in awe of the the full, and tend to work in the heart of thefabulous temples the sights of the world’s cities which have seen many changes inmost entrancing country stay with visitors recent years and are now at the forefrontfor a lifetime. of world politics, or working the agricultural lands of the Nile Valley or in tourism. Every-Add to this experiences of seeing one of one can enjoy lively cultural experiencesEgypt’s most trusted residents, the camel, too - everything from the latest art sensa-make its way casually across the sands, tions to music, theatre and dance.perhaps dressed in brightly coloured rugsand tassels for a festival, street vendors Egypt is a warm country for most of theselling their goods in the bustling souks, year. Some days in summer the tempera- WELCOME TO THE NILE VALLEYchildren playing in the streets, craftspeople tures can reach 25-35C (95F) in Cairo, andweaving carpets or locals mingling in an so the way Egyptians live tends to reflectanimated fashion around the streets, all of this as it has done for centuries. The pacewhich sit well with innovative new commer- of life is generally slow, and although citycial buildings, and you have a country that centres often appear bustling it isn’t longwill become part of your soul. before everyone gives in and finds a cool place to rest awhile.Egypt is a religious country. Islam is theofficial religion and most Egyptians are HISTORYThe history of Egypt stretches back to a series of dynasties that ruled the coun-unimaginable times. It is a country prob- try, began in around 3100 BC. The firstably best known to the world over for its pharaoh is generally believed to havepharaohs, such as Tutankhamun, and been Menes, who was instrumental inits ancient civilizations that largely existed joining a then divided Egypt into one. Thealong the banks of the Nile River and country was known as tawy, meaning ‘twocreated so many of its iconic structures. lands’.The earliest signs of civilization have been A total of 30 dynasties ruled over the nextdated to prehistoric times, although the three millennia until around the year 30 BC.towns and cities of today can probably Many, if not all of the pharaohs, wantedtrace their roots back to around 8000 to put their own mark on Egypt and hadBC when the Sahara was formed and supremely beautiful palaces, temples,settlers started moving closer to the fertile tombs and structures built. It was dur-land of the Nile River banks and eventually ing this time that most of the astonishingcreated communities. These ancient sights that can still be seen today werecivilisations developed and grew almost constructed, among them the Pyra-entirely because of the Nile during a period mids of Giza and the Sphinx of the Oldknown as the predynastic, a time before Kingdom, and the Temples of Luxor inthe pharaohs ruled the country. the New Kingdom.The dynastic period, widely regarded as Egypt has seen many periods of historyone of the oldest ever cultural periods in since the ancient dynastic era and hasthe world and so called because it was reminders of how it flourished under different civilizations. 7
Nile ValleyE G Y P T G U I D EWelcome To The HISTORYIt has been occupied by the Persians, came king in 1333 BC, becoming theRomans, the Greeks, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, and whoseBritish and the French, but it is probably solid gold death mask is probably the mostthe pharaohs that have left the most mes- famous artefact ever found in Egypt. Ormerising legacy on the country and one the beautiful Nefertiti, the wife of thewhich makes tourism one of the country’s Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaton, who mightleading industry sectors today. have ruled in her own right before Tutankhamun became king. Both-fromWho cannot be captivated by the story many-make Egypt legendary.of Tutankhamen, the young boy who be- SOCIOECONOMICToday, Egypt is one of the key political Far fewer people live in areas like theand cultural leaders in the Middle East. Sahara Desert, which although massive isIt has a buoyant economy as a result of unsympathetic to human needs, while Si-economic reforms and foreign investment nai and the Red Sea coastal areas haveand a rapidly evolving high technology strong population figures, especially in thecommunications sector. Its government major towns which have good generalcontinues to pledge investment into its in- infrastructures and amenities. There arefrastructure of highways, railways and wa- healthcare facilities, shops, restaurants,terways that stretch from the north coast many sports centres, especially those forand the Nile Delta to the southern points of water sports, and top hotels. The popu-the Nile Valley at Aswan and Abu Simbel, lation in these areas is bolstered by theinto the Western Desert and across to the many visitors who arrive during the summerRed Sea coast and into Sinai. months on leisure, sea & land adventures, spa and wellness holidays, golf lovers, andEgypt also has one of the highest popula- short breaks.tions of all the countries in this part of theworld with around 75.5 million people. Egyptian society is geared very muchMany live in the densely populated cities around the family, and it is not uncommon to see all generations dining together orof Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Aswan, on an outing. Religion is important, withwhere they are engaged in commerce, Muslims and Christians living and work-politics, retailing and tourism, while others ing together in harmony. As a visitor, youlive in rural areas near the banks of the Nile will always be made to feel welcome andRiver and are engaged in agriculture. The protected.rich soil of the banks provides the most ara-ble agricultural land in Egypt today as it hasdone for around 10,000 years. It is on thisland that man has relied on since ancienttimes. Without the river the country wouldlikely only ever have been desert. Much ofEgypt’s national income relies on agricul-ture, along with tourism, petroleum exportsand capital generated by traffic using theSuez Canal. Giza Pyramids
Nile Valley THE NILE VALLEY to see the Colossus of Ramses II, the Serapeum and the ancient cemetery too. Spend time in Old Cairo. It’s rather like a living museum of historic and reli- gious buildings, plus traditional markets to snap up some souvenirs to take home. And, of course, no visit to Cairo would be complete without a visit to the Egyptian Museum. It is one of the world’s most fa- mous museums with an astonishing collec- tion of ancient artefacts. Its most famous WELCOME TO THE NILE VALLEY displays are treasures from Tutankhamun’s tomb. Heading south, the Nile River flows through Al-Fayoum, Biba, Beni Mazar and on to the delightful El Minya. It has beauti- Karnak Temple ful villas reminiscent of those found in old Tuscany which were built by the cottonThe second longest river in the world, merchants who made the town wealthy.the Nile follows a path along the length of The trading centre of Asyut and famouEgypt from its southernmost boundary to Dandara are reached, and then it’s on tothe north Mediterranean coast, Damietta, the wondrous Luxor and Thebes with theirand on to its sources, the White Nile and fabulous temples, museums and tombs.the Blue Nile, in the depths of Africa. Here the world famous iconic KarnakAlexandria, the country’s second largest Temples and the Luxor Temple, thecity and founded by Alexander the Great, Valley of the Kings and the Valleyhugs the Mediterranean coastline to the of the Queens, the Temple of Hat-north and forms part of the Nile Delta along shepsut, the colossi of Memnon andwith two branches Damietta and Rosetta the Ramesseum are just some of thewhich embrace the highly fertile agricul- sights that simply cannot be missed.tural lands of the Delta Every visit to Egypt should include time spent in Luxor.Visitors to Egypt should always scheduleinto their agenda a stay in Cairo. One of Finally, the Nile Valley reaches Esna andthe last remaining seven wonders of the Kom Ombo, both historic sites, Aswanancient world, the Pyramids at Giza are which has a large Nubian community,‘must sees’. The Great Pyramid was built temples and the feat of engineering theby King Cheops of the 5th dynasty around Aswan Dam to see, and finally to Abu2600 BC and stands some 137 metres Simbel where the notable Great Templehigh. It’s well worth stepping inside to see of Abu Simbel and the Temple of Hathorthe fabulous chambers. There are two make a remarkable sight carved into sheerother large pyramids to see, plus lots of rock faces.smaller ones dedicated to family mem-bers of the kings. The Nile Valley is a mix of the old and theA few steps away is the huge Sphinx with its new, the classic and the innovative. It isbody of a lion and a human head. Make cultural Egypt at its best.a point of visiting Memphis and Saqqara 9
Romance Sailing the Nile...There’s nothing quite like a touch of The Nile has held a fascination forromance under the stars with that centuries and even today conjuresspecial person, and if you happen up images of whimsical days andto be on the Nile drifting slowly along romantic nights on board elegantpast temples and sand dunes watch- steamers, but then perhaps that’s alling the sun set together then it doesn’t down to English novelist Agatha Chris-get much more memorable than tie and her famous work “Death onthat. It will be a highlight of a holiday the Nile”. The book was later madein Egypt. into a film starring Peter Ustinov as the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and much of the filming was done in the Nile Valley. Cruising on the Nile has been a popular pastime for count- less visitors since the 19th cen- tury. Florence Nightingale was so captivated by the river and wrote about it in glowing terms, and Thomas Cook, the entrepreneur behind the leading travel com- pany, was so smitten he began offering cruises to his clientele, one of the first to do so. To enjoy your ultimate romantic adventure make sure you book your cruise between Luxor & Aswan around the time of El Sadda El Shitwia ( the time of closing the Nile, lock of Esna two weeks each December & June otherwise you will use land transportation to reach Luxor from Esna
ROMANCEThere are a number of ways to sail on or head north towards Luxor. Yourthe Nile. You can take a short hop cruise might then see you sailingof a few hours on a cruise boat or to Kom Ombo to see the Temple ofa felucca, a small wooden sailing Sobek and Hareoeris, a captivat-boat, and while this doesn’t give you ing sight from the river. Then it’s on-the full experience of a romantic jour- wards to Edfu and maybe stoppingney elegantly drifting down the Nile it awhile to visit the Temple of Horus anddoes give you a taste. It’s especially Esna to see the Temple of Khunum.good way to sail if you have a limited Finally, your cruise might end in Lux-amount of time. or where you can visit the fabulous Karnak Temples, the Luxor Temple andAnother way is to take a journey the museum, or take a trip to theof several days on board one of extraordinary Valley of the Kings.the cruise ships or restored ornatesteamers that are a familiar sight Some ships may start at Luxor and soalong the Nile. Many are to a luxuri- your journey will be in reverse, or youous 5-star standard, complete with may choose to travel beyond Luxorwood-cladded walls, top notch lin- and see Dandara or Abydos, but all willens and gourmet cuisine. They have sail at a slow pace, giving you timebecome as much a part of the Egypt to see the sights, relax and take in thescene as the Pyramids. atmosphere. You will be able to wave to children on the riverbank and seeTypically, a cruise will see you board- fishing boats go by.ing the ship at Aswan, setting sail It’s a great way to combine a trip onand seeing great sights. You can the river with seeing the ancient sitestake a luxury cruise to Abu Simbel along the way too. Be sure to sharepassing by Kalabsha, Bait el-Walli, the memorable experience withWadi el-Subua and Amada Temple loved ones. 11
Urban life...While Egypt will be forever famous The country’s people work mainly infor its ancient civilizations and agriculture, the petroleum industry,pharaohs, it is also home to around commerce, government and tourism,75.5 million people who live and although real estate linked towork here today. Egypt has a strong tourist hotspots is starting to be-political, religious and cultural identity. come a buoyant sector too. The vastIn addition, you can experience both majority of Egyptians live and work inthe feel of ancient life when you the cities of the Nile Valley. Here youvisit the historical places as well as can find trendy cafes and restau-modern life through technology rants serving Egyptian and Interna-found throughout the country. tional cuisine, bustling souks, leisure opportunities, sports and venues full of cultural experiences from art to theatre and dance. Much of daily urban life revolves around the cities’ souks and markets. Cairo’s Khan el-Khalili, for instance, is an astonishing labyrinth of shops teeming with locals and tourists alike. Almost every neighbourhood will have a market selling fruit and vegetables, and it is from these that most Egyptians will buy their fresh products. Khan el-Khalili Egypt’s economy is booming through tourism, oil and gas exports, revenue from the Suez Canal and foreign investment. City Stars Mall
URBAN LIFE Bibliotheca AlexandrinaEgypt is changing though and now Art galleries and cultural centres,more shopping malls complete with conference venues, theatres andglass lifts, shiny decors, swish shops cinemas are all growing in number.and even cinemas are emerging. The El Sawy Culture Wheel art centreA casual stroll around one of the malls in Zamalek, which hosts contempo-will reveal names like Nike and Adi- rary art collections, and the fabulousdas, with music from the likes of Justin Cairo Opera House where the CairoTimberlake emerging from stores sell- Symphony Orchestra perform.ing CDs. The malls tend to be located There are venues in Luxor, Aswan andin modern Cairo, or cities such as Al- the Sinai and Red Sea resorts.exandria. In Alexandria, Opera House and SayedThe trendy set is leading the way when Darwish Theatre has concerts andit comes to nightlife and culture, es- dance events, while the city’s Biblioth-pecially in Cairo and Alexandria. Where eca Alexandrina is a futuristic build-once entertainment consisted solely ing containing a library of millions ofof traditional music and dancing the books and multimedia, three muse-choice is expanding as Egyptians be- ums, a planetarium, four art galleriescome more accustomed to western and numerous exhibition centres. It isstyles too. Concerts by worldwide rock a fabulous facility for the people ofstars and westernised classical music, Egypt.musical theatre, opera and balletcan all be found. Even the historicsights have adopted new technologyby offering sound and light shows (atthe Pyramids of Giza, the Karnak Templesin Luxor, Philae temple in Aswan, and inAbu Simbel) 13
NatureMuch of the Nile Valley lies in what The climate provides the perfectis known as the Upper Egypt, environment for many species ofa stretch of fertile land that runs animals, reptiles and amphibians.from the southernmost boundar- This area is home to turtles and tor-ies of Cairo due south to Aswan. toises, frogs, mongooses and theTo the north it is bordered by the Nile Monitor, a fabulous if some-Nile Delta. To the east there’s the what menacing prehistoric-like liz-Eastern Desert and the Western ard that can grow up to two metresDesert to the west. long.Upper Egypt has by far the richestsoil and it is here that most of thecrops is grown. Almost all of the75.5 million population relies onthe region for food. It is also here,that most of the plants and wildlifespecies of Egypt thrive. Look outfor the Lotus Flower. Its bright petalsprovide a carpet of colour over theNile riverbanks in summer months.Also the bright yellow pom-poms ofthe Acacia tree can be spotted.Middle Egypt and the northernareas of Upper Egypt enjoy a warmclimate, with dry summers and verylittle rainfall. July and August are thehottest months.
Egyptian countryside NATUREThe Nile Valley is also a birdwatch- 3.5 per cent of the total millioners paradise. Ornithologists come or more square kilometres beingto see the incredible number cultivated.of birds that live or winter in theregion, including Little Gulls, The Nile Valley becomes moreWhiskered Terns and the small desert-like the closer you get towader, the Kentish Plover. The Grey Aswan and beyond to Kom OmboHeron makes a dramatic sight and Abu Simbel. The desert envi-in the marshy areas too, as does ronment is ideal for Fennec foxes,similar species of egret. Birds have the Desert Lynx, snakes such asalways played an important role the Spitting Cobra, the iconicin both day-to-day life and the symbol of Pharaonic Egypt, andsacred culture of Egypt. There are scorpions, all of which should beover 150 indigenous species of treated with respect.birds that live here all year round,with a further 280 or more species The Nile Valley, the delta andmigrating in the summer months. the surrounding desert is a fabulous mix of contrasts with vastlyAs you travel further south along different natural environments andthe Nile the temperature rises. habitats.Summer temperatures in Aswanare dry and warm, although ifplanning an excursion into the des-ert go in the morning before thesun is high. The desert makes upwell over 90 per cent of the landmass of Egypt, leaving only around 15
kGastronomy Egyptian cuisine...Some of the world’s most delicious such as melokiyah made fromand healthiest cuisine can be found green leafy vegetables.in Egypt. With influences from the There are many soup recipesMediterranean and Europe, Africa that use tomatoes, watercress,and the Middle East, the dishes of pulses or beans, with herbs such asmodern day Egypt combine fresh fennel giving them a real kick.often brightly coloured vegetables Garlic is used lavishly, as is onion.and fruit straight off the trees with Spices too.fish, seafood, meats and an abun-dance of pulses, aromatic herbsand strong spices.While many cooking practices aremuch the same as they were inPharaonic times, the periods ofhistory that saw, among others,the Ottomans and the French livealongside the Egyptians, bringingwith them their very distinct style ofcooking, has left an indelible mark.Typically, a meal will start with soup, Traditional herbs When the Great Pyramids of Giza were excavated it was found that workers in Ancient Egypt were paid with onions and a type of bread that would have been coarse and filling. The two remain staple foods Egyptian bread of the Egyptian diet today. It was discovered that many workers also received beer made from cereals
k Salads EGYPTIAN CUISINEEgyptian restaurants will have rows beans served with boiled eggs, andof dishes full of brightly coloured the popular falafel, a dish of spicyspices that are a key ingredient. beans mashed together with herbsSoups are served with flatbreads like into patties and fried.aish or pitta. Almost all meals will be served with aFresh fish (samak), seafood or fish fresh salad, and probably some dipsstew accompanied by rice may like hummus or tahini, or the localfollow. Meat is prepared to perfec- babaganoush, a dip made fromtion. Chicken, lamb and veal are the pureed eggplant. Foul is a flavour-most popular, and usually slow roast- some dip made from beans, masheded, grilled with lots of herbs, or minced with olive oil, lemon and herbs.and added to dishes like stuffed vineleaves. Pigeon, hamaam, is consid- Egyptian desserts usually take theered a delicacy, and you will find it’s form of a rice pudding made withalways delicious as it is cooked with rosewater and sprinkled with spice,much care. or yoghurt or pastries filled with figs, nuts or dates. Honey is oftenKoshari is a national dish and can drenched over desserts in much thebe found delicately prepared on same way as is done in Middle East-gourmet menus, as well as in ‘fast ern or Mediterranean countries. Freshfood’ outlets or on street carts. Made fruit, especially figs and dates, as wellfrom macaroni or spaghetti, rice, as oranges will almost certainly belentils and chickpeas, all served with served at the end of a meal.a thick garlic and tomato sauce,topped with fried onions and herbs, itmay sound a rare combination but istruly delicious. Other traditional dishesinclude Foul Medames, a dish of 17
Pharaonic EgyptThe history of Egypt can be traced ers, or Nefertiti, the wife of theback to prehistoric times and when Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten,the Sahara Desert wasformed who might have ruled in herin around 8000 BC, prompting own right. Her life, as well as theearly civilizations to move closer location of her tomb, remains atowards the Nile in order to catch tantalising mystery.fish and grow crops, but it is Phar-aonic Egypt that began some The start of Pharaonic Egypt saw5,000 years ago that truly cap- more than 3000 years of remark-tures the imagination of people able achievements and pros-the world over. Great people perity, with the pharaohs beingfrom 30 different dynasties, their the most important people inlives, cultures and phenomenal the land. They created strongknowledge of mummification, government, military and reli-mathematics and astronomy gious structures, held court andhave created iconic images of ruled the land unquestioned.an ancient Egypt. They were worshipped as if gods and had phenomenal wealth,Who cannot be intrigued by which they lavished on buildingthe lives of ancient kings like temples and other monuments.Tutankhamun, the young boywho came to the throne in Abu Simbel Templearound 1333 BC. He ruled forjust ten years and his goldendeath mask unearthed when histomb was discovered the Valleyof the Kings near Luxor in 1922 isone of the most fabulous trea-sures in the world today.Or the great female pharaohHatshepsut who was thelongest ruling Egyptian king(indeed people considered heras a king and not a queen) themighty Ramses II who changed Giza Pyramidthe face of ancient Egypt anddefended it against invad-
PHARAONIC EGYPT Tutankhamun’s maskThe Pharaonic period, known as the understanding of the science ofDynastic era because Egypt was mathematics and still perplexruled by a series of dynasties, in fact experts today.30 in total, began around 3150 BCunder the first Pharaoh who united The next period of pharaonic rulethe then divided Upper and Lower was known as the First Intermedi-Egypt. The first pharaoh is widely ate Period starting in around 2150believed to have been Menes, BC, followed by the Middle King-although there is belief that he was dom from around 2000 BC whenin fact the pharaoh Narmer or Aha the capital became Thebes, thedepicted in many archaeological next period, the New Kingdom,records. He established a capital began around 1539 BC and gavecalled Memphis, which became us some of the greatest pharaohsthe heart of the country. of all time, including Ahmose, Hatshepsut, Akhenaten andThere is little known about the kings Tutankhamun. In around 1279 BCof the 1st and 2nd dynasties, but the heroic Ramses II came to theit is the kings from the 3rd dynasty throne where he stayed for overonwards in a period that became 67 years.known as the Old Kingdom who Pharaonic Egypt, meaning amade Egypt one of the wealthiest land ruled by Pharaohs, ended inin the ancient world. Massive and around 30 BC, although a form ofelaborate buildings were erected, monarchy continued for severalthe culmination of which was the thousand years until the countryPyramids and the Sphinx in Giza. was conquered by the Romans.The Pyramids are an extraordinary ex- Leading figures include Alexanderample of the pharaoh’s advanced the Great and Cleopatra. 19
Marsa Matruh BeachThe Coast: from MarsaMatruh to Damietta,Rosetta and Port SaidWith its jugged coastline, bays and long sweeps of golden sands, the north coast ofEgypt is quiet, supremely beautiful and attracts a steady stream of visitors. It stretchesfrom Sallum to the west, the last Egyptian town before hitting the Libyan border whichperches high on the cliff looking out to sea, along the coast road to Marsa Matruh,El-Alamein, the huge colonial city of Alexandria to Abu Quir in the Nile Delta,the famous Rosetta and to Damietta and Port Said at the mouth of the Suez Canal.Along the way you will see historic monuments and wonderful beaches. MARSA MATROUHLocated some 290 kilometres from Alexandria, MarsaMatrouh is a gem. It is hugely popular with Egyptians looking fortheir own escape from the busy cities, and families can often beseen enjoying the seven or so kilometres of soft white sand thatare protected by a necklace of natural rocky breakwaters. Calmturquoise seas lap the shores of the bay.There are several beaches, including the Cleopatra Beach thatlies just to the west of the town, the quiet and relaxing Ra-asAl-Hakma Beach, Al-Abyad Beach and Agiba Beach. Marsa Ma-truth town, itself, is said to have been founded by Alexander theGreat on his way to Siwa where he was to pay homage to thegod Amun.Other attractions for visitors are the remains of a navel fleetanchorage built by the Ptolemies, a Coptic chapel and theRommel Museum created within a cave where ErwinRommel, a German Commander, is said to have finalised hismilitary plans during the Second World War. The museumdisplays arms and tools from the period. Marsa Matruh, Agiba Beach EL-ALAMEINEl-Alamein is 200 kilometres or so further along the coast road from Marsa Matruh. Asmall village that is developing into a popular tourist spot, it is best known for theimportant role it played in the Second World War. Visitors can visit a war museumthat tells of the battles that changed the campaign in the Allies’ favour, as well asthe Commonwealth War Cemetery with monuments dedicated to the Greek, SouthAfrican, Australian and New Zealand troops who fought on the British side, and cemeteries commemorating the bravery of the Italian and German soldiers. DON’T There were two battles fought in El Alamein, the first inJuly MISS 1942, when Axis troops tried unsuccessfully to advan- Agiba Beach, meaning ceon Alexandria, and the second when British General wonder, which lives up Montgomery’s 8th Army fought a bitter battle withRom- to its name with natural mel’s troops who were forced to retreat to Tunisia. Brit- caves and coves to ish Prime Minister Winston Churchill said of the battles, explore. “Before Alamein we had no victory and after it we had no defeats.”
INFO POINTContinuing along the coast road, youpass the road to Abu Mina and its beau-tiful Coptic Monastery of Abu Mina, DeirMari Mina, which honours the saint Mina Mediterranean Coastor Mena as it is sometimes spelt. He is oneof the best known Egyptian saints and, as Marsa Damiettathe story goes, many miracles have been Matruh Rosetta Sidi Abdattributed to him. It is believed he was El Rahman Port Said Th Alexandria Nil etortured and killed for his religious beliefs eD elta El Alamein Portoby Asia Minor rulers in the 3rd century and Marinatoday pilgrims regularly visit the site, es- Cairopecially on November 11, St Mina’s Day. ile RiverThe monastery, which is relatively new andstands on the site of an ancient basilica, is Fayoum Oasisknown throughout Egypt. The village, itself, eNis a World Heritage Site and well worth a THE COAST : FROM MARSA MATRUH TO DAMIETTA, ROSETTA AND PORT SAID Thvisit.The resort of Agami has been top of thelist Legende for holidaying professionals from Cairo EASY TRAVELand Alexandria since the 1950s. It is the Alexandria and Marsa Matruth have air-last town along the coast before you en-ter the environs of the elegant Alexandria, ports with regular flights most of the year,Egypt’s second largest city and known as and the coast is well served by train andthe ‘Pearl of the Mediterranean’. bus services from Alexandria and Cairo. Port Said Tourist Office : Phone : 066 3235289 - Fax : 066 3235289 Marsa Matruh Tourist Office : Phone : 046 4931841 - Fax : 046 4931841 Rosetta, Muallaq Mosque ROSETTA (RASHID) Rosetta StoneRosetta, or Rashid as it is historically known,lies 60 or so kilometres east of Alexandria.A bustling port town, Rosetta can trace itshistory way back to 800 AD when it wasfounded by the Muslim governor of Egypt,Ibn Tulun. Known for its beautiful Ottomanmansions from the time of the Ottomanconquest when, as a port, it was immenselyprosperous, its citrus groves and its elegantfeel, Rosetta has long been a popular holi-day spot. What really puts it on the maphowever is the fact that it was here that theRosetta Stone was discovered in 1799.An Egyptian stone slab from the Ptolemaic Port Saidera, the Rosetta Stone has proved key to de-ciphering the ancient hieroglyphic style ofwriting discovered in places like the tombs DID YOU KNOW?of the Valley of the Kings. Hieroglyphic was The north coast was Cleopatra’sthe form of writing used in Egypt 3,000 yearsago, but it took until the discovery of the a favourite spot and, accord-stone and the work of a 19th century sci- ing to legend, she would batheentist and professor to understand it. Finally, in the clear waters. Cleopatrathe coastal journey ends at Damietta and was the monarch of Egypt dur-Port Said, both busy ports, and the famous ing the time of Caesar as theSuez Canal. country entered its Roman era. 21
The Bibliotheca AlexandrinaAlexandria PEARL OF THE MEDITERRANEANA 20 kilometre-long palm tree-lined esplanade and boulevards, swish hotels, long stretchesof fine sandy beach and gardens characterise Alexandria, widely considered to be one ofthe finest summer resorts in this part of the world. Unlike many other areas of Egypt, its culturalheritage, climate of warm summers, mild winters and pleasingly warm spring and autumnmonths and its cosmopolitan atmosphere give it a Mediterranean feel. Alexandria is knownas the ‘Pearl of the Mediterranean’.Egypt’s second largest city with a population of aroundfour million, Alexandria is the country’s largest seaportand the centre of much of its maritime activity. It isalso one of the oldest cities in Egypt and lies around225 kilometres northwest of Cairo. As records suggest,Alexandria was established by Alexander the Greatin around 332 BC on the site of a small village calledRhakotis. He wanted to create one of the finest capitalcities in the world, and one for which his reign would godown in history.Alexandria remained the capital of Egypt for nearly athousand years and was immensely prosperous be-cause of its strategic trading location between theMediterranean and the Red Sea. It also became thecentre of learning for the ancient world, and retains itsacademic importance to this day. Alexandria seafrontAmong the sights for visitors to see is the beautiful Montazah Palace, which is perched on ahill overlooking the sea. It was once the summer home of the Egyptian royal family and nowhouses a museum in their honour. Built to a Turkish and Italian architectural design, it standsin some of the prettiest gardens in Alexandria. They are open to the public and well worth avisit.Holidaying visitors flock to Alexandria for its good diving sites, and its beaches which areamong the best in Egypt if not the Mediterranean. Its most famous are the beaches of Al-Ma’moura, Mandara, Al-Assafrah, Mami, Sidi Bishr and Montazah, as well as Sidi Gaber, Rushdi, Stanley, DON’T Gleem and Cleopatra. All are dotted along the corniche, the seafront boulevard. MISS The Shallalat Gardens Qaitbay Citadel, a turreted fortress that was built in the 15th in the Al Shatby district century on the site of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the is a massive expanse of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is a ‘must see’. It is said lawns, trees and shrubs that stones from the original lighthouse built in the 3rd century with lakes designed so BC on an island in the harbour were used in its construction. that the water tumbles Excavations in the harbour continue to this day, and recently in waterfalls. It is a calm there have been more ancient stone found which in all likeli- space in a busy city. hood once formed part of the lighthouse’s structure. The city Also the Mediterranean- has many mosques too, the most notable being the Al-Mursi style street cafes. Abul Abbas with a towering minaret and domes that dominate the city’s skyline, and the 14th century Al-Attareen Mosque.
INFO POINTThe Graeco-Roman Museum, located in To Abu Quir and Rosettathe heart of modern Alexandria, houses animpressive collection of 40,000 or more ar- a Montazah Setefacts found in and around the city, some a Palace ndating as far back to 332 BC. The museum ne rrawas founded in the 19th century, quickly ite San Stefano Medbecame an important exhibitor of ancient Stanleyartefacts and remains a key amenity in QaitbayAlexandria today, along with the National Citadel aMuseum of Alexandria. Delt Al-Mursi Abul Abbas Bibliotheca Alexandrina Mosque National Museum of Alexandrina Roman Graeco-Roman Museum le Ni Amphitheatre e Pompey’s Pillar Th Catacombs at Kom el Shoqafa Desert Highway, To El Alamein To Wadi El Natroun and Cairo EASY TRAVEL Alexandria has its own international air- port, as well as being a seaport for cruise ships. It is served by the express service buses and rail network that link it to Cairo and other major towns and cities. Fish market ALEXANDRIAAlexandria also has lots of archaeologicalsites too, including a Roman amphitheatre You can live different experiences byat Kom Al-Dekka, a Serapium pillar dat- exploring the under-water treasures ining from the 3rd century known as Pompey’s Alexandria. Don’t miss also the Wadi ElPillar, the ancient catacombs at Kom el Sho- Natroun Monasteries.qafa that show a mix of Pharaonic and GrecoRoman art, the Al-Shatby Necropolis site and a Along the Mediterrean coast luxuriousseries of tombs. resorts open their endless possibilities for memorable vacations (one of them isThe city, however, while celebrating its glorious Porto Marina).past also has a thoroughly modern approachto providing facilities for its residents and visitors.This is supremely evident in the opening of theBibliotheca Alexandrina, an important library Alexandria Tourist Office :and cultural centre designed to put Alexandria Phone : 034843380/51556back on the academic map. It stands near the Fax : 034843380site of the ancient Library of Alexandria datingfrom the 3rd century, which was consideredto be the largest library in the ancient world.Among the famous scholars who studied hereare mathematicians Euclid in 300 BC and Her-on in 62 AD, and philosopher and astronomerEratosthenes in around 200 BC.The Bibliotheca Alexandrina opened in 2002following a competition organised by UNESCOto find the best architectural design for thecommemorative building. A futuristic designwas chosen, complete with a glass roof angledso that it faces the sea. There are specialisedlibraries for children, those who are blind or visu-ally impaired and the young, along with sec-tions dedicated to the arts, multimedia, audio-visual, microforms and rare books.This extraordinary facility also has four art galler- Kom el-Shoqafaies for temporary exhibitions and a further ninefor permanent displays, three museums dedi-cated to antiquities, manuscripts and science,a planetarium, internet archive, a manuscript DID YOU KNOW?restoration laboratory and seven academicresearch centres. Its cultural centre has nine The Bibliotheca Alexandrinascreens for projection presentations, and an has a library capable of hold-interactive environment. It is a fabulous facility ing eight million books, and isfor the people of Alexandria, an award-winner one of the largest libraries in theand considered one of the leading such cen- world.tres in the world. 23
Giza, Sphinx and the PyramidsCairo and GizaTo say Cairo is a city of contrasts is perhaps an under-statement. It is an astonishing mix of reminders froman ancient world that sit, surprisingly comfortably, withmodern day life. You can see historic buildings andmarket squares in Old Cairo, fabulous Mamluk andOttoman mosques, Christian churches, swish hotels andcontemporary commercial offices in Greater Cairo, lushparks, residential areas and the amazing area wherethe Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx in Giza dominatethe skyline and the city meets the desert.Add to this the chance of visiting the Egyptian Muse-um where exhibits are too ancient and too fabulousto comprehend, the streets of Khan el-Khalili, the old-est bazaar in the world, and the huge museum andcultural centre complex of the Opera House and youhave a city that captivates. To visit Cairo, one of thelargest and most densely populated cities in the worldwith a population said to be almost 8 million in themetropolitan area alone, will be a thoroughly memo-rable, if hectic, and at times bewildering, experience. Sphinx Millions of Egyptian live and work in the city, with the total number of people bolstered by tour- ists from every corner of the world at most times of the years. Spring and autumn tend to be the busiest times as the sun is not so hot, although winter and summer see many visitors too. Expect to hear Japanese and Chinese, American voices, Cana- dians, French, Italian and English among the throngs Tutankhamum’s treasures of people who gather to see the sights of this glori- ous city. DON’T MISS Cairo lies on the banks of The Sound and Light show at the Pyramids of Giza – the the Nile River, at the point narrator of Egypt’s ancient history is the Sphinx itself. where it splits in a fan-like manner for its onward Languages include French, English, Spanish, Arabic, Italian route north through the and Japanese. Also don’t miss the chance of lunch or din- low-lying Nile Delta to the ner on a floating restaurant – the often luxurious boats can Mediterranean. It is a warm be seen moored along the riverside. city, although has a raising humidly level due to the
DID YOU KNOW? The best way to avoid having to queue to get into the Cairo Museum is to book in advance or join a group visit. Mid-morning tends to be especially busy, so try visiting early in the day or in the afternoon when it is quieter.Nile. July to August are the hottest months when temperatures tend to be 30-40°C(107.6oF), while in winter it is cooler at around 24-30°C (86oF). It has little rainfall.Cairo is divided into several main areas, each with their own character and manyattractions that should be a ‘must’ on every visitors’ itinerary. Central Cairo, or GreaterCairo, is where the administrative heart of the city, and indeed the country, is located. Itlies to the north of the city and takes in part of Giza on the western side of the river anda large expanse of area to the east. The area feels contemporary and modern with anetwork of wide 19th century boulevards resembling the layout of cities such as Paris,shiny futuristic buildings, parklands, swish restaurants and hotels. It is quite different toalmost all other areas of the city.The Corniche el-Nil runs along the length of the Nile on the east side and offers bridgesacross the water to the island of Gezira in the Zamalek district, and in turn to the westbank. The Cairo Tower, a tall television tower with a lattice-like exterior, is a famous land- CAIRO AND GIZA The Citadelmark of the island and can be seen for some distance. You can go to the top for agreat panoramic view of the city. Central Cairo contains some fabulous sights, such asthe 19th century Midan Opera and Midan Ataba, the Mausoleum of former Prime MinisterSaad Zaghloul, Manial Palace which was once a royal home and the new sprawlingOpera House complex where residents and visitors can hear classical music and op-era, and see dance performances, theatre and ballet.Midan Tahrir is the busy heart of Central Cairo, and it is here where there are numerousshops, cafes and restaurants in streets such as Qasr el-Nil. There’s also the AmericanUniversity housed in a grand neo-Islamic building, plus the city’s absolute ‘must do’ at-traction, the Egyptian Museum. You can reach it via the Sadat subway station.Housed in a neo-classical building colour washed in pink, it is the home of the largestcollection of ancient Egyptian antiquities in the world. In fact, it is said there are around120,000 pieces on display, including mummies, numerous sarcophagi and, of course,the world famous Tut Ankh Amum (Tutankhamun) collection of gold and alabaster trea-sures found when the boy pharaoh’s tomb was discovered in 1922.You can also see a replica of the Rosetta Stone in the foyer as you enter the museum.The original was discovered in Rosetta, Rashid, on the north coast and was 25
The Egyptian Museuminstrumental in deciphering hieroglyphics, the ancientEgyptian form of handwriting that dates from beforePharaonic Egypt times. If visiting the museum you canbook a guided tour or purchase a book and wanderaround at your own pace. Allow several hours or, if adedicated Egyptologist, many days.East of Central Cairo is the Islamic part of the city, while tothe south is the oldest. Full of atmosphere and charm,they both are characterised by narrow streets and laby-rinths of tiny alleyways and lanes, ancient architectureseen on mosques and churches, and residential streetsthat stretch for several kilometres into the distance.Khan el-Khalili, the famous network of streets thatmake up the largest bazaar in the Middle East, andone of the oldest markets in the world, is in the Is-lamic part of Cairo. It was built by Emir Djaharks el-Khalili who created a khan, a caravanserai for trad-ers. From as far back as 1382 traders have plied theirgoods of gems, gold and silver, copper and highlyscented spices. Today, similar items can be foundalthough they are joined by trinkets more suited to Al-Azhar Mosqueholidaying visitors looking for a souvenir to take home.To wander around the bazaar is fascinating, and good fun.Nearby, is the great Mosque of Sayyidna al-Hussein, considered the holiest site in Cairo,which is well worth seeing, along with the fabulously old Mosque of al-Azhar, the Mosqueof Ibn Tulun, the 12th century citadel built by Salah El Din to protect the city from invad-ers, the Mosque of Mohamed Ali on the Citadel and the Wikalat al-Ghouri, a medievalformer caravanserai that now houses an arts and crafts centre. The Islamic part of thecity is generally bustling, but is a key area for visitors new to Cairo to experience.To the west of Central Cairo are the Pyramids of Giza on the Giza plateau, not far fromthe site of the ancient city of Memphis and Saqqara. The last remaining Seven Wondersof the Ancient World, the pyramids are the iconic image of Egypt. You can visit theGreat Pyramid built for King Khufu of the 4th dynasty, the slightly smaller Pyramid ofKhafre dated from around 2500 BC and the Pyramid of Menkaure. Dotted around areseveral smaller pyramids where members of the kings’ families would have been en-tombed. To one side stands the much-photographed Sphinx with its body of a lion andthe head of a human, while a short walk away is the Solar Boat Museum that houses afull-size ancient Egyptian boat that was discovered in pieces but put together againwith much care. It is fascinating to see.Saqqara complex of pyramids and monuments, the centrepieces of which are the Step
INFO POINTPyramid of Djoser and the Pyramid of Sekhm-ket, along with the city of Memphis that dur-ing much of the Pharaonic Egypt period tawas the capital city. el D le International Ni The Airport Egyptian Museum Islamic Cairo / Cairo Tower Khan el-Khalili bazaar Sultan Hasan Mosque / El Rifai’ Mosque Citadel Coptic Monuments Giza Old Cairo Pyramids Coptic Museum The N Sphinx ile River Sakkarah Memphis EASY TRAVEL Shuttle buses run regularly from Cairo International Airport into the city centre, plus there’s limousine and car hire Coptic Cairo, St Georges’ Church facilities available. In town, there are CAIRO AND GIZA taxis galore. Look out for the black andWhile the Pyramids of Giza and the beautiful white cars, which can be hailed, or bookSphinx that ‘guards’ them date from Phara- a bright yellow air-conditioned City Cab.onic times and are one of the oldest monu- Taxis also wait outside hotels. Cairo hasments in the city today, Old Cairo, or Coptic a good metro and railway system and aCairo as it is known, is where the city actually bus network too.began. In fact, the area, along with Mem-phis, Saqqara and Dahshur, predates the Pyramids Tourist Office :city as we know it today. Phone : 33838823 - Fax : 33853526Old Cairo was founded in around the 6th Dowtown Cairo Tourist Office :century AD, at a time when Alexandria was Phone : 23913454 - Fax : 23913454the capital of Egypt and the Pyramids and Railway Station Ramses Tourist Office :Sphinx lay way beyond the small commu-nity’s boundary. Then the site that was to Phone : 25790767 - Fax : 25790767become Cairo was little more than a fewdwellings on the banks of the Nile and a Cairo. Look out for the delicately carvedRoman fortress that guarded the route be- mashrabiya windows. Inside, the muse-tween the ancient cities of Memphis and um offers a surprise at every turn. WithHeliopolis. one of the finest collections of Coptic art in the world, it covers the periods fromAs the stories go, an Arab general, Amr Ibn Pharaonic times through to Graeco-Ro-al-Aas, decided the area was a good spot man and Islamic. On display are pulpits,for establishing a much larger community ancient textiles and embroidered silks,and began to construct homes and places icons, manuscripts and ceramics.of worship. The community grew and grewat a time when the country was predomi- Cairo’s history is wondrous. It has seennately Christian. Today, some of the most pharaohs, Christians and Islam follow-historic and important Christian buildings ers, and has also been the seat of theand churches in the city can be found in ruling Royal dynasty, the Fatimid Caliph-the narrow little alleyways and streets of ate, the capital during the Mamluk andCoptic Cairo. Be sure to visit the Church of Ottoman periods, and the centre of Na- poleon’s empire when France occupiedSt Barbara, one of the largest in Egypt, is stillused regularly for worship. Egypt in the 18th century. It retained its capital city status under British rule untilOther buildings to look out for in this area Egypt became independent in 1922.are the Church of St George, the Church of St Today, it is the administrative capital andSergius, which is the oldest church in Coptic heart of the country.Cairo and lies a few feet below street level,the Ben Ezra Synagogue, the Amr Ibn al-AasMosque and the beautiful Hanging Church,so called because it is built high on top ofthe old Roman fortress structure, the BabylonFort. A splendid building, it has a distinctivefront façade with twin bell towers and insidea vaulted roof and a series of columns.The Coptic Museum tucked away down oneof the alleyways not far away is well wortha visit too. It hides a lovely courtyard gar-den behind its walls, which is a quiet placeto visit amongst the hustle and bustle of Khan el-Khalili Bazaar 27
El Fayoum OasisEl Fayoumto HermopolisThe stretch of Nile Valley from El Fayoum to Hermopolis, taking in the towns and areasof Biba, Beni Suef, Beni Mazar, El Minya with its famous Beni Hassan Tombs, Mallawiand Tel El Amarna is as popular with visitors as it is with residents of Cairo looking for abreak away from the city’s hustle and bustle. The landscape is one of beautiful sceneryand tall date palms combined with great expanses of land dedicated to agriculture, andyet has a desert-like ambience. EL FAYOUMEl Fayoum lies just to the west of the Nile, a few kilometressouth of Abusir, one of the most ancient archaeological sites inEgypt. Its monuments include the Pyramid of Sahure, the Pyra-mid of Nyuserre, the Pyramid of Neferirkare and the Pyramid ofNeferefere.El Fayoum is a wondrous site. An exceptionally lush and green areathat comes into view as you head out through the sand dunesof the Western Desert to the west of the Nile, it is Egypt’s largestoasis. Surrounded by high plateaux, the city revolves around thegreat and ancient Lake Qarun, which is fed by water from the Nilevia the Bahr Youssef. A series of canals were constructed by thePharaoh Amenemhat III of the 12th dynasty, around the time whenit was part of the ancient Moeris Lake, which lies 43 metres belowsea level.Enjoying a temperate climate, the area is noted for its significantleisure, cultural and historical importance. Said to have been afavourite holiday spot of the pharaohs, the oasis saw many build-ings constructed during the dynastic reigns and, indeed, in later Qarun Lakeyears meaning there are many reminders of ancient Pharaonic,Graeco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic times.Of the Pharaonic monuments to see there is the Hawara Pyramid built by Amenemhat III,the Al-Lahoun Pyramid and the remains of the Amenemhat III pyramid, plus the fascinatingSenousert I Obelisk that stands at the entrance to El Fayoum. Look out also for the MedinetMadi Temple dating from the 12th dynasty, the small temple of Qasr Al Sagha that lies just to the north of the lake and Kiman Fares where the remains of the original ancient city can be seen. DON’T To see monuments from later periods head off north to the ruins of the Karanis Town. Here there are temples, a Roman bath, MISS winery and the remains of Coptic, early Arab and the ancient The cemetery at Ptolemaic communities. Closer to the oasis are the remains Mallawi, famous for of the ancient city of Um Al-Atal to see, the ruins of Demiet its displays of beauti- al-Sebaa complete with ancient Greek monuments and the ful ancient Pharaonic astonishing Qasr Qarum Temple where much of its original and Greek art seen on decorative carvings and inscriptions can still be seen. Be sure murals. to see the Pyramid of Meidum, a beautiful step structure that is believed to have been built for the last pharaoh of the 3rd Dynasty, Huni, and the nearby UNESCO sites of Wadi Rayyan and Wadi El Hitan in the Valley of the Whales.
INFO POINTEl Fayoum has been both an ancient Christian To Cairo Pyramid ofand Islamic settlement during its history, and Qasr Qarun Lake Qarun Meidumthere are beautiful churches and mosques to Temple Pyramid ofsee too. The finest examples are the Al-Azab Valley El Fayoum HawaraMonastery in Al-Azab village, which is easy of Whales r veto find just a few kilometres south of the city, Ri Wadi Beni Suef ileand contains a fascinating Coptic museum. El Rayyan eNThere is also the Al-Malak Monastery and the Eastern Desert Th Western Desert f and the Red SeaIslamic monuments of Qaitbay Mosque that Bahr Yusedates from the Mameluke period and has the Bani Mazarmost delighted rostrum inlaid with ivory, plusthe Suspended Mosque to Prince Sulaiman,so called because it is built on the side of a hill. El MinyaIt dates from the Ottoman period. Bani Hassan Hermopolis Tombs MallawiTravelling south along the Nile from El Fayoum To Luxor and the Valleyyou pass through the small town of Biba, Beni of the Kings Tel El AmarnaSuef which is famous for its cotton, and thetraditional village of Beni Mazar. You thenarrive in the beautiful town of El Minya. EASY TRAVEL EL FAYOUM TO HERMOPOLIS El Fayoum is reached by train and coach from Cairo and the major towns and cit- ies of the Nile Valley. Organised guided tours can be provided by the tourist office for exploring the area around El Minya. El Fayoum Oasis EL MINYAEl Minya is in North Upper Egypt and the capi-tal of Minya Governorate . It is a rural area onthe west bank of the Nile that has prosperedover the years since the early 20th centurythrough its cotton industry. Merchants built Ital-ian styled houses that can still been seen to-day. With the town’s pretty tree-lined cornicheand squares, and its monuments from Phara-onic, Greco Roman, Byzantine, Coptic andIslamic eras, El Minya is an attractive and livelytown with a great cultural heritage. Wadi Hitan HERMOPOLISIt is best known for Beni Hassan, a collection ofpaintings that date from the Pharaonic Egypt’s Nearby are temples built by the femaleMiddle Kingdom. They display astonishing pharaoh Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III,engravings that are considered important for along with Pharaonic tombs at Deir El Bar-they show a change of style from the Old to the sha and remains of a city and tombs fromMiddle Kingdom. Amenemhat’s tomb, which the period at Tell Al-Amarna. It is said to beshows hunting scenes, and those of the 12th the home of the pharaoh Akhenaton andDynasty governor Khunum Hotep, and Baket his wife, the famous Nefertiti. At Mallawi,and Khety from the 11th Dynasty are the most just along the Nile riverbank, is the remainsimportant. of the Graeco-Roman capital Ashmounein where the ruins of a acropolis-style basilica can still be seen. Finally, you will arrive at DID YOU KNOW? the important site of Hermopolis, or Tuna El Lake Qarun is a protected area and, Gebel as it is known locally, and although it along with the nearby springs of Ein offers only a few remains to see today such Silleen and waterways of Wadi Al as the archaeological sites of the Tomb Rayan, are famous for water sports, of Petosiris, the catacombs where mum- fishing and bird watching. mified birds and animals were found and Isadora, it was one of the most prosperous cities in ancient Egyptian times. 29
Felucca riding the NileAsyut to DandaraWith a combination of fabulously ancient temples, some of the holiest places in Egypt,great expanses of agricultural lands and a wealth of modern amenities, the stretch ofthe Nile Valley from Asyut to Dandera has one step in the past and the other very muchin the future. ASYUTCharacterised by its Coptic Christian population which grew as a result of an apparitionof the Virgin Mary that was said to have appeared in the city, an event acknowledgedin the Coptic Orthodox Church, Asyut is one of the holiest places in Egypt. It is also oneof the largest, in fact the largest in Upper Egypt. With a population of around 400,000,many of its residents are students studying at one of the country’s foremost universities,the University of Asyut.Asyut has a modern feel and yet can trace its history back centuries. The first communitiesare said to have settled during the Pharaonic period and named it Syut. Later it becameknown as Lycopolis, prompting a distinct local dialect in Graeco-Roman times to becalled Lycopolitan. For a spell it was a capital city, although lost out to Thebes whichtook the crown during the New Kingdom period. Today, though, Asyut does have manyreminders of its ancient past.One of its most valuable treasures is the major archaeological site of the Tombs ofAssiut, located to the west of the city. The tombs are carved into the limestone rock ofthe mountain, and are said to include those of pharaohs from the 9th, 10th and 12thdynasties such as Kheti I and II. Other ancient sites around the city include the MeirRocky Tombs that contain the Princes of Qusseia, the Deir El Gabrawy in Abnub wheretombs can be found in the monastery, and the Deir el-Bersha necropolis which was animportant cemetery in the Middle Kingdom and where leading nobles and governorswere entombed.Nearby, is the Deir Al Adra, otherwise known as the Virgin’s Monastery, where it is said theholy family crossed on their way back from the holy land, and in Shatub village, just tothe south of Asyut, is the Al Muharraq Monastery where a church bears the Virgin Mary’sname. It was here the family is said to have stayed during their journey to Egypt. Its alterstone is believed to have been the exact same one that blocked the entrance to acave where the holy family lived. Every summer, festivals are held at both venues whenpilgrims from the world over gather. In more recent times, Asyut became known for being at the end of the camel caravan route from Darfur in the Sudan and, DON’T as a result, was home to the largest slave market in Egypt. Today, it has thriving cotton, grain and carpet industries, MISS and a prosperous feel. One of the relatively modern sights The astronomical ceiling of the city, if compared to its ancient monuments, is the inside the Temple of Asyut Barrage. It was built in the late 1800s to regulate the Hathor at Dendera – its water flow from the Nile into the main canal, the Ibrahimiyya detailing is exquisite. Canal, which is a key resource for irrigating the agricultural land upon which the population relies.
INFO POINT To Cairo Eastern Desert Asyut and the Red Sea Th eN Tombs of Asyut ile ve Ri r The White Monastery Sohag Western Qena Desert Abydos Tombs Dandara Temple Complex (Temple of Hathor) Fauna of the Nile ValleyAnother significant building in Asyut is the of the Kings LuxorLillian Trasher Orphanage, the first orphanagein Egypt. It was founded by Lillian Trasher, aChristian missionary who left her homelandof Florida in the US to travel to Africa and EASY TRAVELseek her life’s work. Today it is one of the You can get to Asyut by train and theworld’s largest orphanages and a source of Upper Egypt Coach company servesmuch local pride. most of the towns in the area. Tours by ASYUT TO DANDARA SUHAG road or river run to Dendara from Luxor.From Asyut, heading south, you passthrough the town of Suhag, where theAbydos tombs were discovered in the 19thcentury and are said to have been thoseof kings from the 1st and 2nd dynasties.You can also see the Temple of Seti I, acommemorative monument to the greatKing Seti I, along with the Temple of Ramses IIwhere scenes of battle that have lost little oftheir original coloured decoration. There arenumerous churches and monasteries to seetoo. Perhaps the most notable is the PopeShenouda monastery, sometimes known asthe Deir El Abyad or the White Monastery,which has a beautiful 5th century church.From here it’s onward to Dandera. DANDARADandara is the jewel in the crown of thisstretch of the Nile. It sits on the edge of thedesert, and offers visitors the chance to seeone of the best, if not the best, preservedtemples in Egypt. The huge Dandera Temple Sunset on the Nilecomplex, which includes the great Templeof Hathor which is almost intact, was buriedunder the sand until the 19th century.When it was discovered there was muchexcitement. The present building dates fromPtolemaic times, although takes the formof Graeco-Roman architectural styling. Itstands on the site of buildings dating fromaround 2500 BC. Visitors can see a Copticchurch, chapel and a modern centre thattells the fascinating story of the temples. DID YOU KNOW? It is believed that in the Biblical story of when Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus fled from King Herod’s men who were killing all the baby boys in Bethlehem they took refuge in a cave near Asyut. Shores of the Nile 31
Luxor TempleLuxor and the EastBankTo say Luxor is one of the world’s greatest cities is nothingless than an understatement. It is, in fact, one of its mostastonishing, if not singularly the best, outdoor museumanywhere on the planet and offers visitors the chance ofseeing almost a third of all the ancient antiquities knownto man in just a few kilometres. The temples and structuresthat have stood for thousands of years are beautifully pre-served.Home to the city of Thebes, the ancient capital ofEgypt during the Pharaonic New Kingdom period,along with the fabulous Karnak Temples, Luxor Templeand the necropolis of the Valley of the Kings and theValley of the Queens, Luxor can trace its history backto unimaginable times. It actually has three distinctareas, the city centre on the East Bank of the Nile,Karnak which is a town in its own right and lies just to thenorth and Thebes, location of the Valley of the Kings. Luxor, Karnak Temple The city is said to have gained importance as early as around 2000 BC under the rule of the 11th dynasty. In ancient times it was known as Waset, a name that indicated its power, and later Thebes under the Greeks. Homer is said to have described Luxor as the ‘City of the Hundred Gates’. It was, for a great many years, one of the most important cities in the world, and certainly at the centre of political, eco- nomic, religious and military life of Ancient Egypt. Luxor Temple and the Nile corniche The Luxor of today is a com- pact city, running length- ways along the banks of DON’T the Nile and bordered by MISS the desert. Its population stands at around 380,000 The Sound and Light show at the Karnak Temples. with a regular stream A narration in several languages, including English, French, of international visitors Arabic and Japanese, tells the story of the temples to increasing this figure during light and music. Also a day cruise from Luxor to Dandera the spring and autumn or Abydos with sight-seeing and lunch. months when the tempera- ture is at a pleasing level
for sightseeing. Temperatures of 31-40°C (107.6°F) in June to August are not uncommon.Luxor’s size makes it easy to navigate. It’s a short hop of 20 minutes or so from the LuxorInternational Airport into the city centre, which largely only comprises three main roads. Thecorniche, a pretty tree-lined boulevard that runs along the banks of the Nile in an espla-nade fashion, is central for all the city’s attractions. It is home to the Winter Palace Hotel,now run by the hotel group Sofitel, that was where Agatha Christie is said to have pennedher classic work ‘Death on the Nile’.The two other main roads are the street al-Mahatta in which lies the train station, and thestreet al-Karnak that runs from the Karnak Temple into town past the Luxor Temple. For visi-tors the size and layout of Luxor means that all the sites are within a short distance of eachother and easy to find.Getting across from the East Bank or city centre to the West Bank to visit the Valley of theKings and the Valley of the Queens is now straightforward by road with the opening of abridge ten years ago. It’s just a few kilometres upstream. Before the bridge opened it wasvery much a case of hopping on one of the frequent and inexpensive ferries or motorboatsthat ran, and still do run, across the Nile. There’s a landing just opposite the Luxor Temple. LUXOR AND THE EAST BANK Ramasseum, Ramses II TempleIt’s a great way to cross the river. Visitors have a wealth of opportunities to sightsee in Luxor.There are the two big attractions of the Luxor Temple and the Karnak Temples, of course,plus the fabulous Luxor Museum and the Mummification Museum.The Luxor Temple is an astonishing sight from the corniche. It is particularly attrac-tive when subtlety lit in the evening. Dating from the time of Amenhotep II and RamsesII, it is dedicated to the god Amon Ra and his wife Mut. You enter it from an entrancefacing north, at the point where at one time it would have been connected to the KarnakTemples via a causeway. The causeway, which is currently being restored and is set to bea highlight of Luxor, would have been lined with sphinx statues. A later addition was a longroad, a dromos, built by Nectanebo I in the 30th dynasty. Sadly, most of the sphinxes havedisappeared over the years, but a few exceptionally good examples still exist close to thetemple today.Built during the New Kingdom, the temple is entered past a huge pylon built by RamsesII, with two of the original six statues representing the king on either side. There is also theremaining one of two matching 25-metre high granite obelisks. The other is erected in the DID YOU KNOW? The Arabs once dubbed Luxor the ‘City of Palaces’ because of the astonishing number of great buildings that were beautifully preserved. 33
Karnak TemplePlace de la Concorde in Paris, and a much loved and photographed landmark.Inside, there are courtyards, columns and fabulous colonnades, one a hundred me-tres in length and built by Amenhotep III. Its columns are topped with carvings of thepapyrus plant. Along the way there are inscriptions, scenes from ancient Egypt and evenRoman stuccoes that can be seen partially covering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. On theouter wall of the pylon are inscriptions that tell of the battle between Ramses II andHittites. The temple is a glorious celebration of the power of the pharaohs of the New King-dom and a ‘must see’ sight.Heading out of the Luxor Temple towards the next‘must see’ sight, the Karnak Temples, you will reach theLuxor Museum on the corniche. Be sure to go inside.Quite modern in appearance, it was founded in 1975to house antiquities dating from the ancient civilizationsof the area found in more recent times, includingsome of the Tutankhamun treasures. While the EgyptianMuseum in Cairo displays ancient artefacts toperfection, it is quite moving to see such extraordinaryitems exhibited in Luxor, the city where they were found.The Karnak Temples barely need an introduction, they areso famous. The largest ancient religious site in theworld, the complex takes its name from the village ofAl-Karnak and, in fact, comprises three distinct temples.The largest, the Precinct of Amun-Re, is ancient anddedicated to the god Amon. It is the only area open to thepublic. There is also the Precinct of Montu, the Precinct ofMut and a now dismantled building, the Temple of Amen-hotep IV. The triad of Luxor is Amun, Mut and Khonsu. Medinet Habu, Ramses III TempleThe site dates from as far back as 2000 BC and although building would have beenlow key in the beginning it is said that around 30 pharaohs added buildings, tem-ples, chapels and architectural wonders to it over a period of about 2,000 years fromthe Middle Kingdom right through to Ptolemaic times. The result is a fabulous trea-sure trove of ancient buildings and structures, columns, courtyards, pylons andobelisks, even a sacred lake, the scale of which is unparalleled anywhere in the world.At the entrance you pass over what is believed to have been a canal connected to theNile, complete with an ancient dock. Sadly, there is little remaining of the dock today.The entrance road, dromos, is lined with a row of statues either side and is known as theAvenue of Rams. The statues represent Amon and are beautifully preserved. Once insidethe building be sure to see the huge statue of Ramses II, one of the iconic images of theKarnak Temples.