Pyramids & More
With sand-covered tombs, austere pyramids and towering Pharaonic temples, Egypt brings out the explorer in all of us. Visit the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, where Tutankhamun’s tomb was unearthed, and see the glittering finds in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Hop off a Nile boat to visit Dendara, Edfu or one of the other waterside temples, cross Lake Nasser to see Ramses II’s masterpiece at Abu Simbel, or trek into the desert to find the traces of Roman trading outposts. You never know your donkey might stumble across yet another find, for that is the way many previous discoveries were made.
Beaches & Beyond
That empty beach with nothing but a candlelit cabin, and a teeming coral reef offshore: they’re waiting for you in Egypt. The coast along the Red Sea has a rugged desert beauty above the waterline and a psychedelic vibrancy below â€“ rewarding to explore on a multiday outing to one of the globe’s great dives or on an afternoon’s snorkelling jaunt along a coral wall. There is just as much space and beauty in Egypt’s vast deserts. Whether you’re watching the sun rise between the beautiful shapes of the White Desert or the shimmering horizon from the comfort of a hot spring in Siwa Oasis, Egypt’s landscapes are endlessly fascinating.
Valley of the Kings
The west bank of Luxor had been the site of royal burials since around 2100 BC, but it was the pharaohs of the New Kingdom period (1550 -1069 BC) who chose this isolated valley dominated by the pyramid-shaped mountain peak of Al-Qurn (The Horn). Once called the Great Necropolis of Millions of Years of Pharaoh, or the Place of Truth, the Valley of the Kings has 63 magnificent royal tombs, each quite different from the other.
Ramses III’s magnificent memorial temple of Medinat Habu, fronted by sleepy Kom Lolah village and backed by the Theban mountains, is perhaps one of the west bank’s most underrated sites. This was one of the first places in Thebes closely associated with the local god Amun. At its height, Medinat Habu contained temples, storage rooms, workshops, administrative buildings, a royal palace and accommodation for priests and officials. It was the centre of the economic life of Thebes for centuries.
Karnak is an extraordinary complex of sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons and obelisks, dedicated to the Theban triad but also to the greater glory of pharaohs. The site covers over 2 sq km; it’s large enough to contain about 10 cathedrals. At its heart is the Temple of Amun, the earthly ‘home’ of the local god. Built, added to, dismantled, restored, enlarged and decorated over nearly 1500 years, Karnak was the most important place of worship in Egypt during the New Kingdom.
Pyramids of Giza
The last remaining wonder of the ancient world; for nearly 4000 years, the extraordinary shape, impeccable geometry and sheer bulk of the Giza Pyramids have invited the obvious questions: “How were we built, and why?” Centuries of research have given us parts of the answer.Built as massive tombs on the orders of the pharaohs, they were constructed by teams of workers tens-of-thousands strong.Today they stand as an awe-inspiring tribute to the might, organisation and achievements of ancient Egypt.
Other Places Of Interest
One of the world’s most important collections of ancient artefacts, the Egyptian Museum takes pride of place in Downtown Cairo, on the north side of Midan Tahrir. Inside the great domed, oddly pinkish building, the glittering treasures of Tutankhamun and other great pharaohs lie alongside the grave goods, mummies, jewellery, eating bowls and toys of Egyptians whose names are lost to history.
To walk around the museum is to embark on an adventure through time.
Alexandria’s ancient library was one of the greatest of all classical institutions, and while replacing it might seem a Herculean task, the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina manages it with aplomb. Opened in 2002, this impressive piece of modern architecture is a deliberate attempt to rekindle the brilliance of the original centre of learning and culture. The complex has become one of Egypt’s major cultural venues and a stage for numerous international performers, and is home to a collection of brilliant museums.
Carved into a reef just offshore, 8km north of Dahab, is Egypt’s most infamous dive site. The Blue Hole is a gaping sinkhole that drops straight down â€“ some say as deep as 130m. Exploring the deeper depths should be left to experienced technical divers. There’s plenty to discover close to the surface. The outer lip is full of marine life, and a reasonable plunge into the hole itself is somewhat akin to skydiving.
Depth: 7m to 27m. Rating: intermediate. Access: shore.