Egypt is home to some of the most famous tourist destinations in the world, and is also the site of some of the oldest and most notable examples of human society and civilization. Egyptian exhibits exist in museums all over the globe, but they are nothing compared to the astounding beauty of seeing the Giza Pyramid Complex up close, or the legendary tomb of King Tutankhamen in person. From scoping out coral reefs and shipwrecks at Ras Mohammed National Park, riding a camel to the summit of Mount Sinai, or waking up at dawn to hear the singing stones of the Colossus of Memnon, the wonders of Egypt are almost endless.
1.Abu Simbel Temples
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One of the most popular and impressive sites in Egypt, the temples at Abu Simbel are gigantic rock carvings of some of Egypt’s pharaohs. Originally built to mark the Egyptian border with Nubia, and meant to display the power and strength of Egypt’s rulers to any who might think to threaten it, Abu Simbel was buried by sand and forgotten until 1813, when it was rediscovered by a Swiss explorer. Today, the imposing carvings stand as a facade for visitors to walk past on their way into the temples, and on certain days of the year, they will see the sun beam all the way through these cavern-like spaces, illuminating statues of the gods it was built for.
Aswan Governorate, Egypt
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Al-Azhar Park is a beautiful oasis located in the center of the city of Cairo. This green space is full of walking paths and gardens, but it is especially notable for its proximity on all sides to some of the most amazing sites in Egypt, such as the mosques of Darb Al Ahmar, the old Fatimid city, the City of the Dead, and the Ayyubid Citadel. From some of the green hills in Al-Azhar Park, visitors can get a 360-degree view of the city of Cairo. Visitors can also find the remains of a 12th-century wall, which was discovered while the park was being developed and contains some stones covered in hieroglyphics.
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The Badr Museum, located in the Farafra region of the desert, is dedicated to the arts and works of Egyptian artist Badr Abdel Moghny. Using natural materials like sand, mud, and stone, Badr creates pieces of art that depict traditional life in a desert oasis. Even the museum itself is a work of art, built of mud bricks by Badr himself. This museum is a great place for visitors to learn about life in an oasis. The Badr Museum is open daily from 8:30am until sunset, and admission is free, although there is a suggested donation for entry.
Al Farafra, New Valley Governorate, Egypt, Phone: +2-09-27-51-00-91
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In the eastern district of Old Cairo lies an ancient citadel that was built in the 12th century as a defense against the Crusaders. For over seven long centuries, this beautiful region of the city was home to the ruling parties of Egypt, including the Ayyubid Dynasty, the Mamluks, the Ottoman Empire, and even the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte. The citadel is characterized by three iconic but very different mosques, several beautiful palaces, a handful of museums, and some terraces that afford beautiful views all the way to the Pyramids of Giza on the western border of Cairo.
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Cairo Tower is located in the Zamalek district, where it stretches up into the sky for an impressive 187 meters. This beautiful granite tower was built to resemble a lotus plant, the same plant that the ancient Egyptians used to make papyrus, and due to the pattern on its rounded face, it has obtained the nickname “Nasser’s Pineapple”. From the observation deck at the top, or from the windows of one of the two restaurants, visitors to Cairo Tower can obtain some truly breathtaking views of Cairo, the Pyramids of Giza, and the Nile River. The tower can get very crowded, as there is only one small elevator, but the best views from Cairo Tower are during late morning or late afternoon, when the sky is clearest.
Zamalek, Cairo Governorate, Egypt, Phone: +2-02-27-36-51-12
6.Colossi of Memnon
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Across the Nile River from the city of Luxor are the Colossi of Memnon, two huge statues of stone that represent Pharaoh Amenhotep III, an ancient Egyptian ruler from around 1400 BC. They are almost all that remains of the temple they once guarded, which was the largest and most extravagant in all of Egypt at the time. About 2,000 years ago, an earthquake cracked and damaged one of the statues. When dew forms in the cracks and dries in the hot morning sun, the statue emits a strange, melodic sound that caused early visitors from Greece and Rome to name the statue “Memnon” after a legendary hero of the Trojan War.
Al Bairat, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt Phone: +20-11-48-13-06-16
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The Copts are Egyptian Christians, and Coptic Cairo is an old and historic district of Cairo where they lived and worshipped. Their culture and history is celebrated in the Coptic Museum, which was built in 1908 and holds the largest collection of Coptic artifacts in the world. The museum, which is located within the walls of the Babylon Fortress, displays sculptures, art, texts, frescoes, and textiles from the many centuries of Coptic history, and visitors to the Coptic Museum can view these artifacts and learn about the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which is a different sect of Christianity that not many people know about.
3 Mari Gerges, Kom Ghorab, Misr Al Qadimah, Cairo Governorate, Egypt, Phone: +2-02-23-62-87-66
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Any museum worth its salt has an Egyptian wing or exhibit, where visitors can see hieroglyphic texts and ancient mummies, but in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, located in Cairo, visitors can lay their eyes on the world’s largest collection of pharaonic artifacts. With over 100 halls filled with exhibits and items dating back to prehistoric eras, this museum covers over 5,000 years of history within its 160,000-item collection. Guests can see royal mummies, statues, some of the legendary Tutankhamun’s treasures, and so much more here, with information offered in both Arabic and English.
15 Meret Basha, Ismailia, Qasr an Nile, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
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The Gayer-Anderson Museum is located in Cairo next to the Mosque of Ibn Tulun. The museum, which was once a house, feels different to visitors because everything, from the exhibits to the very walls and ceilings of the place, is a part of history. The house was originally built in 1632, and was restored in 1935 and opened as a museum in 1945. The house is furnished with historic pieces, and exhibits of art and artifacts adorn its many rooms and halls. Keen-eyed fans of James Bond might even recognize the Gayer-Anderson Museum from The Spy Who Loved Me, which filmed several scenes in the museum and in the adjacent mosque.
Ahmed Ibn Tolon, Tolon, As Sayedah Zeinab, Cairo Governorate, Egypt, Phone: +2-02-23-64-78-22
10.Giza Pyramid Complex
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Of all the amazing attractions in Egypt, the Pyramids of Giza are undoubtedly the most famous and iconic. Although they can be quite busy with tourists, no trip to Egypt would be complete without seeing this complex of six pyramids, located just west of the city of Cairo. The largest of them, the Great Pyramid of Giza, is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and is remarkably well preserved. Getting to the pyramids is as easy as hopping on a bus from the city, and from there it is easy to walk, or ride on a horse or camel, to the iconic structures. With the help of a guide, visitors can learn about the history of the pyramids, and of the many other wonders that lie buried beneath the sands.
Al Haram, Nazlet El-Semman, Al Haram, Giza Governorate, Egypt
11.Great Sphinx of Giza
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Another one of the most iconic tourist locations in the entire world, the Great Sphinx of Giza is instantly recognizable from films, history classes, and the glossy pages of travel magazines. This giant limestone structure depicts a sphinx, a legendary creature that is part human and part lion, which despite millennia of erosion from wind and sand still maintains many clear features. Traces of the original paint can even be seen on parts of its face. No one knows exactly who built the Sphinx or why, but a trip to this site, directly next to the Giza Pyramid Complex, will provoke the imagination into creating theories of your own.
Al Haram, Giza Governorate, Egypt
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Karnak is the largest temple precinct that is still in existence today. This amazing expanse of temples, located on the East Bank of Thebes, is home to courts, pylons, and shrines to several Theban gods like Amun, Mut, Khonsu and Montu, and to celebrated pharaohs like Ramses III. From columns shaped like enormous bundles of papyrus to decorations and reliefs depicting ceremonies and cult rituals, the temples at Karnak form an enchanting maze of structures, which provides a fascinating insight into Theban culture. Throughout the centuries, excavations by archaeologists have unearthed hundreds of statues, thousands of bronzes, and many more artifacts of this bygone time.
El-Karnak, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
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A souq in Egypt is a marketplace or bazaar, and Khan el-Khalili is one of the biggest in Cairo. Located at the site of a 10th-century mausoleum, Khan el-Khalili is host to a vibrant history, and first became a place for Turkish merchants in the 16th century. Today, Khan el-Khalili is a vibrant market that will send visitors back in time to an old Arabic marketplace, geared mostly towards tourists with stalls that sell souvenirs and keepsakes, but still home to many traditional artisans who create and sell their wares in the area. Visitors to Khan el-Khalili can shop from merchants, grab a bite from one of the street food vendors, or take a break at one of the coffee houses in the souq.
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The Luxor Museum, located on the banks of the Nile in the city of Luxor, is an archaeological museum that displays mostly items from ancient Thebes. Statues, pharaonic art, and two royal mummies, including one that is believed to be the mummy of Ramses I, can be found within the museum’s walls. Admirers of Egyptian history and art will find no shortage of pieces to admire in the Luxor’s collection, from both the Old Kingdom and the New Kingdom in Thebes. There is even an entire section of the museum devoted to the statues that were discovered under the floor of a temple in 1989. The museum opens daily at 9:00am, with closing hours that vary depending upon the season.
Kornish Al Nile, Luxor City, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt, Phone: +2-09-52-37-05-69
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In the center of Luxor, this temple, with its colossal statues, tall stone walls, and thick columns, presents an impressive sight for visitors. Constructed as early as 1500 BC, Luxor Temple was the location of the annual Opet Festival, in which Thebans would celebrate royal renewal. Luxor Temple also claims renown for being the original site of the obelisk that now graces the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Today, visitors can see where it once stood, and see the twin obelisk that stands opposite its place. They can also walk among giant statues of human-headed sphinxes, visit an 11th-century mosque that is still in use today, and visualize the temple as it once was thousands of years ago.
Luxor City, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
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The Montaza Palace, located near Alexandria, was once El Salamlek Palace, where the King of Egypt lived until the last monarch of Egypt, King Farouk I, was forced to abdicate during the 1950s. Today, Montaza Palace is a beautiful resort area where visitors can explore some old palace residencies and spend a day on the beach. Some parts of the El Salamlek Palace have been turned into museums devoted to the former royal family of Egypt, and contains many of their treasures, and the rest of the palace is now an exquisite hotel and casino. With beautiful beaches for sunbathing and swimming and over 150 acres of gardens for walking and picnicking, Montaza Palace is a perfect destination for a day away from it all.
Al Mandarah Bahri, Qism El-Montaza, Alexandria Governorate, Egypt
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Anyone familiar with the Judeo-Christian stories of Moses – or the work of Charlton Heston – will recognize Mount Sinai as the place where Moses first received the Ten Commandments. It is one of four sacred mountains in the Middle East according to the Bible, and it is a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims alike. At the base of the mountain is St Catherine’s Monastery, and from there visitors can hike or take a camel ride to the summit, which is lined with various chapels and shrines, some of which are ruins by now. At the top of the mountain, there is both a mosque and a chapel, and visitors will be treated to a stunning view of the surrounding area, or if they choose the right time of day, a truly spectacular sunrise.
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Egyptian mummification was a funerary process in which the organs of the dead were removed and the body wrapped in strips of linen cloth. The process was done to ease the path to the afterlife for ancient Egyptians, but also had the secondary effect of preserving the dead with astonishing success, which allows scientists and historians to discern very much about the lives of these ancient humans. At the Mummification Museum in Luxor City, visitors can see both human and animal mummies, tools used for the process of mummifying the dead, and even some of the items commonly buried with the dead.
Luxor City, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
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The Nile River flows north through Africa for over 4,000 miles, and on its banks is some of the most green and fertile land on the entire continent. It has provided water for humans and for crops in Egypt for thousands of years, and is inexorably interwoven with Egyptian history. Many major Egyptian cities are located along the Nile, such as Luxor, Memphis, and Cairo, and while a visit to any of these will provide a look at the flowing waters of this famous river, it is perhaps best seen from a river cruise. Whether on a modern cruise liner or a historic steamship, visitors to Egypt can see the Nile, and many of the ancient cities that lie on its banks, from these cruises, which will take them to some beautiful stops along the way, such as the Pyramids of Giza or the Luxor Temple.
20.Ras Mohammad National Park
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With its clear blue waters full of fish, dolphins, sharks, and coral reefs, Ras Mohammed National Park is one of the best destinations in the world for divers. Ras Mohammed National Park, which occupies almost 200 square miles of land and sea on the coast of the Red Sea, takes its name from the iconic cliffs at the park, which look from certain angles like a man’s profile. From hiking to diving and snorkeling, there is something for everyone at this beautiful park, which boasts common sightings of almost all of the Red Sea’s 1,000 species of fish within the park. Divers can spot sharks, anemones, caves, and even shipwrecks beneath the astonishingly clear water.
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This ancient necropolis, located in Memphis and once the capital of Egypt, is the burial place of Egyptian courtiers, royals, and others from as far back at 3000 BC. Their tombs, known as mastabas, are wide, flat rectangular structures made of mud and brick, with the burial chambers underneath. At Saqqara, visitors can see these mastabas built one on top of another to form huge, rectangular step pyramids, with terraced slopes that look like a giant set of stairs. These ancient pyramids are fascinating to visit and, in fact, the Djoser step pyramid predates the more famous Giza Pyramid by several centuries.
Giza Governorate, Egypt
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The Siwa Oasis is located in the Western region of Egypt, deep in the desert between the Egyptian Sand Sea and the Qattara Depression, and only about 30 miles from the Libyan border. This isolated and remote destination in Egypt is best visited in the winter months, which are still incredibly warm. Visitors to Siwa can take a dip in Cleopatra’s Baths, visit the Temple of the Oracle Amun, and enjoy some of the dates and olives produced in the oasis. A gorgeous paradise with several millennia of history behind its back, Siwa makes for a perfect excursion on any Egyptian holiday.
23.Temple of Kom Ombo
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The Temple of Kom Ombo is unique because it is a double temple, dedicated to both the falcon-headed god Horus and the crocodile god Sobek. The construction of the temple is symmetrical, with two entrances and two main sanctuaries. A museum at the site of the temples tells visitors the story of its past, about the crocodiles that were once kept there in life and mummified after death, and about the images painted on the walls of the temple, thought to represent aspects of ancient Egyptian medicine, including birth and surgery. The temple and museum are open daily.
Nagoa Ash Shatb, Markaz Deraw, Aswan Governorate, Egypt
24.Valley of the Kings
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The Valley of the Kings is an immense necropolis cut from the very rock of the desert, built to serve as the tombs of the Egyptian pharaohs of the New Kingdom. For almost 500 years, between 1150 BC and 1070 BC, this site was used as the final resting place of famous Egyptian rulers such as Hatshepsut, several pharaohs of the Ramses line, and Tutankhamen. The journey to the Valley of the Kings is a long and hot one, and the tombs are often open to the public on a rotating basis so that others can be restored, as centuries of flooding, erosion, and looting have damaged them quite badly. But a visit to the Valley of the Kings is nonetheless impressive, and a walk along these dark and ancient corridors is one that is not to be missed.
Luxor, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
25.Valley of the Queens
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Much like the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens is located in a desert valley, and contains about 90 known tombs that belong to the queens of the New Kingdom as well as princes and officials with a high social or political standing. These people were buried here as far back at 1550 BC, and after centuries of use, the site also began to be used for ritual animal burials as well. Like many of the treasures of Egypt, the Valley of the Queens has been the victim of robbery and vandalism over the centuries, but nonetheless, many of these tombs, like the tomb of Queen Nefertari, are well known as some of the most beautiful examples of Egyptian tombs that have been discovered to this day.
Luxor, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
25 Best Things to Do in Egypt
- Abu Simbel Temples, Photo: Courtesy of WitR - Fotolia.com
- Al-Azhar Park, Photo: Courtesy of Leonid Andronov - Fotolia.com
- Badr Museum, Photo: Courtesy of okanakdeniz - Fotolia.com
- Cairo Citadel, Photo: Courtesy of keladawy - Fotolia.com
- Cairo Tower, Photo: Courtesy of fcerez - Fotolia.com
- Colossi of Memnon, Photo: Courtesy of Dmitry V. Petrenko - Fotolia.com
- Coptic Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Shariff Che'Lah - Fotolia.com
- Egyptian Museum, Photo: Courtesy of WH CHOW - Fotolia.com
- Gayer-Anderson Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Francisco Javier Gil - Fotolia.com
- Giza Pyramid Complex, Photo: Courtesy of WitR - Fotolia.com
- Great Sphinx of Giza, Photo: Courtesy of Pius Lee - Fotolia.com
- Karnak, Photo: Courtesy of Dmitry V. Petrenko - Fotolia.com
- Khan el-Khalili, Photo: Courtesy of Jeroen van den Broek - Fotolia.com
- Luxor Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Andrea Izzotti - Fotolia.com
- Luxor Temple, Photo: Courtesy of viii - Fotolia.com
- Montaza Palace, Photo: Courtesy of Konstantin Aksenov - Fotolia.com
- Mount Sinai, Photo: Courtesy of delkoo - Fotolia.com
- Mummification Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Sam Spiro - Fotolia.com
- Nile River, Photo: Courtesy of dietwalther - Fotolia.com
- Ras Mohammad National Park, Photo: Courtesy of strannik_fox - Fotolia.com
- Saqqara, Photo: Courtesy of Jose Ignacio Soto - Fotolia.com
- Siwa Oasis, Photo: Courtesy of Elena Moiseeva - Fotolia.com
- Temple of Kom Ombo, Photo: Courtesy of efesenko - Fotolia.com
- Valley of the Kings, Photo: Courtesy of Leonid Andronov - Fotolia.com
- Valley of the Queens, Photo: Courtesy of BasPhoto - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Dan Breckwoldt - Fotolia.com