What to do in Egypt?

Egypt is perhaps one of the oldest tourist destinations in the world. Countless travellers, from ancient Greeks and Romans to medieval pilgrims, 19th-century Egyptologists and modern-day Instagrammers, have been drawn to this corner of northeast Africa to see and experience its legendary wonders for themselves.

Egypt has more than its fair share of iconic sights: The stark pyramids of Giza, the colossal temples of Abu Simbel, the alluring Great Sphinx (one of the oldest statues in the world) and the sand-covered tombs of the Valley Kings are just a few examples. 

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But behind these classic and instantly recognizable images are thousands of other aspects that tell lesser-known, but equally iconic stories about this multi-faceted country.

This ancient country that is Egypt, is full of people from all over the world, eager to know its every nook and cranny, and to rub shoulders with the mythical characters of the time of the pharaohs. Whether it's the famous Ramses II, Tutankhamun, or even Cleopatra and Nefertiti; in short, all the greats of this world that legendary Egypt has sheltered. And how not to speak of these gods that are Isis and Osiris (also well known from the adventures of Asterix and Obelix). Yes, certainly, taking a trip to the country where the pharaohs lived is a must for sure!

But Egypt has more to offer anyone who loves adventures of all kinds: excursions in the deserts while admiring the sublime sand dunes. Without forgetting of course the marvelous breathtaking pristine white deserts. Also, having the ultimate experience of sailing on the majestic Nile, and getting to know its residents and their ancestral customs. Also make a spectacular stop at the splendid and historic Red Sea as well as these well-known dive sites.  

You should also know that Egypt is married to the East (East, Asia) and the West (West, Europe). How not to think of preparing a trip to this majestic country that is Egypt, country of the pharaohs, ''the cradle of civilization''!

Cairo

Capital of Egypt, it is the most populated city in Africa. It is very teeming and you will quickly become attached to it. Cairo is also traveled for the wonders that this fascinating city has. Take for example the Egyptian Museum, the alleys of Islamic Cairo, the old town and Christian Cairo… an induction into ancient and modern Egyptian culture. A trip to Egypt will undoubtedly be noticed by a visit to Cairo.

Cairo is a fusion of the old and the present. Churches are built on top of Roman ruins as well as pharaonic temples, and skyscrapers rise behind medieval monuments. However, the capital of Egypt is best known for having preserved the last of the seven wonders of the ancient world, ''The Great Pyramid of Cheops''. But the city contains infinite treasures beyond the pyramids of Giza.
Discover the history of early Christianity in Coptic Cairo. Also browse the largest collection of pharaonic antiquities in the world. Then drink an Egyptian-style coffee in the bustling Khan El-Khalili souk. While ancient temples and intricate tombs await further south in Luxor and Aswan. Here's why you should take a break in Cairo before continuing your journey.

The must-sees in Cairo

The Egyptian pyramids are ancient pyramid-shaped structures. Although as of November 2008, sources cite 118 or 138 identified Egyptian pyramids. However, they are tombs for the pharaohs of the country and their wives during the Old and Middle Kingdoms.
The oldest known Egyptian pyramids are found at Saqqara, northwest of Memphis. On the other hand, the most famous Egyptian pyramids are those of Giza, the pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mikérinos on the outskirts of Cairo. Thus several of the pyramids of Giza are among the largest structures ever built. Although the Pyramid of Cheops is the largest Egyptian pyramid, it is also the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that still exists.

The Egyptian Museum and Tutankhamun's Treasure

It houses the largest collection of pharaonic antiquities in the world and that is why it has become a must visit. First of all the large ground floor presents a collection of New Kingdom objects (1550-1069 BC), including a variety of traditional coffins arranged by style. Also it contains rolls of papyrus and coins from different kingdoms and cultures. Mainly Islamic, Greek and Roman.
Next, the first floor of the museum houses two rooms of mummies which are arranged with notes on the ingredients used in the treatment of each body. However, the museum's most intriguing attraction is King Tutankhamun's Treasure. Displayed next to his mask: a series of intricate gold coffins, artifacts and jewelry.
On the other hand, the treasures of the museum will finally be transferred to the new Grand Egyptian Museum, which is scheduled to open in 2021 on the Giza plateau.

The Citadel of Saladin (or the Citadel of Cairo), is an imposing fortress dominating Cairo, although built by the Ayyubid Sultan Saladin in the 12th century. On the other hand, the silhouette of the citadel is dominated by the domes and minarets of the alabaster mosque of Mehemet Ali, in the Turkish style, completed in 1857.

The Khan El-Khalili bazaar and souk, Cairo's largest and most vibrant tourist souk although it offers a collection of shops. In fact, he is known for his precious and semi-precious jewelry; it was originally built as a mausoleum for the Caliphs (Fatimid?). Then the structure underwent many modifications over time, and it was finally remodeled in the 16th century by Sultan al-Ghuri. Inspired by the Ottoman style, the Khan El-Khalili Bazaar looks a lot like a Turkish bazaar.
Also be sure to drop by Fishawi Cafe for its Egyptian-style coffee and special ambience. Although this cafe has served local and international celebrities, including the Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz, and the American star Will Smith, in fact the ideal would be to order a mint tea or the karkade made from hibiscus, Egypt's national drink. Also with a (shisha?) next door you will probably need the shisha after all the negotiations in the souk.

Off the beaten track

Around the Nile Start your trip to Cairo with a drive to Zamalek, the enchanting northern part of the island of Gezira on the Nile, also being dotted with elegant townhouses. In fact the Zamalek is home to embassies from around the world. Far from the chaos, its tree-lined streets parade to the rhythm of a gentle drum.
Visit the Cairo Tower as it is the best way to get an overview of the city; moreover you will enjoy the refreshing breeze on its terrace and admire the view of the majestic Nile. However it would be better to go there in the afternoon because it is quieter and you will be relieved of the flow of tourists.
The Cairo Opera House is surely not a place to scorn as it is the most important structure of the NCC (National Cultural Center). In fact, it is a well-appointed place of representation; moreover, visitors can attend the performances of the best music groups in Cairo in a main auditorium with 1,200 seats. Also, the elegant room is divided into four levels, tailor-made for opera and ballet performances by international groups on tour.

The imposing Madrassa Mosque, of Sultan Hassan, was built during the (Mamluk?) period. This is an ambitious attempt for the 14th century. While the mosque is carefully designed to include the four Sunni schools of thought: Chafi'i, Maliki, Hanafi and Hanbali in enclaves within its 118 foot high walls, and it was commissioned by Sultan an-Nasir Hasan at great cost. However, this structure remains incomplete.

Mouizz Street, dubbed “the largest open-air museum of Islamic monuments,” but it really comes into its own after the sun goes down, and this street is located a short walk north of Khan El-Khalili. In fact this bustling promenade is flanked by some of the oldest and largest structures in Egypt. Thus, a walk can reveal the architecture of the dynasties which reigned over the city at different times, either: from the (Fatimid?) dynasty in 970 to the most recent, that is to say that of the Pashas, whose most important structure is the famous Muhammad Ali. In addition, this structure houses within it the complex of Qalawun, as well as a spectacular mausoleum and impressive Mamluk architecture.
You will end this walk with a stop at Al-Azhar Park, Cairo's greenest urban attraction. In fact the park was originally enclosed by a landfill, and was then transformed into a park in 2005 on the initiative of Agha Khan IV, the 49th imam of Nizari Ismailism, and the park having been until downtown. In fact it is a real oasis in the middle of the urban bustle of Cairo.

Also be sure to visit the Gayer-Anderson museum which, unfortunately, is very often ignored by tourists or neglected by tour operators. And yet, it is worth the detour. Better: an in-depth visit skimming the Ibn Touloun mosque, the Gayer-Anderson museum is a very fine example of Cairo architecture of the 16th and 17th centuries, with (moucharabiehs?), terraces and a "sabil", a fountain generally reserved for mosques. It has a ground floor, two floors and a superb terrace in the form of a courtyard. It is characterized by its staggered landings, a chicane corridor and a gallery overhanging the large hall and the whole ensemble. This ''Place'' was made there according to the traditional architecture of Ottoman Cairo, with a 'salamlek', place of reception, men's lounge, and a 'haramlek', domain of the harem, forbidden to men, from where the women could look at the men by the (moucharabiehs?). The Gayer-Anderson Museum illustrates the life of the Ottoman nobility during its heyday. In the tangle of rooms with thematic decorations, one can admire precious (earthenware?), wonderful woodwork inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory, a collection of textiles, tapestries, ceramics, furniture from different periods, an assembly tombstones as well as Chinese and European paintings.

The Palace of Prince Muhammad Ali in Al-Manial is the true title of nobility and elegance and sophistication of the palaces, it is the magic of the past that blends with the elegance of modernity. It is one of the royal palaces of Egypt with a particular architectural character; a unique architectural masterpiece, as it includes various styles of Islamic art between Fatimid, Mamluk, Ottoman, Andalusian, Persian and Syrian.

Alexandria

Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. J.-C. Second city of Egypt, less touristic. It is above all a Mediterranean city which draws its roots and its true richness from a mosaic of cultures. Renowned for its Greco-Roman monuments, such as the amphitheater of Kom el Dikka, citadel of Qaitbay, as well as the ancient city and the Library of Alexandria.

Having been the capital of the country, it was, for about 6 centuries, a great center of commerce (port of Egypt), and one of the greatest Hellenistic cultural centers of the Mediterranean Sea centered on the famous library. The city during the Hellenistic period presented the largest city in the Greek world.
Nicknamed ''the trading post of the world'', Alexandria was a major trading hub. However, it resulted in the formation of a cosmopolitan population of the order of half a million inhabitants... unequaled during Antiquity. In addition, the city was the capital of lagid power.

This ancient city has suffered various earthquakes. And due to these devastating events, its famous Lighthouse and the old great library have unfortunately disappeared since. This library was the largest in the ancient world, and it was therefore the place where the great philosophers and scientists of that time came to seek knowledge. It was founded in 288 BC. J.-C. and was definitively destroyed around the year 48 before our era; it was the most famous library of antiquity, bringing together the most important works of the time. The library was part of a larger set called the Mouseion dedicated to the Muses, being in fact the nine goddesses of the arts. The library quickly acquired many rolls of papyrus thanks to the voluntarist policy of the Ptolemaic kings. The number of these papyrus rolls is estimated to be between 40,000 and 400,000 at its peak.

Subsequently the Arabs conquered Egypt in the 7th century. They also decided at that time to build a new capital further south: Cairo. Alexandria thus lost its grandeur and turned to foreign trade.

At the end of the 18th century, Napoleon's troops conquered Alexandria. Similarly, in the middle of the 19th century the British bombarded the city. In modern times, the city of Alexandria experienced significant expansion. Indeed, the medieval city was on the mainland fortified by an enclosure, although the modern city is built on the ruins of the ancient city, which makes excavations difficult.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The lighthouse was 135 meters high (about 443 feet) with approximately three hundred rooms. Through the center was a double spiral climb. The lantern above the lighthouse remains a mystery. Some say it contained a polished steel mirror that reflected light by day and fire by night. The lighthouse was destroyed by an earthquake around 1302/1303.

The lighthouse was built to protect sailors on the coast of Alexandria and also as a work of propaganda. The whole city was overbuilt and the lighthouse was to be its symbol. It will become the emblem of the city, and still is today. The lighthouse dominated the coast and allowed sailors to have a point of reference.

We can read in Strabo that the lighthouse built in white stone would in fact be a local limestone which has the particularity of hardening on contact with water. It is also believed that the most critical parts of the lighthouse are made of Aswan granite. Moreover, Fort Qait Bay, built on the site of the lighthouse, was built using the same process.

The unavoidable

The Citadel (Fort) of Qaitbay est a 15th century fortress built on the site of the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt, on the east coast of the northern island of Pharos. Fort Qaitbay is a fine example of Mamluk era military architecture in Egypt. It was built in the 14th century under the orders of Sultan Al-Ashraf Qaitbay — one of the last Mamluk rulers of Egypt. Construction began in 1477, to be completed two years later.
In order to protect the city against the threat of the Ottoman Empire, built in a medieval style, the fort was completely restored in 2001/2002; it houses the Navy Museum which contains objects from Roman and Napoleon naval battles. The entrance is through a passage made of red granite from Aswan. Near the mosque there is a reservoir which was used to store water in case of siege.
From the access to the sea, the underwater excavations, carried out mainly by the teams of Jean-Yves Empereur and Isabelle Hairy from the Center for Alexandrian Studies, revealed an immense archaeological deposit, with thousands of blocks of architecture, colossal statues, obelisks and sphinxes, from the collapse of the lighthouse of Alexandria.
Adjacent to the fort, the Hydro-Biological Institute (Alexandria Aquarium) contains a wide variety of rare fish. Further east of the Anfouchi district, there is a small necropolis of five tombs dating from the Ptolemaic period.

The theater (Roman Amphitheater) of Kom el-Dikka means "pile of stones". The site was discovered in 1959 by a team of Poles. Unique in the country, the site is still being excavated since 1970. However, with the discovery of Roman remains including this theater with galleries, as well as mosaic floor sections and also marble seats to accommodate up to 800 spectators. At the time of the Ptolemies, this sector was a garden of pleasures. Alternatively, the theater could be covered to serve as an odeon for musical works, although inscriptions suggest that it was also sometimes used for wrestling contests. So the theater has thirteen semi-circular rows of white marble imported from Europe; Also its columns are of green marble imported from Asia Minor and red granite imported from Aswan. Each side is decorated with a geometric mosaic paving made in the 2nd century BC.

Outside the theater you can see vaults and stone walls as well as Roman brick baths and the remains of Roman houses, while inside is the open-air underwater museum to display the sphinxes, obelisks, fragments of colossal statues, brought out of the waters of the Mediterranean by the team of the Center for Alexandrian Studies.
Near this site (Kom el-Dikka) towards the fire station, a Ptolemaic temple dedicated to Bastet (Bubasteion) has just been discovered by a team of Egyptian archaeologists. In fact, this temple built at the request of Queen Berenice, wife of Ptolemy III Euergetes, 600 statues, including several in the image of Bastet, have been discovered there.

''Bibliotheca Alexandrina'' built approximately on the site of the ancient building of the library of Alexandria, is in fact a library and a cultural center. Work began in 1995 and cost $220 million. It was inaugurated on October 16, 2002, and it has the largest reading room in the world, occupying seven of the eleven floors of the main building, thus offering 2,000