Pyramids of Giza
The last surviving wonder of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Pyramids of Giza are one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks.
Having awed travelers down through the ages, these tombs of the Pharaohs Cheops (Khufu), Chephren (Khafre), and Mycerinus (Menkaure), guarded by the enigmatic Sphinx, are usually top of most visitor’s lists of tourist attractions to see in Egypt and often the first sight they head to after landing.
Today, sitting on the desert edge of Cairo’s sprawl, these megalithic memorials to dead pharaohs are still as wondrous a sight as they ever were and an undeniable highlight of any Egypt trip.
Luxor’s Temples & Tombs
Famed for the Valley of the Kings, Karnak Temple, and the Memorial Temple of Hatshepsut, the Nile-side town of Luxor in Upper Egypt has a glut of tourist attractions.
This is ancient Thebes, power base of the New Kingdom pharaohs, and home to more sights than most can see on one visit.
Luxor’s east bank is home the modern city, with its vibrant souq; the two temples of Karnak and Luxor; and the museum. The west bank’s lush farmland and barren cliffs are where the vast majority of Luxor’s tourist attractions sit, with so many tomb and temple sights that it has been called the biggest open-air museum in the world.
Spend a few days here exploring the colorful wall art of the tombs and gazing in awe at the colossal columns in the temples, and you’ll see why Luxor continues to fascinate historians and archaeologists.
the Egyptian Museum
The absolutely staggering collection of antiquities displayed in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum makes it one of the world’s great museums. You would need a lifetime to properly see everything on show.
The museum was founded in 1857 by French Egyptologist August Mariette and moved to its current home – in the distinctive powder-pink mansion in Downtown Cairo – in 1897.
Yes, the collection is poorly labeled and not well set out due to limits of space (and only a fraction of its total holdings are actually on display).
It also currently suffers with some empty cases due to artifacts having already been transferred to the as yet unopened new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), but you still can’t help being impressed by the sheer majesty of the exhibits.
Diving the Red Sea
Below the Red Sea’s surface is another world as fascinating as the temples and tombs on land.
The coral reefs of the Red Sea are renowned among scuba divers for both the soft corals on display and the vast amount of sea life, ranging from colorful reef fish and nudibranchs, to sharks, dolphins, turtles, rays, and even dugongs.
For divers, the most famous town to base yourself in is Sharm el-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula, closest to the reefs of Ras Mohammed National Park, as well as the reefs of the Straits of Tiran.
To dive the sites of the Straits of Gubal head to Hurghada or El Gouna on the Red Sea coast, while advanced divers should check out the resort of Marsa Alam, the nearest base for diving Egypt’s “deep south” dive sites.
St. Catherine’s Monastery
One of the oldest monasteries in the world, St. Catherine’s stands at the foot of Mount Sinai, amid the desert mountains of the Sinai Peninsula, where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments.
This desert monastery is home to an incredible collection of religious iconography, art, and manuscripts (some of which can be seen in the on-site museum), as well as the burning bush.
For most visitors here, a trip to St. Catherine’s also involves a hike up Mount Sinai to see sunrise or sunset. Take the camel path for the easy route, or climb the famous Steps of Repentance if you want better views.
Even in a country festooned with temples, Abu Simbel is something special. This is Ramses II’s great temple, adorned with colossal statuary standing guard outside, and with an interior sumptuously decorated with wall paintings.
Justly famous for its megalithic proportions, Abu Simbel is also known for the incredible engineering feat carried out by UNESCO in the 1960s, which saw the entire temple moved from its original setting to save it from disappearing under the rising water of the Aswan dam.
Today, exploring Abu Simbel is just as much about admiring the triumph of this international effort to save the temple complex as it is about gaping in wonder at Ramses II’s awe-inspiring building works, itself.