Egypt is consistently the top destination for world travel each and every year – and not surprisingly so. The country uniquely bridges the African and Asian continents across the Suez Canal by possession of the Sinai Peninsula. This key positioning has guaranteed Egypt a major role in the strategic and historic relationships between the East, West, North and South of Africa, Europe, Asia and the more direct Middle East beginning more than 5000 years ago when the first Kingdom of Egypt was unified.
In addition to a most remarkable past, Egypt offers the eager traveler thriving international cities, lavish Red Sea resorts, fabled oases and literally hundreds of miles of ancient pharaoh monuments along the Nile River Valley.
Water, Torch and Tomb
When Muslim Arabs introduced Egyptians to Islam in the 7th century, much of the already weary monuments of the native dynasties became even less central to national heritage. Luckily, a renewed interest in archeological preservation over the past few centuries has kept these ancient wonders intact for the world to continue to enjoy.
The ideal place to begin is Cairo, where the Egyptian Museum boasts hundreds of thousands of artifacts and will give you an opportunity to catch up your knowledge of ancient Egyptian history from the 4th grade. Nearby are the breathtaking Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx, cut from a single slab of stone over 4,000 years ago, which can be viewed more peacefully beyond the crowds from horseback.
South of Cairo, Upper Egypt offers a string of exciting temple towns between legendary Luxor and Aswan, including the Valley of the Kings. Although King Tutankhamen’s Tomb rests here, it is not nearly as impressive as the surrounding royal tombs, particularly the general-kings of the Ramesses Dynasties.
A Little Ocean with your Sand?
Aside from the Nile River Valley, Egypt is largely made up of the Saharan desert to the South and West; however, Egypt also happens to be a first class resort destination with nearly all (500 miles) of its eastern edge bordered by the tranquil azure waters of the Red Sea Coast.
Visit the lively town of Harghada where traditional Egyptian life intermingles with international resort luxury. This area is extremely popular for scuba diving and snorkeling with its numerous underwater shipwrecks, sea caves and exotic fish. There are a multitude of islands to which you can escape by ferry or paddle boat and many small fishing towns for a little peace, quiet and local flavor added to your vacation.
The Mediterranean coastline also provides a nice break from the rolling sand dunes. Alexandria is Egypt’s busting port city with more Greek and French flare than the rest of the country. The city’s history is extremely eclectic, making a stroll through the streets feel like a wander across cultures and time periods. Alex the Great staged his resistance against the Romans from Alexandria, bringing a large population of Greeks with him, and for a short period Napoleon had managed to gain control of the ancient city.
Remember that Egypt is both ancient and modern. Travel to Egypt is not only about the archeological wonders and bone-chilling tales but also about the experience of a nation that is geopolitically and economically central to its larger surrounding region, a nation that is just as crucial to the identity of North Africa as it is to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Egypt is justifiably as monumental today as the Giza Pyramids that symbolize the nation’s heritage.