Egypt is synonym for pyramids, the sphinx, and numerous other monuments and historic sites. Most of the county's rich cultural heritage is situated along the River Nile, hence the three main cities Cairo, Luxor and Aswan, located along the river are the focal points for most Egypt travelers.
Cairo - situated in northern Egypt is wrapped by River Nile. Aside from being the Egyptian capital, Cairo is Africa's most populous city and carries about 6 million people according the 2006 population census.
The city was established in the 10th century as a Roman commercial centre called Babylon. It started in the region now referred to as Coptic Cairo. Today, Cairo is a vibrant metropolis and its streets bustle with activity no matter the time of day or night. The modern city is graced by numerous world class attractions that draw millions of tourists throughout the year. These include the Great Pyramids and Sphinx, the Nile River, Egyptian Museum, among many others.
The Cheops' Pyramid -the greatest of all of Egypt's pyramids- is a much sought after attraction in Cairo. The imposing pyramid, located in Giza - just a few kilometers south of Cairo, stands at 481 feet high. It was built around 2560 BC as a tomb for Khufu, the Fourth dynasty Egyptian king. It remained the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,500 years.
On its part, the Sphinx - a huge sculpture of a lion with a woman's head- is an incredibly attractive spectacle. Also located in Giza, the Sphinx is said to have been curved at around 2500 BC and was used to symbolize the strength of the pharaoh. The sculpture has a length of 60 meters and a height of 20 meters and is one of the best known monuments of Ancient Egypt.
Visitors to Cairo find it worthwhile to visit the Egyptian Museum. Walking through the museum that is filled with more than 100,000 relics and antiquities is like taking a walk through ancient Egyptian history. The star attraction in the museum is the 1,700 or so objects on display straight from the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, popularly known to us today as King Tut.
Cairo is easily reached by air, road and rail. The city is well linked to cities in the region and it has a good network of roads connecting it with cities and major towns in the country. Visitors arriving in Cairo are required to carry a valid visa, unless they are citizens of Guinea, Hong Kong or Macau. A visa should be acquired from the visitor's home country's consulate or from an Egyptian embassy overseas.
While in Cairo, you will have plenty of accommodation options to choose from. These range from Cairo hotels located near the pyramids to hotels right in the heart of Cairo. The best time to tour the city, and Egypt in general, is between November and March when it is a bit cool.
Luxor is located about 670 km to the south of Cairo. The city of Luxor is considered the world's largest open air museum as it is estimated to contain about one third of the world's antiques. Luxor became famous after the 1922 discovery of the tomb of the young pharaoh Tutankhamen by the famous archaeologist Howard Carter.
Luxor is the only city in Egypt that enjoys a semi autonomous status. The various government buildings and other personal buildings conform to a prescribed code of "ancient style" building. This is exemplified by the National Bank of Egypt, the railway station and spa that have been built to look as Pharaonic as possible. However, Luxor has all the amenities found in a modern day city, including clubs, hotels and restaurants, as well as a vibrant night life.
Numerous Luxor hotels, restaurants and gift shops clearly show that the city enjoys a thriving tourism sector. One of the most interesting places to visit while in Luxor is the famous Luxor Museum of Mummification. Opened in 1997, the museum is the first of its kind to be fully dedicated to the subject of mummification. The museum comprises one big room with guides who take tourists round while explaining the significance of each piece on display. There are more than 56 archaeological objects complete with story boards that explain the process of mummification from the first stage to the last.
Luxor Museum is a must-visit site for any one touring the city. Opened in 1975, the museum houses relics and artifacts that date as far back as the pre-dynastic period through to the Islamic period. The huge statue of Iamu Negh, a leading historic figure of Egypt is found in this museum. Though relatively small in size, Luxor Museum offers visitors a wealth of insight into the history of Egypt.
Other interesting tour destinations in the area include Luxor Temple, the temples of Karnak and the Valley of the Queens. Luxor Temple, situated right in the middle of the city, was built more than 3,400 years ago by New kingdom Pharaohs Amenhotep and Ramesses the second. The temple was dedicated to the worship of the god Opet and is today one of the must-visits sites in Luxor. Equally popular is the temple of Karnak, said to be the largest surviving religious complex in the world. The temple sits on an area of about 1,500 sq m by 800 sq m and is supposed to be more than 1,500 years old. It consists of sanctuaries, pylons and obelisks that are dedicated to Theban gods.
The Valley of Queens was the place of burial for the queens and their children. Currently there are only four tombs that are open for public viewing, the most popular being the tomb of Queen Nefertari - one of the best known queens of ancient Egypt.
Aswan is located in southern Egypt, some 680km from Cairo. Aswan is one of Egypt's major attractions lined up alongside the Nile River. Formerly known as Swano -meaning market place-, Aswan boasts numerous tourist attractions ranging from museums and tombs to the imposing Lake Nasser.
The Aswan Museum which is situated close by the ruins of Yebu on the Elephantine island is a must-visit site. It houses numerous important artifacts such as sarcophagus and mummies, thus offering visitors the chance to catch a glimpse into the life and legend of ancient Egypt's pharaohs. The mummy of the sacred ram called Khnum is very popular among visitors to Aswan, and so is the the sarcophagus of pottery containing the mummy of a child wrapped in linen.
Lake Nasser is a huge attraction in the area; it is the world's largest artificial lake occupying an area of 5,250 sq km. The majestic water reservoir is situated on the southern part of the Aswan and is named after the former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Lake Nasser is surrounded by numerous temples and monuments, the most popular being the Abu Simbel's monument. These attractions draw hundreds of thousands of visitors every year - making Lake Nasser one of the most popular travel destinations on the Nile.
Visitors to Aswan are especially fascinated by the temple of Kalabsha. This temple has been dissembled and rebuilt several times. It is now located on a hill close to the high dam on the west bank of Lake Nasser. This last move was done to save the temple from being submerged under water after the construction of the High Dam. Kalabsha temple is famous for its ancient Egyptian architecture from Ptolemaic times.
The easiest way to view all of the attractions in the area, or at least most of them, is through the Lake Nasser Cruises. These luxury boats have made it very comfortable for tourists accessing the area from different parts of Egypt. The cruises come in two packages -the three night cruise and the four night cruise.
Accessing Aswan is very easy convenient no matter what mode of transport you choose. Egypt Air, for example, runs about 6 to 7 daily flights between Cairo and Aswan. You can also take advantage of the country's excellent and wide network of train services. The trains offer fully air-conditioned coaches and sleeping bunks as well as on board entertainment.
Another luxurious and well recommended option is to go on a Nile cruise trip from Luxor. The cruises generally take between three and eight nights. The short cruises are usually one way, either from Aswan to Luxor or the reverse, while the longer cruises typically do round-trips.