EEgypt, home of the ancient Pharaohs, the Great Pyramids, the iconic Sphinx and the Valley of the Kings is a must-see destination for any traveller, but did you know that it is also a very unique travel destination for nature lovers? The country has proclaimed over 21 “Protected areas” (as National Parks are known in Egypt) in an effort to safe-guard the country’s remarkably diverse habitats. These vary from harsh, windswept deserts to the lush Nile valley, lakes, waterfalls, wetlands and the incredibly rich bounty of the coastal Marine Protected areas. One simply has to speak of Egypt in superlatives! You will stand in awe in the face of the relics of antiquity, but be prepared to be thrilled by nature too. Visit incredible verdant oases in the heart of the dessert, climb biblical Mount Sinai or simply lose yourself in the underwater wonderland that is Ras Muhammad, one of the world’s best dive sites. Egypt truly has something for everyone!
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Of all of Egypt’s treasures, the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Sphinx are the most famous! The Great Pyramid is the only surviving structure of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and its’ construction has fascinated visitors and scholars for thousands of years. Then there are the astonishing temples of the ancient Pharoahs - the Karnak Temple Complex is simply awe-inspiring! The Great Temple at the heart of the complex is the largest religious building ever built and could quite easily swallow up both St Peter’s and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Abu Simbel is also extraordinary; these two monumental temples were carved out of solid rock around 1257BCE on the orders of Ramses II. The scale is simply incredible and what makes these temples so special is that they were totally de-constructed and moved to a new, more elevated site when the rising waters of the Aswan dam threatened their existence in 1964.
The ancient Egyptian Pharaohs (the supreme leaders or kings) built these massive monuments to impress and amaze their subjects, but they also built many elaborate underground tombs that were meant to stay hidden from the public eye. The most famous collection of these burial chambers lies near the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor and is known as the Valley of the Kings.
After you have been amazed by these historic sites it is time to move on and explore some of the Protected Areas, or National Parks Ras Mahomed is Egypt’s oldest and most frequently visited Protected Area, enviably located between the Red Sea and the Sinai Desert.
Ras Mahomed is a dream destination for marine enthusiasts as it includes wonderful beaches and many of the world’s best dive sites. Here snorkelers and divers can expect to see over 200 coral species, more than 1000 fish species, Eels, Sea Urchins and many more underwater delights. This Park is also an extremely important area for migratory birds and provides a vital breeding ground for Green and Hawksbill Turtles.
St. Katherine Protected Area in the centre of the Sinai desert combines history with unique geology, and contains some of the world’s oldest rocks, estimated to be over 600 million years old, as well as Egypt’s highest mountains. Some extremely rare animals can be spotted here including Nubian Ibex, Wolf, Dorcas Gazelle and more, but the main draw-cards is St. Katherine’s Monastery which houses several priceless works of art and one of the most substantial collections of illuminated manuscripts on Earth.
Birders will particularly enjoy a visit to Zaranik and Lake Qarun Protected areas, both of which are important wetland sites for migratory birds. Hundreds of thousands of migrating birds pass through these wetland havens each year including Flamingo, Pelicans, Storks and many raptors such as Buzzards and Eagles.
And then there is Wadi El Rayan Protected Area which surprises visitors with two lakes joined by waterfalls, right in the centre of the desert! This Protectorate is also home to Whale Valley, an open-air museum showcasing whale fossils that have been excavated in the area. The Wadi is also a good place to enjoy a swim in the middle of a desert!
There is so much more for you to discover and explore in this surprising country! You can set off on one of the several guided trails, (which range from historical to religious, geological or cultural, or even hike the Sinai Mountains. When you need to relax and recharge make your way to the coast to enjoy the year-round warm waters of the Red Sea and the brilliant underwater wonderland of Ras Mahomed.