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29 September 2023

The perfect itinerary for first-time visitors to Egypt

Despite Egypt being in the wrong headlines for most of the 2010s, it still remains one of the most fascinating countries to visit. As the home to Giza Pyramids, the only surviving ancient wonder, Egypt’s incredibly rich history has left deep impressions to all visitors from past till present.

Your perfect week starts in the capital city Cairo, the main gateway to Egypt and the largest city in Africa with over 20 million people. Two days is the minimum required to cover the highlights: the first day can be spent on the sights of Memphis, Saqqara and Giza from the ancient Egyptian period, ending with a light and sound show by the Sphinx in the evening. On the second day, you can start with learning more about the fascinating ancient Egyptian culture at the Egyptian Museum before moving on to the mosques and churches of Islamic and Coptic Cairo. No travel to Middle East is complete without visiting a souk so finish the day shopping or people-watching at Khan el-Khalili Bazaar, Cairo’s major bazaar.

In terms of accommodation, Cairo’s city centre boasts options such as Ritz Carlton and Fairmont Nile City. For those who wish to wake up to the sights of Pyramids, Marriott Mena House in Giza is the perfect choice.

Cruising down the Nile, the world’s longest river, is on many bucket’s list and deservedly so. Egyptian civilization has depended on Nile River for survival since antiquities and thus nearly all the important Ancient Egyptian historical sites are found along its river banks, particularly between Luxor and Aswan. Sanctuary Retreats’ Sunboat IV and Nile Adventurer and Oberoi’s Philae and Zahra are the best boats cruising regularly between the two cities in either direction. With only around comfortable 40 cabins, these boats make the 4-night cruise down the Nile a relatively cozy experience.

There are lots to see and explore during the day; in Luxor, you can visit the elaborate tombs of ancient Egyptian monarchs in the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens on Nile’s West bank as well as the Luxor and Karnak Temples on the East bank. Of particular interest will be Queen Neferiti’s tomb which is one of the most spectacular tombs due to its level of details. Sailing upstream, it’s possible to visit Temple of Edfu (dedicated to Sky God Horus) and Temple of Kom Ombo (dedicated to crocodile god Sobek) before arriving in Aswan. Beside visiting Ancient Egyptian sites such as Temple of Philae and unfinished Obelisk, you can also experience sailing on the Nile inside a felucca or visiting a Nubian village.

Wrapping up the great week will be the visit to the incredible Great Temple of Abu Simbel, accessible as a day trip via a short flight from Aswan. Built in the 12th century BC and easily one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt, the temple was shifted to the current site in 1968 as the original place would be submerged upon the completion of Aswan High Dam.

If you have more than a week, you can move to the coasts and explore either Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea or Sharm El Sheikh by the Red Sea. Alexandria has a good mix of historic and modern sights, ranging from as early as the Roman period to the modern Bibliotheca Alexandria built on the site of the ancient Library of Alexandria. Meanwhile, Sharm El Sheikh offers excellent diving / snorkeling / viewing of marine life in the Red Sea as well as a good base to visit Christian sites such as Mt Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula.

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