Egypt is one of the earliest civilisations, thriving when the ancient Greek civilisation was still in cultural nappies and the Roman empire was just a twinkle in the eye of mythical founder Aeneas.
Witnessing a flaming sun make it’s daily journey below a Red Sea horizon or a butterfly-like felucca gliding down the Nile are just two evocative scenes from a destination which spans two continents. Egypt is home to some iconic markers of history or travel and the only wonder of the ancient world still left standing. It is therefore not surprising that almost every traveller is prepared to tolerate the barrage of aggressive touts and hawkers for the opportunity to walk in the shadows of the Pyramids at Giza and the nearby Sphinx.
Cairo is one of the great cities of the world, a sprawling, heaving mass of humanity. It is amongst the most densely populated cities on the planet and is considered a ‘must visit’ for many travellers. Alongside the historic mosques, medieval buildings and Khan el Khalili souk of the Islamic district there are upmarket suburbs with modern architecture, shopping malls and chic restaurants to be found in the Dokki and Mohandeseen districts or on Gezira island.
Apart from the opportunity to discover a different culture, there are a multitude of reasons to visit Cairo. Beneath the smog choked sky are the impressive Mohamed Ali Mosque and fascinating Egyptian Museum. The museum is impossible to cover in a single day, with scores of exhibits and thousands of ancient artifacts, many tucked away in numerous hidden exhibition rooms.
The city is situated on the banks of the Nile, which is an attraction all of it’s own. Recognised as the longest river in the world it flows from Lake Victoria in Tanzania though 9 other countries before reaching Egypt. A felucca ride on the River Nile is a quintessential Egyptian journey. The elegant lateen rigged sailboats with their distinctive triangular sails have transported passengers and goods down the famous river almost unchanged for more than a millennium.
Apart from the pyramids at Giza, there are numerous other attractions, the remnants of an ancient and powerful civilisation. Luxor seems like a large outdoor museum which includes the Valley of the Kings and the temples at the Karnak and Luxor itself. Huge stone columns, obelisks, parallel lines of sphinxes and monuments can be found scattered throughout the area like litter. There are plenty of other sites and the Temple of Hatshepsut the ‘Pharaoh Queen’ is an especially worthy excursion.
The Red Sea resorts of Sharm el Sheik, Hurgahda and Dahab offer a traditional beach style holiday blended with a taste of Egyptian culture. The coastline is dotted with reefs and it is one of the best diving locations in the world.
With so much to offer it is a shame to hear reports of the current situation in the country. It is over two years since Arab Spring and the downfall of President Mubarak yet the situation appears to have worsened. The revolution promised a new era and yet it seems to be staggering towards greater political instability and economic crisis.
There has also been an increase in sexual assaults, attacks on the Christian minority, rioting and clashes between the Muslim and Christian communities. The sectarian violence continues despite promises made by President Morsi to protect those endangered. There has been widespread international condemnation and government warnings against travelling to Egypt.
Tourism has plummeted as many travellers are choosing to stay away. A charm offensive is underway by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and many tour operators and resort hotels are offering large discounts in an attempt to attract them back.
It is a sorry situation and the only people suffering are those that rely on the dollars of travellers to make their living. I hope that Egypt manages to turn things around soon and eventually stabilises the political, religious and economic problems within the country. It is a favourite destination and should not remain a ‘no go’ area for travellers, it holds too great an appeal.
Admit it, you’re shocked a post about Egypt and not a picture of a pyramid in sight, you’ll have to checkout my other posts!