Cairo is not only the largest city in Africa (pop. 15 million) but also the political and cultural pivot of the Arab world.
Further east, towards the Moqattam Hills, is the medieval city of splendid mosques and thronging bazaars, founded by the Fatimids in AD 969. To the south is the now ruinous Fustat, the earliest Arab settlement, built when they invaded Egypt around AD 641. Westwards, beyond the sprawl of Giza, the Pyramids glow gold at sundown against the Western Desert as they have done for thousands of years.
The Cairo night life is the most famous in the Arab world, from its sprawling bars such as Carmen Bar at the Flamenco Hotel, and the Star Light bar at the Baron Hotel to its flamboyant belly dance night clubs along Pyramid street, and the many dinner cruise ships operated by Sheraton, and Mariott.
Many of the large hotels host Las Vegas style Casinos, such as Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel, Cairo Sheraton Hotel, and Shepheards Hotel.
Highlights of Cairo:
Giza: Giza is located only a few kilometers south of Cairo, several hundred meters from the last houses in the southernmost part of the city proper, where a limestone cliff rises abruptly from the other side of a sandy desert plateau.
Memphis: Founded around 3,100 BC, is the legendary city of Menes, the King who united Upper and Lower Egypt. It is hard to imagine the age of this city, as no European cities have yet to attain the span of Memphis’ existence, and it is completely outside the comprehension of most of the people in the Americas. There is little left of the City that can be seen.
Step Pyramid: Located in Saqqara is the oldest ancient Egyptian cemetery. On this plateau rises the Step-Pyramid and mortuary compound, built by the engineer lmhotep for King Zoser. It is composed of six receding mastabas on top of each other. The Pyramid measures 123.5 by 107 m at the base and about 59 m in height.
Cairo Museum: Cairo’s Museum of Antiquities holds one of the finest collections of artifacts in the world, including the astounding treasures of King Tutankhamen’s tomb.
The Citadel: Sometimes referred to as Mohamed Ali Citadel, because it contains the mosque of Mohamed Ali (or Muhammad Ali), which was built almost 7 centuries later. The Ottoman mosque was built in memory of Tusun Pasha, Muhammad `Ali’s oldest son, who died in 1816.
Pharoanic Village: When visiting the Pharaonic Village you will feel you have taken a trip back in time = about 3000 years. This is an educational tourist attraction, a theme park in which visitors are guided on a motorized barge through a network of canals where they will see scenes re-enacting life in ancient Egypt.
Blue Mosque: The Aqsunqur or Blue Mosque was built by one of al-Nasir Muhammad’s Emirs, Shams ad-Din Aqsunqur, in 1346, and is one of Cairo’s most notable mosques. These ottoman tiles imported from Istanbul and Damascus were added when the structure was restored and modified in 1652. With the marble panels and painted ceiling, the interior is very ornate.
Zwayla Gate: Through the centuries it was the point of departure for caravans to Mecca. Dancers and snake charmers also performed here, and from the fifteenth century onwards punishments provided another spectacle. Dishonest merchants might be hung from hooks or ropes; garrotting, beheading or impalement were favored for common criminals; while losers in the Mamluke power struggles were often nailed to the doors.
This Mediterranean city, blessed with a mild, pleasant climate and white beaches, is a popular playground and the country’s summer capital. Nightclubs, sidewalk cafes and restaurants lining the Corniche add to Alexandria’s attractions. There are museums, Roman theater, and catacombs to explore. Alexandria also serves as gateway for excursions to Cairo and the famous El Alamein battlefield. Visitors will find plenty of interest in this “Pearl of the Mediterranean.” Good shopping buys include gold and silver jewelry, especially the gold cartouche with your name inscribed in hieroglyphs, cotton goods, carpets, leather articles, copper- and brassware, basketware and papyrus prints. The city boasts a reputation of having the country’s best food.
Highlights of Alexandria:
Graeco-Roman Museum: covers the fascinating period when Western culture overlaid and sometimes incorporated the native Egyptian world. Kom El Shogafa Catacombs: considered to be the largest and weirdest tombs in Alexandria. Montazah Palace and Gardens: the palace is closed to the public but the gardens in themselves are definitely worth a visit, sending out a feeling of the summer residence of the royal family during more than half a century. Pompey’s Pillar: was raised at the end of the 3rd century.
Giza is famous as the location of the Giza Plateau, the site of some of the most impressive ancient monuments in the world. The Giza Plateau including a complex of ancient Egyptian royal mortuary and sacred structures, including the Great Sphinx, the three Great Pyramids of Giza, and a number of other large pyramids and temples. Giza is located only 6 miles south of Cairo’s center, just on the outskirts of Cairo’s city limits.
Highlights of Giza:
Great Pyramid of Khufu: The Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) is on top of the list of the Seven Wonders of the World. The monument was built by the Egyptian pharaoh Khufu of the Fourth Dynasty around the year 2,560 BC to serve as a tomb when he dies. When it was built, the Great pyramid was 481 ft high, and covers approximately 480,000 sq. ft. at its base. Great Pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure: These pyramids are smaller than the Cheops’ pyramid, but are still massive structures and very impressive. Sphinx: This monumental statue, the first truly colossal royal sculpture in Egypt, is known as the Great Sphinx. The Sphinx is believed to be the largest sculpture ever created by man. The exact age of the Sphinx is unknown but appears to older than 10,000 BC. Cemeteries of Giza: The earliest private burials at Giza were laid out in rows of tombs divided geographically to the west and east of the Great Pyramid (generally called the western cemetery and the eastern cemetery). There are over 6,000 tombs of high officials and royalty of the Old Kingdom who were privileged enough to be buried close to the pharaoh’s royal tomb.
Aswan is the most idyllic Egyptian city – it is located in the south of Egypt, and it is a wonderful place where you will enjoy discovering the epic history of this town away from the crowds of Cairo. There, you can ride a felucca (a traditional sailing ship) and stroll around Philae as well as explore the ruins of the temple of Khnum.
Highlights of Aswan:
Abu Simbel: South of Aswan about 280 Km lies Abu Simbal. Two temples stare out from the cliff face at Abu Simbel. On the left is the Temple of Re-Herakhte with its colossi of Ramses II, and on the right the smaller Temple of Hathor, associated with Ramses’ queen, Nefertari. Aswan High Dam: was completed in 1971, including a huge artificial lake, Lake Nasser. Aga Khan’s Mausoleum: here Aga Khan, a spiritual leader of the Ismailis a Shi’ite sect, was buried in the doomed mausoleum in 1957. Temple of Isis on the island Phalae: built for offerings to Isis, Horus, and Hathor.
Luxor hosts the biggest collection of tombs and Pharoanic monuments in Egypt. At he height of its glory during the 18th and 19th Dynasties, Thebes covered all of what is now Luxor and Karnak and may have has a population as high as one million. Earlier, in Middle Kingdom times, its most important god had been Amun. When the Theban princes drove the alien Hyksos out of Lower Egypt and reunited the country, Thebes became the capital of the New Kingdom and Amun, Egypt’s national god. colossi2.jpg (11298 bytes)
Highlights of Luxor:
Temple of Luxor: built mostly by the 18th Dynasty pharaoh Amenophis III, but it was Ramses II who later built the entrance pylons and the great court beyond. Temple of Amun in Karnak: one dynasty after another added to it, so that from its founding during the Middle Kingdom to the building of its outermost or First Pylon during the 25th Dynasty, 1.300 years elapsed. Colossi of Memnon: two famous colossi, which once guarded the mortuary temple of Amenophis III. Valley of the Kings: leaving the cultivation behind, the road climbs towards the Valley of the Kings, an oven of white sand and sun containing 62 tombs, almost all belonging to pharaohs of the 18th, 19th, 20th Dynasties (1570 – 1090 BC).
Highlights of Memphis and Saqqara:
Statue of Ramses II: At Memphis there once stood a series of colossal statues of the great Ramses II. Only one remains in Memphis laying on the ground in a covered pavilion. Alabaster Sphinx: A sphinx sculpted from a single piece of alabaster. This sphinx is in remarkable shape compared to other statues. Step Pyramid: The oldest known of Egypt’s pyramids. It was built for King Zoser of the 3rd Dynasty (27th century BC) by the architect Imhotep, who’s revolutionary design began the evolution of Egypt’s great pyramids.