With its pyramids and gold pharaohs, towering temples and cursed tombs, it’s no wonder Egypt’s been on the tourist trail for the last 4,500 years. Here are the other sights you can’t miss on a trip to Egypt.
The wondrous Pyramids of Giza
Of all the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World only one survives, and it’s in Giza on the outskirts of Cairo. The Pyramids of Giza are some of the world’s most recognizable architectural structures and still dominate the skyline 4,500 years after their construction. They’re part of the Memphis Necropolis, a vast plain that includes two lesser-visited clusters of pyramids, Dahshur and Saqqara. Sleepy Dahshur’s new drawcard is the tunnel into the heart of the Bent Pyramid, and staggering Saqqara is still revealing treasures from antiquity, as told in a new Netflix documentary, Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb.
It’s not until you sit here that you appreciate the scale of the Temple of Karnak
The lure of Luxor
There is a perfect symmetry to ancient Egypt’s seat of political and religious power, Luxor. The East Bank celebrates the rising sun and life; follow the processional Avenue of the Rams into the Temple of Karnak, the world’s biggest ancient religious complex, and the nearby Temple of Luxor. Across the river, the West Bank is the land of sunset and death; the site of the Memorial Temple of Hatshepsut, the pharaoh queen and the famed Valley of the Kings. The most colourful subterranean mausoleums include the richly coloured tombs of Ramesses V and VI and Seti I. It’s all tied neatly together by a visit to the Luxor Museum.
Coptic Cairo is said to be where the holy family visited with baby Jesus
Cairo’s Christian landmarks
With sites dating from the birth of Christ, Coptic Cairo is a wealth of early Christian landmarks, including the Church of St Sergius and Bacchus, where the Holy Family is said to have hidden from King Herod’s massacre of all firstborn sons. At 1,000 years old, Cairo’s medieval palace walk may not be considered ancient, but the palaces, mosques, hospitals and caravanserais that line Sharia al Muizz, Islamic Cairo’s main thoroughfare, must not be missed. Gorgeously turreted, the buildings are capped with domes and minarets, while the cool interiors are fabulously inlaid with exotic carved timbers, marble columns and intricate calligraphy.
The sacred Temple of Philae was relocated from Upper Egypt due to flooding
Towering temples in Upper Egypt
The best way to explore the temples of antiquity built around Luxor is by boat on the serene waters of the Nile. To the north, the Temple of Hathor in Dendera is small, but significant because Hathor was the mother of all gods. To the south, the Temple of Horus at Edfu is famed for its staggering proportions, while the riverside Temple of Kom Ombo includes a museum dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek. Further south, in Aswan, the Temple of Philae was one of 20 ancient sites rescued from flooding in the 1960s. While some temples were transported as far as New York, Philae’s new home is a tiny island, a short boat ride from Aswan’s marina. However, Upper Egypt’s brightest star is Abu Simbel. Standing at the feet of gods, visitors are towered over by the colossal nearly 66-foot high statues of Ramses II.