Egypt: What to do and see

Egypt is famous for harboring the oldest ancient human civilizations in the Nile Valley including the Great Pyramids of Giza Egypt. Situated in the Sahara Desert – North-Eastern Africa, the country is bordered by Sudan to the south, Mediterranean Sea in the north, Libya to the west and Red Sea in the east.


Nicknamed the “Gift of the Nile” by Herodotus a Greek historian, the tourism and economic life of Egypt relies on the Nile River given that 90% (995450 of the country’s total land area (1.01 million is desert. Much of the country experiences semi-arid climate with little rainfall, hot and dry summers in the months of June, July and August.

Temperatures can reach 35°C to 45°C in Upper Egypt (south) where Aswan, Abu Simbel temples and valley of kings in Luxor are found. Summer season in Egypt provides good opportunity to visit Red Sea Resorts for swimming, kite surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving. Weather tends to be pleasant in September, October, April and winter in the months of January and February. These months offer good time to visit Egypt especially for cultural and sightseeing tour in Giza with the pyramid of Khufu, the largest of ancient Egyptian pyramids.

Population and culture

Egypt is the third most populous country in Africa with 105,093,906 million people according to latest United Nations statistics. Arabic is the official language and 90% Egyptians are Muslims, therefore conservative in regard to dress code. Though, there are orthodox Christians, visitors need to be prudent with modest clothing especially when visiting cultural sites including the Great pyramids of Giza and Egyptian Museum.

Visitors are free to put on bikinis / shorts for the Nile River boat trips and at most of the Egypt beach vacation destinations including Hurghada, El Gouna, Marsa Alam and Alexandria.  Cairo the capital city of Egypt is at the mouthpiece of the Nile Delta the most fertile agricultural land in Egypt where the river spreads its tributaries into the Mediterranean Sea.

Being the main gateway, Cairo is one of the safest places in Egypt along with Alexandria, the second largest city, Aswan, Luxor and Red Sea Riviera resort towns especially Hurghada and El Gouna. Egypt is safe to visit because Egyptians are friendly towards travelers. Being a large country not all places are safe especially the areas along the Libyan border. On a trip to Egypt, be vigilant and get travel or medical insurance.

In ancient times, Egypt was divided into two regions which are still considered today including Upper Egypt in the south and Lower Egypt in the north. They are named according to the northward flowing direction of Nile River. To truly enjoy a holiday in Egypt, you need to visit different cities and attractions in both regions.

Lower Egypt

Lower Egypt constitutes the northern part of the country including Cairo the capital city of Egypt and main gateway. Flying to Cairo international airport gives you easy accessibility to Giza the third largest city for those intending to start with the Great Pyramids on Egypt tour. Starting your trip in Egypt with Cairo and Giza provides with a clue on the ancient and modern aspects of Egypt. After sightseeing in Cairo or Giza, you can go ahead to visit Luxor for the temples in the south, Red Sea Riviera or northern coast for Egypt beach vacation including watersports such as diving, snorkeling and kitesurfing.

The pyramids of Giza

Giza is part of the greater metropolitan capital situated 5 km (10-minute drive) south-west of Cairo. The city is home to Egyptian pyramids including the Great Sphinx (a massive structure with a body of a lion and human head), the pyramid of Khufu the largest standing 147 meters tall and the pyramid of Menkaure.

The oldest pyramid called Djoser can be visited on a day trip to Saqqara village situated 15 south of Giza. The three pyramids at Giza plateau are believed to have been constructed 4500 years ago according to National Geographic (NATGEO). Each pyramids is part of a massive complex including palace, temples, solar boat pits, tombs of the Pharaohs and writings on the wall depict every aspect of life there is to know in ancient Egypt.

Entering the pyramids is allowed and camel riding at Giza is much better way to circle around. Besides the great pyramids, there are other attractions in Giza including the Egypt papyrus museum to see the ancient way of writing and keeping records, solar boat museum and the grand Egyptian museum. Furthermore, when in Giza visitors can go for day trips to Memphis the capital of ancient Egypt. Giza is also a good city for shopping in Egypt especially for papyrus with Egyptian paintings, custom-made jewelry, oils and unique stone crafts.


Cairo is the capital city of Egypt with a population of over 10 million people and the Nile River flows through its center. Nicknamed as “The city of thousand minarets”, Cairo has spectacular traditional Islamic architecture including the mosque of Mohammed Ali and Madrassa of Sultan Hassan with a 223 meter tall minaret.

The city of Cairo is divided into several districts which can be explored by visiting the old and new areas. These include Zamalek on Gezira Island with foreign embassies and the Cairo tower that offers a bird’s eye view of the city and the Nile River, Coptic Cairo – the oldest settlement of the city. This is also the site for those intending to explore Christin and Jewish historical sites including Ben Ezra synagogue, Hanging Church of Virgin Mary. It also includes a jewelry shop with books about Egyptian history and architecture.

Islamic Cairo contains historical sites dating back from 970 AD including the mosque of Al-Azhar, Sultan Hassan, Citadel of Saladin and the green park with water fountains for yoga and meditation. The old part of Cairo also includes the Khan El-Khalili, the oldest bazaar market for those looking where to go for shopping in Egypt.

The downtown area contains a variety of budget accommodation and the Egyptian Museum of antiquities with the largest collection of pharaonic antiquities including the Tankhamun’s gold tomb and Amenhotep’s statue. There are several ways to visit Cairo including doing a sunset boat cruise on the Nile River featuring cultural dance performances, food and drinks.

Upper Egypt

Upper Egypt is the southernmost part bordering Sudan and contains several ancient Egypt ruins and historical sites including Karnak temple, valley of kings, El Minya, Abu Simbel temples among others such as Luxor temple and museum.

The major cities in Upper Egypt including Luxor formerly known as Thebes the ancient capital of Egypt and Aswan (the land of gold) are located at a strategic and beautiful position on the Nile River. In contrast to modern and hectic Cairo, the ambience in Luxor is laid-back and offer a taste of traditional African/ Nubian culture.

Luxor city tour offers a range of cultural experiences including a demonstration on carving of Alabaster (sacred stones) to make souvenirs, drinking Hibiscus tea and wooden Felucca boat ride on the Nile River. In addition, there are a number of things to do and see in Luxor city. In contrast to the Nile Delta, Upper Egypt receives little rainfall of less than 25mm per annum, therefore hotter as temperatures can reach over 40°C. Make sure you bring sun protection gears including sunscreen and hat.

Attractions in Luxor city

Luxor is situated across the Nile with the main part of the city with airport and railway station on East bank of the river. Luxor was built amidst the ruins of Thebes the ancient capital of Upper Egypt during the Pharaohs who ruled Egypt in 539 to 1075 BC. The city was also a religious center of Amun Ra the God of the sun, therefore holds important Egypt history and heritage sites including the valley of kings and several temples such as the Karnak temple, Luxor temple and Queen Hatshepsut’s temple.

Temples in Luxor

For those interested in the history of both the ancient and new Egypt kingdom, Luxor offers a chance to visit temples of Luxor and Karnak which are UNESCO world heritage sites on the east bank of the Nile. Karnak Temple complex features the spectacular Hypostyle Hall with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows.

Another site is the Luxor temple built in 1390 – 52 BC by Queen Amenhotep (III) and completed by several kings including Rameses (II) and Horemheb. The temple features a shrine of Alexander the great. Other sites in Luxor worth visiting include the Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple. Built in the side of a mountain cliff, the temple’s pillars are spectacular and believed to have inspired the architectural design of the United States Capitol Hill building.

Valley of kings

There’s also the valley of kings, a royal burial ground for Pharaohs and their gold with over 60 tombs hidden inside a desert mountain. Visitors can walk through some of the 8 tombs that are open to the public including Ramesses V and VI, the largest tomb in the valley of kings decorated with book of the Heavens and astronomical displays and Set (II) the spectacular colored tomb. A single ticket allows to visit three tombs. You can add more including a separate camera ticket at an extra cost.

The city of Aswan

Aswan is situated 245 south of Luxor in Upper Egypt near the border with Sudan. The city can be accessed through the Aswan international airport, train and bus from Cairo capital city.

Aswan acted as a trade centre between Egypt and Nubia as far back as in 4000 B.C for exchange of gold, ivory, animal skins, pottery and food such as grains, wine and vegetable oils. Nubian kings who became Pharaohs of Upper Egypt around 25th and 750 BC left behind several monuments and archeological sites including ancient trade routes, Philae and Abu Simbel temples which reveal the way of writing found in ancient literature of Egyptians, Greeks and Rome.

Aswan offers a chance to explore the culture and history of ancient Nubia – the land of gold because the city is home to a diverse population of Nubians and mixed Africans. The city is divided into east and west bank by the Nile River. Most of the attractions in Aswan are found on the east bank of the Nile including Nubian Museum, unfinished Obelisk and Aswan botanical gardens are found on Elephantine Island. Nubian villages and beaded jewelry markets are found Seheyl Island.

Today, Aswan is one of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) which puts culture and heritage of the people at the core of urban development. The city hosts the International Symposium of Sculpture, an event held annually that celebrates local culture around the world. Visiting Aswan on Egypt tour provides a chance to explore the traditional Nubian heritage in folk arts and crafts including tablecloth, beadworks, pottery making and needle work products. In addition to culture, Aswan enjoys an idyllic atmosphere with spectacular views of the Nile River including Elphantine Island with Al Dokka restaurant that serves local Nubian food.

Things to do in Aswan include Fellucca boat ride on the Nile River, visiting the Nubian Museum and the unfinished obelisk to see how Egyptians cut stones. Other attractions can be visited by a boat ride across the Nile on a day trips from Aswan including Abu Simbel temples, Kom Ombo the crocodile-headed god, Qubbetel-Hawa tombs and the Nubian Village. With more time, visitors can visit the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser situated 16 km south of the city, it was built in 1960s to bring more Hydro-Electric Power to Upper Egypt.

The coast of Egypt

Beaches in Egypt can be found along the Mediterranean Sea coast (northern coast) and the Red Sea Riviera to the east. Each coast has its unique appeal and offers a variety of things to do and see including Egypt desert safari, diving tour and watersports such as snorkeling, kite surfing, deep sea fishing, parasailing and swimming at several beach resort towns. In regard to dress code, there’s no restriction on what to wear when compared to Cairo the capital city where women have to cover up. Most of the resort towns along the Red Sea coast including Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh allow visitors to put on beach such as bikinis and shorts, though visiting important religious sites like Mount Sinai requires one to cover up. Let’s narrow down which coast to visit on your Egypt trip.

The Red Sea Coast of Egypt

The Red Sea Coast also known as the Red Sea Riviera stretches for 900 km with a relatively cooler weather, despite the hot and dry climate. Tourism is booming at the Red Sea in Egypt with recent development of several beach-front resort towns including Hurghada, El Gouna, Sharm El Sheikh and Dahab. These towns offer world-class resort hotels and beachfront villas ranging from three to five stars, vibrant nightlife and water sport activities. The waters of Red Sea are calm and famous for scuba diving with several sites including Abu Ramadan, Giftun Soraya and Fanadir islands. As part of the Great Rift Valley, scuba diving in the Red Sea offers a chance to explore its rich marine life and beautiful underwater world topography including deep canyons, coral reefs and World War (II) sunken shipwrecks. Let’s look at the top Red Sea Riviera destinations to visit.


Hurghada is the largest resort city with 40km of coastline along the Red Sea. The town is easier to access on your trip to Egypt through Hurghada airport. Getting there by road is 463 (6-hour drive) east of Cairo and 302 km (4-hour drive) north-East of Luxor city in the Nile Valley – Upper Egypt.

Visiting Hurghada blends well with both Upper and Lower Egypt given its central location on the Red Sea. The town is divided into three areas with the most popular spots being El Dahar an old harbor and fishing village and El Sakala. El Dahar is the downtown area of Hurghada with old markets for those shopping spices, perfumes and souvenirs. The area also hosts Bazaars, local food restaurants including El Halaka, Nubian café and restaurant which serve ‘Koshany’ the national street food of Egypt.

Hurghada is in close proximity to Sinai Peninsula and the Arabian Desert. Visitors can easily plan day trips beyond the town including quad bike safari to explore the Eastern Desert and visit Bedouin village for cultural encounters with local nomadic people who have lived in the desert for centuries. There’s also Ras Muhammad National Park, a marine protected area situated 116 offshore. The park offers scuba diving at the edge of the Sinai Peninsula with opportunity to see coral reefs, sea turtles and sharks. The second area known as El Sakala is home to Hurghada marina, several bazaars, Cafes and discus.

El Gouna

El Gouna is one of the greenest cities in Egypt with most of the buildings designed in the architecture of traditional Egyptian and Nubian villages. As ecotourism destination, the city received the UN Global Green Award.

El Gouna is 25 km north of Hurghada and 446km south-east and can be accessed by road and air through Hurghada airport. El Gouna meaning lagoon in English has a 10km coastline surrounded by shallow water lagoons and over 20 islands. The town is famous for hosting Egypt’s El Gouna film festival one of the leading cultural events in the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA).

There are music concerts happening at the beachfront every Fridays featuring live performances, food and drinks. The town features several wedding places, beaches, nightlife, sports centers, golf courses, hotels and family facilities including kid’s club and playground. El Gouna beaches offer a diverse range of things to do including kite surfing, swimming, scuba diving, boat trips, wellness and spas. Some of the beaches in El Gouna include:-

Sheraton Miramar resort offers accommodation right on the beach and dedicated services including family playground and relaxation beach.

Bellevue beach has 350 km long beach with hotels that offer heated water swimming pools.

While in El Gouna, visitors can go for a tour of the desert monastery to visit some of the oldest Christian sites including St. Anthony and St. Paul dating back to 4th century AD.

Club 88 pool and beach restaurant offers food and yachts for pleasure cruising along the Red Sea.

La Maison Bleue boutique hotel is situated amidst many trees and offers private beach and pool for those looking for a green respite.

Sharm El Sheikh

Sharm El Sheikh serves as a relaxing holiday resort and diving location given its remote location on the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula – relatively far from a typical Egyptian tour route. The resort hotels are found between the Red Sea and Mount Sinai (2285m) which offers good time to relax and explore Ras Muhammed National Park for scuba diving and snorkeling.

There are also day trips from Sharm El Sheikh including hiking the biblical mountain where God gave Moses the 10 commandments and eastern desert safari with camel riding and visiting Bedouin villages. There are several beaches inSharm El Sheikh including Naama bay, El Fanar, Ras Um Sid, Terrazina and Shark’s bay.

The Northern Coast

The north coast of Egypt stretches for 1050 along the Mediterranean Sea with Alexandria as the second largest city and industrial center in Egypt. Alexandria is 183 (3-hour drive) north-west of Cairo and can be accessed by air through Alexandria international airport – the gateway to the several Egypt north coast beach resorts including Marina, Marrasi, Caesar Hotel and Resort, Rixos Alalmein Resort, Marsilia among others for ladies only such as La Femme, Al Yashmak and Amwaj.

Alexandria (Bride of the Mediterranean)

Alexandria was founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great, the city became a centre of scholarship for the Greco-Roman era with the Pharos lighthouse one of the largest libraries in the time. His successor, Ptolemy, kept a large amount of manuscripts which attracted scholars in search of knowledge from Greece, Egypt, Hebrew and Israel making the city of Alexandria multicultural and intellectual capital of the ancient world.

Visiting the city offers a chance to explore Alexander’s great library – the museum of Bibliotheca Alexandrina hosts a collection of archives from ancient times including texts and scroll. The sun-disk shaped structure also hosts contemporary science, art exhibitions and a theatre presenting shows about astronomy.

Other attractions to visit in Alexandria include exploring Corniche the downtown area and citadel of Quaitbey a defensive fort built to protect the city against the Ottoman Empire. Fort Quaitbey situated on the Pharos Island Corniche bay on the eastern harbor of Alexandria offers a chance to explore the stone-walled chambers and climb up the roof for spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea.

Unlike the Red Sea which has coral reefs, diving in the Mediterranean Sea offers a chance to explore the underwater ruins and the enjoy the sea food including fish. Those intending to swim or relax, there are beaches in Alexandria to visit including Marassi a resort and Marsa Matruh.