Places to visit in Egypt
Egypt is so full of interesting sights and spectacular scenery that you could spend weeks here on a family holiday and still feel that there was more to see. Please call us to discuss how best we can include all of your ‘must see’ sights into your perfect family trip.
Cairo is invariably the arrival point for a trip to Egypt, a huge city teeming with people and a real assault on the senses. The traffic is crazy and the streets are crowded but there are moments of magic here. Stop for a glass of mint tea in a local teashop as the call to prayer echoes around and you will really feel as if you have arrived in the Middle East. Follow the narrow backstreets through a local suburb to the bustling markets of Khan El Khalili and you can contrast the peace and quiet of the residential areas with the lively chaos of the markets.
Children love seeing the mummified remains of Ramses II, the greatest of all the Pharaohs, in the Egyptian Museum or riding a camel around the Pyramids at sunset. Or even more exciting, let them discover their inner archaeologist and follow a narrow tunnel into the burial chamber deep in the Great Pyramid itself.
Known in ancient times as Thebes, Luxor was the Egyptian capital for centuries during the time of the Pharaohs. Sitting on the banks of the Nile there are remains everywhere you turn. On the west bank of the Nile are the tombs of the Pharaohs. From above ground this is a dry and desolate place but if you follow the tunnels deeps into the ground you enter an extraordinary world of colour. The walls are lined with beautifully painted hieroglyphics and scenes from life 3,000 years ago. Tutankhamun’s Tomb is particularly interesting for children as they will have learned about this in school; given the extraordinary range of treasures found in the tomb it is incredible to realise that this really was very small and insignificant. The mind boggles at the treasures that must have graced the much larger and more majestic tombs of the important pharaohs.
There are also temples galore in Luxor. Hatshepsut’s is very impressive (pronounced hat – cheap – suit) and well worth a visit but the real star of the show is Karnak. The scale of this temple is vast with soaring columns, each beautifully carved, and many smaller sub-temples.
Whilst the treasures of Luxor are thrilling, you do need to be careful to avoid temple overload with children. A great way to assist with this is to include some exciting transport options to the various ruins. Therefore we will usually suggest that you take a horse-drawn carriage along the waterfront to Karnak Temple and you will ride donkeys through the villages and fields along a back route to the Valley of the Kings.
Most hotels will also have a pool so you can intersperse your sightseeing with some time by the pool.
In the far south of Egypt, the picturesque town of Aswan occupies a beautiful position on the banks of the Nile where the river fans out around a series of small islands. The town itself is very small and best explored on foot. The main street is a long bazaar where Nubian men, dramatic in floating white galabeyas (white robes) try to entice you into their shops.
Piles of spices shaped into gravity defying cones sit alongside beautiful carved brass work and alabaster statues. You can buy a necklace with your name engraved in Arabic or a bracelet with your name written in hieroglyphics. Shoppers beware, you will come back with a much-lightened wallet and a much heavier bag!
There are also some impressive ruins here, with the gorgeous Temple of Isis on Philae Island, reached by boat, and the vast temple of Abu Simbel. Abu Simbel actually lies in the desert 3 hours to the south of Aswan, to be reached either by road or by plane, and is famous as it was completely dismantled and re-erected on higher ground after the building of the Aswan High Dam.
The Nile is the life-blood of Egypt and no trip is complete without at least a short ride on a felucca. This is a traditional wooden sailing boat with billowing white sails and these are a common sight along the stretch of river between Aswan and Luxor. You can either spend a wonderful afternoon on the boat, stopping at some sand dunes for a spot of dune running, or you can take an overnight cruise en route to Luxor. You will be accompanied by a Nubian crew who will be responsible for piloting the boat, selecting a suitable place to moor overnight, and who will cook you simple but delicious meals on board.
The boats are a little lacking in creature comforts – you sleep on mattresses on deck, under the stars – but this is a great adventure for children and a real highlight for more intrepid families.
If this sounds a little bit too basic, you could instead take a cruise on a luxury boat. Usually lasting 2-3 nights, the boats sail slowly up or down river, stopping along the way for you to visit the temples of Edfu and Kom Ombo. Most are very comfortable (often 5 star) with luxurious cabins and a sun deck with a pool and sun loungers.
The vast area of desert that makes up the Sinai Peninsula offers a huge range of different activities and attractions. The most popular area is along the coast where the numerous beaches, almost guaranteed sunshine and impressive marine life have led to the development of a wide range of resorts. Some of these are packed full of package tourists and it is easy to forget you are in Egypt, but they offer large and luxurious hotels with a great range of water sports and other activities.
Other resorts are much smaller and less developed but perhaps have more charm about them. There is something for everyone so if you would like some beach time, we can recommend a hotel and resort to suit.
Inland you can find Mount Sinai, where Moses received the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Many travellers and pilgrims like to climb the mountain in time to see the sun rise over the surrounding desert, an amazing experience that offers incredible views. It is possible to hire a camel to ride up part of the mountain, but there are some steep steps near the top (around 700), which you have to climb on foot, so this is not suitable for young children. At the foot of the mountain is St Catherine’s Monastery, home to the burning bush.
Elsewhere in the Sinai there are great tracts of little visited but spectacularly beautiful desert, which offer wonderful trekking opportunities for those with slightly older children, camping out under the stars.
Alexandria and El Alamein
Alexandria is Egypt’s second largest city and is much more Mediterranean in feel than the rest of the country. Founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great, it was the capital of Egypt at the time of Cleopatra’s reign. It was home to the fabled Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the wonders of the ancient world. Sadly little remains of the lighthouse but Alexandria is still a very pleasant place to wander around and soak up the cosmopolitan atmosphere.
To the west of the city is El Alamein, site of one of the decisive battles of WW2. There are a number of poignant war memorials found here.
Call us and we will be happy to provide you with a free-of-charge no obligation itinerary and quotation designed for you.
Egypt in pictures
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