Cairo is the capital Egypt and together with Giza holds a population in excess of 20 million people. As such it is one of the largest cities in both Africa and the Middle East. It is situated on the River Nile and its historical roots are preserved in the ancient structures and artefacts that have withstood the ravages of time so that we are able to enjoy them today. Modern Cairo is a mix of the modern, ancient, and old, with wide streets giving way to dusty narrow roads, and donkey-drawn carts share the roads with Mercedes cars and ultra-modern coaches. The pyramids and palm trees form the backdrop to high-rise buildings that together with the minarets of hundreds of mosques draw the eye heaven-ward. Life in Cairo, as with most of Egypt and the Middle East, is supported by and structured around spiritual practices, so you will find, for example, that shops close during the call to prayer. Cairo is a place of dramatic contrasts that will make you feel alive, a city where ancient meets modern, a city that expands your mind, and where each moment you can experience something new.
Aswan is Egypt’s southernmost city. This friendly metropolis has an easygoing charm. It lies along the shores of the river Nile, and has a large Nubian population. During the last century the Nubians were gradually forced out of their homelands as first the old Aswan dam was built at the beginning of the 1900’s, and then the High Dam was built in the 1970’s, creating Lake Nasser. Nubian lands, ancient monuments and date plantations were flooded. Some of the most remarkable structures were saved from flooding by being relocated to dry land before flooding occurred, one of the most famous being the temples of Abu Simbel. Many Nubians were relocated to the area around Aswan, and here the Nubian population has maintained its social structure, and is justly proud of its vibrant culture. In Aswan there is an excellent Nubian Museum for those who would like to learn more about Nubian history.
The complex of temples known as Abu Simbel and dedicated to the Pharaoh Ramesses II remains an evocative and unforgettable destination. Accessible from Aswan by plane or coach, these temples are an unforgettable experience for visitors to Egypt.
The temples at Abu Simbel were formerly located further down the hillside, facing the Nile in the same relative
positions, but due to the rising waters of Lake Nasser, the original locations are underwater. Each temple was carefully sawed into numbered stone cubes, moved uphill, and reassembled before the water rose.
Abydos was the main centre dedicated to the god Osiris. Here the ancient Egyptians believed that the head of Osiris was buried, and it became the place to be buried from 4000 BC to 600 AD. The story of Osiris, Isis, Seth & Horus is central to ancient mystical teachings about life and death. The Temple of Seti I is a site that not many tourist groups visit, and it retains the feel of a place of worship. Here you will find hieroglyphs of immense detail, highlighted with radiant colours that seem recently applied, so that you realise how vibrant and colourful the temples must have been in ancient times. The stillness of the temple allows you to imagine how life must have been for priests and others living here.
At Dendara we find a beautiful temple stretching heavenward dedicated to the goddess Hathor, goddess of love, beauty and motherly love. It was built at the end of the Pharaonic period, and was completed by Greeks and Romans. The paintings in this temple are magnificent, and it is possible to visit underground crypts and to climb the stairs to the upper level. It is here that we also find hieroglyphs of the signs of the zodiac.
Luxor is one of the most beautiful destinations in Egypt, with its own unique mix of modern buildings situated next to breathtaking temples and monuments. Luxor was known in ancient times as Thebes, the Ancient Egyptian capital of the New Kingdom, and dates back to around 2000 BC. The spacious palm-lined promenade along the Nile, the horse-drawn carriages, and the sense of antiquity make Luxor a memorable destination.
Luxor, as well as being home to some of the most remarkable and beautiful ancient sites in Egypt, is also surrounded by a wealth of temples and burial sites that are varied and awe-inspiring. Out beyond the western bank of the Nile amongst ancient crumbling hills, cliffs and valleys of the desert are the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, and the Colossi of Memnon. On the Eastern bank of the Nile on the outskirts of Luxor is Karnak, a complex of temples, sanctuaries, and towering obelisks that covers more than 2 sq km, and even contains a Sacred Lake within its massive walls. An avenue of sphinxes has been discovered linking the temples of Luxor and Karnak; this is currently being excavated. Close to the banks of the Nile is Luxor Temple, an ancient monument that is now surrounded by streets, a playground, shops and houses. Travelling further east you will find the sacred sites of Abydos, one of the most important burial sites of Ancient Egypt and dedicated to the god Osiris, and Dendara, a temple of exquisite beauty and detail, dedicated the goddess of love and beauty, Hathor. The journey to these sites takes you through the Egyptian countryside, where you catch a glimpse of the lifestyle of Egyptians in more rural areas.
Hurghada is Egypt’s most popular Red Sea resort town and a great place to relax for a few days. It is more laid back than some of the other towns along the coast of the Red Sea. You will notice that many new resorts and holiday homes have been built around this area. This is mostly thanks to investment by Russians, supported and encouraged by the Russian government. For this reason Hurghada town is a very interesting mix of cultures, and there’s always plenty to keep you entertained here. Famed for excellent diving and snorkelling in the beautiful Red Sea, there are incredible coral reefs and hundreds of varieties of tropical fish to be enjoyed, some just 10 metres from the beach. From here you can also enjoy a day out on the water, snorkelling and diving in the warm waters, enjoying the underwater world of beauty. After refuelling with a relaxed lunch, you can then head back into the water to continue your explorations.