The 13 best places to visit in Egypt

 

Constructed in 1997, in the east of the country in the desert to the north of the city of Hurghada on the Red Sea coast is an art installation called the Desert Breath. The work consists of 89 protruding cones and 89 depressed cones increasing in size as they spiral outwards. At the centre was a pool that has since evaporated. Subject to natural erosion, the art will eventually disappear, though two decades since it was built it remains visible.

13. Desert Breath

 

South east from the capital, Cairo, on the eastern bank of the River Nile is the Zawiyyet Al-Mayyiteen, or the City Of The Dead. Stretching for several kilometres, this huge necropolis is a sea of dome covered mud brick mausoleums, considered to be one of the largest cemeteries in the world.

12. City Of The Dead

 

In the extreme north of the country on the edge of the Mediterranean is the city of Alexandria, the second largest city in Egypt. Founded by Alexander The Great, the city became an important centre of the Hellenistic civilization, remaining the capital for nearly 1,000 years. Best known for the Lighthouse Of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World, it was once the second most powerful city of the ancient Mediterranean after Rome.

Due to regional earthquakes and constant war in ancient times, very little of the old city remains. Some of the monuments to have survived are a Roman triumphal column known as Pompeys Pillar, a Roman amphitheatre, the 15th century Citadel of Qaitbay, and the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa, a necropolis considered one of the Seven Wonders Of The Middle Ages.

Pictured is the Citadel Of Qaitbay.

11. Alexandria

 

On the Sinai Peninsula in the extreme north east of the country is an ancient site of chapels and shrines dating from as far back as 15,000 BC, the beginning of history in ancient Egypt. The Dendera Temple Complex covers some 40,000 square metres and is surrounded by an enclosed mud brick wall. The most notable building in the complex is the Temple Of Hathor, built around 300 BC it is among one of the best preserved temples in Egypt.

Pictured is the Temple Of Hathor.

10. Dendera Temple Complex

 

To the south west of the capital, Cairo, encompassing some 200 square kilometres (77 square mile) of protected land is the Wadi El-Hitan, literally meaning Whale Valley, a landscape of spectacular cliffs and unusual rock formations created over thousands of years by wind and water erosion. The site takes its name from the hundreds of whale fossils that just lay on the valley floor, the largest of which measures 21 metres (69 ft). Because no other site on Earth has the sheer number, concentration or quality of fossils with such easy accessibility, the Wadi El Hitan has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

9. Wadi El Hitan

 

In the centre of the country, at the northern end of the Farafra Depression is the White Desert National Park, encompassing some 300 square kilometres (116 square miles) of protected land. The bizarre landscape is one of white and cream coloured sand, as well as large white chalk rock formations created through wind and sand erosion over thousands of years. It is one of the most unique landscapes in Egypt.

8. White Desert National Park

 

In the south east of the country, between Luxor and Aswan on the banks of the River Nile is the city of Edfu, famed for being the location of one of the best known shrines in Egypt, the Temple Of Edfu. Built between 237 and 57 BC, it holds a wealth of inscriptions providing important information of the language, myths and religion during the Hellenistic period. Over the centuries it became buried to a depth of 12 metres (39 ft) beneath drifting desert sand, with locals even building homes over the temple grounds. When finally uncovered, this protection from the elements kept the temple virtually intact, making it one of the best preserved and best remaining examples of Egyptian temple construction.

7. Temple Of Edfu

In the far north west of the country, close to the border with Libya between the Qattara Depression and the Great Sand Sea in the Western Desert is one of Egypt's most isolated settlements, the Siwa Oasis, in ancient times known as the Oasis Of Amun Ra. Sitting approximately 19 metres (62 ft) below sea level, the settlement of mainly Berbers has a unique culture and distinct language in the region. Surrounded by sand on all sides, the town of ancient mud brick buildings truly is an oasis in the desert.

6. Siwa Oasis

 

In the far south east of the country in the city of Aswan is an open air museum and archaeological site that holds among other things, the Unfinished Obelisk. Dating from around 1500 BC, the obelisk would have measured 42 metres (137 ft) high and would have weighed nearly 1,200 tons, making it one third larger than any ancient Egyptian obelisk ever erected. Carved directly from the bedrock, it was abandoned due to the appearance of cracks. Offering a unique insight into ancient Egyptian stone working techniques, the sheer scale of the obelisk will make you wonder how they ever planned to move and eventually erect it.

5. Unfinished Obelisk

 

Built in the mid 6th century on the Sinai Peninsula at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of the infamous and holy Mount Sinai is Saint Catherine's Monastery, officially named the Sacred Monastery Of The God Trodden Mount Sinai. Constructed on the site where Moses is said to have seen the burning bush, it is one of the oldest working Christian Monasteries on the planet, containing the worlds oldest continually working library with many ancient and unique books. Preserving the second largest collecting of codecs and manuscripts in the world after the Vatican, housing irreplaceable works of art dating back centuries, this incredible well preserved monastery has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Saint Catherine's Monastery

 

Constructed in the 13th century BC during the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses II, in the extreme south of the country close to the border with Sudan, are the two enormous rock temples of Abu Simbel. Originally carved out of the mountainside, they serve as a lasting monument to the king and his queen Nefertari, and commemorate the victory at the Battle of Kadesh. In 1968 to save the temples from flooding during the creation of the artificial Lake Nasser, both temples in their entirety were moved to higher ground. The huge external rock relief figures have become an icon of the country, with the Abu Simbel Temples as part of the ancient Nubian Monuments of the region being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3. Abu Simbel Temples

 

In the east of the country on the banks of the River Nile is the ancient Egyptian city of Waset, what the ancient Greeks called Thebes, today known as the city of Luxor, characterized as the worlds greatest open air museum. Among the newer buildings of the new city are some of the most famous ruins in the world, including the Temple Of Karnak and the Temple Of Luxor, two sites comprising a vast mix of decayed temples, chapels and other buildings. Immediately across the river lie the monuments, temples and tombs of the West Bank Necropolis which includes the Valley Of The Kings and the Valley Of The Queens. The ruins of ancient Luxor have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the Temple Of Luxor.

2. Luxor

 

In the north of the country, to the south east of Alexandria lies the Egyptian capital, Cairo, known as the City Of A Thousands Minarets. The largest and most populated city in Egypt, with one of the largest metropolitan areas in Africa, it is the largest in the Middle East and the largest in the Arab World. Historic Cairo around the Citadel and old walled city holds within it hundreds of mosques, tombs, madrasas and fortifications from the Islamic era. Being one of the worlds oldest Islamic cities with a wealth of history that includes the only surviving original Wonder Of the World from the ancient Egyptian, many locations have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

With so much on offer, click here for the Must See Places In Cairo...

1. Cairo

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