Taking Egypt tours is like transporting yourself in time. Present in the popular imagination – with images of the imposing pyramids, the pharaohs and Cleopatra – the country is a destination full of gems from one of the most brilliant civilizations ever existing. Listing all of its historical jewels is almost impossible, such is the richness of its past: throughout the territory there are places and objects full of meaning. To get a taste of all this exuberance, we have chosen three unmissable suggestions in three of the main Egyptian cities – and, as a freebie, a beautiful coastal city.
On the banks of the River Nile, to the north, is the capital, Cairo, the gateway to Egypt and the country’s political, economic and cultural center. Also the site of the most iconic Egyptian postcards. The main ones, without a doubt, are the Pyramids of Giza, which are very close to the city, about 10 kilometers from the center. The three pyramids – Cheops, Chephren and Miquerinos – are part of a large complex, which has another impressive monument, the Great Sphinx. Simply amazing.
The Egyptian Museum is also one of Cairo’s best attractions. It is the main museum in the country, where it is possible to see the most prestigious collection of Egyptian artifacts, from the Empire of Ancient Egypt to the Greco-Roman period. There are more than 120,000 pieces on display. They include the royal mummies of some of the most well-known pharaohs, such as Ramses II, and the objects found in Tutankhamen’s tomb, such as his famous gold funerary mask, perhaps the most symbolic image of Egypt after the pyramids.
The trip to Cairo is not complete without going through the great Nile, also a protagonist in the history of the country, being essential for the development of its civilization. With 6 650 kilometers, it is considered the longest river in the world, cutting through several African nations. In the section that crosses the city, one of the points where it can be best observed is from the Zamalek neighborhood. There it is also possible to take a felucca tour, a small and traditional Egyptian sailing boat.
To the south is the fantastic Luxor, ancient Thebes, the religious capital of Egypt since 2000 BC It is there that the traveler can get a better feel for what the Egyptian Empire really was, with its grandiose religious complexes and mausoleums of pharaohs, the most important in the country.
One of the main attractions is the Temple of Karnak, which gives real meaning to the adjective “pharaonic”. It is considered the largest in the world, occupying 2 square kilometers, and one of the great architectural treasures of humanity, which took 1,500 years to be built, passing from generation to generation of pharaohs and kingdoms. The place impresses in many ways, especially with the colossal papyrus columns and the so-called Avenida das Esfinges, with sphinxes on both sides towards the Luxor Temple. Today, Karnak can also be visited at night, with an evening show of light and sound, which makes the place even more magical.
The Luxor Temple, built at the behest of Ramses II, is smaller than the Karnak Temple. But it draws attention for the diversity of elements, since it gathers references from different cultures and times – Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Islamic, Coptic. For this reason, the place is one of the main reasons why the city of Luxor is called “the largest open museum in the world”. A tip is to visit the temple at sunset, when it is beautifully lit in golden tone, highlighting the relief sculptures.
On the other side of the Nile is the unmissable Vale dos Reis, a labyrinth of tunnels hidden under the mountains with 63 underground tombs (discovered so far). A very long and complicated work, due to the simplicity of the tools of the time. Among them are the tombs of pharaohs like Ramses II and Tutankhamen. In the latter, more than 5,000 objects were found (it was customary to bury the pharaohs with their belongings). The most famous is the gold death mask on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Tutankhamen ruled for a short time and died at the age of 19 – so you can imagine the gems that were in the tombs of the most important pharaohs, like Ramses II, who reigned for almost 40 years.
Extra: it is possible to fly over all these monuments of Luxor in a balloon ride. Unforgettable!
9 reasons to go to Egypt with a travel agency
• Itineraries are well planned to make the most of each place
• It simplifies the entire search process and choice of accommodation
• Facilitates logistics, since local transport does not take you directly to all attractions
• There is reception on arrival at the airport and guidance about visa withdrawal
• It already includes the tickets for the tours listed in the itinerary
• All land transfers are included in the package, in a private vehicle and with air conditioning
• It is more convenient and safer to go with those who know the place
• There are guidelines on how to behave in a country with customs so different from Brazilians
• Everything is accompanied and explained by Portuguese-speaking guides
Further south, there is pleasant Aswan, another important tourist destination in Egypt that mixes history and beautiful landscapes along the Nile. Compared to effervescent Cairo and disputed Luxor, the city offers a more peaceful and relaxed experience. Among the historical wonders is the Temple of Philae, dedicated to Isis, the goddess of motherhood. The most feminine of the Egyptian temples was on the island of Philae, but, after the construction of the Aswan Dam, it was carefully transferred, in an audacious Unesco project, to the neighboring island of Agilika. Like Guizé and Karnak, it has an evening show of sound and light, creating an unparalleled magical atmosphere.
Aswan is the starting point for visiting another lush archaeological complex, Abu Simbel, three hours from the city, almost on the border with Sudan. These are two large temples carved in the rock, built at the request of Ramses II – one in tribute to Pharaoh himself and another to Nefertari, his favorite wife. They are among the most preserved monuments in the country and are impressive for their size, both in the facade and in the large decorated halls inside. On the shores of Lake Nasser, like Philae, this local treasure also had to rely on immense international efforts to be transported from the base to the summit of the mountain where it was, preventing it from being flooded.
Another must-see in Egypt is to take a Nile River Cruise. There are several options, ranging from Aswan to Luxor (and vice versa), passing by the majestic monuments between the two cities, framed by the waters of the Nile. Our recommendation is Sun Goddess Nile Cruise.
Amid so much history, a little piece of paradise
It is not only majestic historical monuments that a script is made in Egypt. The country also offers beautiful coastal destinations. The best known and most glamorous, undoubtedly, is Sharm El Sheikh, on the Sinai Peninsula, bathed by the Red Sea. There are huge resorts surrounded by palm trees, many night attractions and good shopping and gastronomy options. However, the great highlight of the city are activities in nature, especially water sports.
With crystal clear waters and coral reefs, this is considered one of the best places in the world to dive. At sea, it is also possible to windsurf, go to wild beaches, swim in the Blue Hole (Dahab’s famous blue hole) or experience underwater life without getting wet, on board a glass bottom boat.
On land, visitors can also visit spectacular rock formations, such as the Colorful Canyon of Nuweiba, see unique desert landscapes, take camel rides or safaris and visit the Monastery of Santa Catarina, one of the oldest in the world.
In addition, you can take the trail that leads to the top of Mount Sinai, where, according to the Bible, Moses received the Ten Commandments. The panoramic view of this sacred place is a sight to behold and an experience to remember forever – like everything in this extraordinary country, with so many charms.