Egypt Travel Guide

Egypt’s 3rd largest city, and the largest in Upper Egypt, is situated at the foot of the Nile Valley to the North end of Lake Nasser. It is a major mining area for aluminium and iron as well as also being one of the favourite places for tourists to visit due to it being a major stop for cruise boats; for the River Nile as well as Lake Nasser. It has a local market that is an excellent place to do your holiday shopping; this is especially true if you want spices as you will find the best types of fresh spices here.

Aswan is capital of its own Governorate which has a population of about 1.2 million people. Most of these are Nubians, and local tribes of Kenzo.

The city became very important after the construction of the High Dam as it became a refuge for those Nubians who chose to flee to Egypt after the waters flooded their homelands, as well as becoming the worldwide rescue campaign of the Nubian monuments during and after its construction.

Aswan’s name is derived from the ancient Egyptian word “Swan”, which means “the market”! This is because it was located on the main trade route between Egypt and the southern lands; with gold, slaves and ivory passing into Egypt. The governors of the 6th Dynasty sent many expeditions to explore the many African countries located to the south, and most of these started from Aswan. It was also the major source of granite, sandstone and quartzite used in the construction of the various monuments throughout Egypt.


In ancient times the God Khnum was the major God of the city, but he was later replaced by the Goddess Isis, Goddess of magic and maternity, in the Greco Roman period. A temple was built for her on the Island of Philae, which had to be moved, along with other structures, when the waters of Lake Nasser engulfed the island. Though still known as “the Temples of Philae, they can now be accessed on the nearby Agilika Island.

Because of the location of Aswan, just north of the Tropic Of Cancer, the city enjoys a very hot climate throughout the year and it is advised to cover your head when walking about and drink water constantly.

Aswan is situated 890Km (553 miles) to the south of Cairo and 220Km (137 miles) to the south of Luxor. It is the third most popular place to visit in Egypt, behind Cairo and Luxor, and is accessible in a number of ways.

The population of the Aswan governorate is around 1.2 million and mostly consists of Nubians and local tribes of Kenzo. The city became very important after the construction of the high dam, and the worldwide rescue campaign of the Nubian monuments during and after its construction.

Aswan is derived from the Ancient Egyptian word Swan, which means "the market"! It was located on the main trading route between Egypt and the southern lands, where gold, slaves and ivory passed into Egypt. The governors of the 6th Dynasty sent many expeditions to explore the many African countries located to the south, and most of these started from Aswan! It was also the major source of granite, sandstone and quartzite used in the construction of the various monuments throughout Egypt!
In Ancient times the God Khoum was the major God of the city, but in later periods the Goddess Isis, Goddess of magic and maternity, became the main patron God, with a temple being built for her at Philae.

Because of the location of Aswan, just north of the Tropic Of Cancer, the city enjoys a very hot climate throughout the year! It is advised to cover your head when walking about and drink water constantly. Aswan is accessible in a number of ways.

By road
Though Aswan is connected by road to Cairo and has a good bus connection with the capital, tourists are asked not to attempt to use this mode of transport for this journey and are therefore left with only rail or flight as an alternative. The road to Luxor can be used though as it gives the opportunity to visit sites such as Edfu and Kom Ombo. Please note: if you do intend to use this mode of transport you are best booking your seats at least 24 hours in advance to ensure you get the seats you want.

By flight:
Aswan International Airport is located 25Km (16 miles) southwest of the city and can be reached from most countries around the world, though, like Luxor, it is most popular for charter flights. From here you can also fly to most of the main cities and towns in Egypt, as well as arriving from them. EgyptAir runs daily flights from Cairo to Aswan, as well as Aswan to Cairo, which take, on average, about 60 minutes. It is also possible to book flights to Abu Simbel, though this must be done in advance.

By train:
Aswan is the terminus on the main Cairo to Aswan railway line and has a modern station at the northern end of the city. Services to both Cairo and Luxor are very frequent, though restriction on tourists are in place right now which allows them to only use the sleeper service, or the trains either side of them.                                            

Alexandria, the city created by Alexander the Great in 333BCE and with a history very different from any of the other cities in Egypt. When this famous Macedonian (the Greek state, not the former Yugoslav country) was en route to visit the Oracle Temple of Amun at the Siwa oasis he stopped overnight at the village of "Re-qdt” (its Greek name is “Racotis”) between the Mediterranean Sea and the Lake of Mariott (its location today is the area of Tel Bab Sadrah or Karmouz). Alexander decided that this was to be the spot where a great city would be built and charged one of his architects, Dinocratis, to build it.

 

He continued on to Siwa, to consult the oracle about his destiny and then left Egypt to fight the Persians in Asia. Sadly it is not known what the Oracle told Alexander, but it is generally believed that he was told he was to be a great leader. After his triumphal campaigns, Alexander the Great died in Babylon in 323 BC without ever seeing the city that bears his name: in fact it was not until the reigns of Ptolemy I, (Soter - the Saviour), and his successor Ptolemy II (Philadelphus) that the building of the city was completed and it became the main capital.


Dinocratis planned the city in squares, like a chessboard with two main streets interlaced vertically and horizontally extending from east to west as well as from north to south. Alexandria had 5 districts, each one named after a letter of the first five letters in the Greek Alphabet: A (Alpha); B (Beta); G (Gamma); D (Delta) and E (Epsilon). These 5 letters represent the initial letters of the text: "Alexander the king, the descendent of the gods, erected the city".

- Alpha was the royal district where the royal palaces, the main Temple, the     museum, the libraries, and the gardens were built,

- Beta was the district of the Greek aristocracy.

- Gamma was dedicated to the settlement of the Greek commoners.

- Delta was the district of the foreign minorities such as the Syrians, the Persians, and the Jews.

- Epsilon was the district for the native Egyptians.
 

Drinking water was supplied by a canal starting from the western Canopic branch of the Nile, at a point called "Shedia" about 27 km to the south of Alexandria. The water was stored in Cisterns; some of which remain into modern times.

At the beginning of the Roman period, about 30 BC, a new city was built here by the Romans, bearing the name of "Nicopolis" which means the city of Victory, in order to commemorate the victory of Octavian over Mark Anthony in Aktium in 31 BC. Most of it was destroyed or vanished for several reasons, including disturbances, civil wars, revolts, natural disasters, subsoil water and unplanned urbanization etc.

Among the fabulous monuments mentioned by ancient Greek books are the Enclosure Walls and the Gates of the City, the Lighthouse, the Great Library, the Royal Necropolis including the Tomb of Alexander and the Museums. Today the remaining monuments of ancient Alexandria are different cemeteries scattered in many various locations, some of which date back to the Ptolemaic period: El-Shatby, Moustafa Kamel, El-Anfoushy, and El-Wardain. Others date back to the Roman period: the tombs of Kom El-Shouqafa (the Catacombs), the tomb of Tigran, Pompeii’s pillar, Tomb of Silvago and the cemetery of El-Qabbary which was only recently discovered. There are other important monuments in the city that date back to various periods, such as the Serapium, the Roman Theatre, the Temple of El-Ras El-Souda, Citadel of Quaitbay, the Jewellery Museum, Mosque of El-Naby Daniel, Mosque of El-Moursi Abou El-Abbas and the Memorial of the unknown soldier.

Alexandria is situated on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, 179Km (111 miles) north of Cairo. It is Egypt’s second largest city, behind Cairo, but is sadly overlooked by tourists. It is accessible by many ways:

By flight:
Alexandria International Airport or El Nouzha Airport is located 7Km (4 miles) southeast of the city centre. It offers services to domestic destinations within Egypt and cities across the Arab world. EgyptAir is the largest airline at the airport, operating over 50 weekly domestic and regional flights.

The future of El Nouzha was in doubt with the opening of Borg El Arab Airport, however in early 2010 the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation announced major plans to overhaul the airport and its facilities to ensure its future as one of the two commercial airports for Alexandria and Nile Delta region. The airport will be closed to commercial operations by late 2011 for major renovation and all traffic transferred to Borg El Arab Airport, Alexandria’s second airport. The renovation project is expected to cost US$120 million which will include lengthening the main runway (04/22) by an additional 750m and the construction of a new passenger terminal to replace the existing ageing facility. The airport will be closed down for two years to implement the expansion project and development.

By train:
Alexandria is the northern terminus for the line which runs through Cairo to Aswan and the service to Cairo is extremely good. Services are also available to Marsa Matruh, via El-Alamein, and Port Said.

By road:
Alexandria has a huge road network connecting it with towns to the east, the west, and south towards Cairo, including the myriad of towns in the Delta region. Cairo is reached by 2 main highways: The Desert Road and the Agricultural Road. Both are very busy with the former being 6-8 lanes wide.

By Cruise
Alexandria has a major seaport which is a popular stopping point for ocean going cruises and many visitors experience Egypt by arriving here.

Located in Upper Egypt Luxor has been described as the world’s biggest open air museum. Nowadays it has been elevated to the status of Governorate, though it is still classified as being in the province of Qena. It has a population of round about 230,000, most of who are employed in tourism somehow, though there are many who are employed in agriculture and commerce. It is one of the most popular destinations in Egypt, being one of those places that you must see. Because of this almost every tourist company has an office somewhere in the town.

It has been estimated that Luxor contains about a third of the most valuable monuments and antiquities in the whole world, which makes it one of this planet’s most important tourism sites. Monuments such as The Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, Deir El-Bahri (the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut), the workers village at Deir El-Medina, the list goes on and on and on. Though most visitors will stay for just a few days, it would take a substantial amount of time to visit everything in this amazing town.

Once known as Thebes, Luxor’s importance in ancient Egyptian history cannot be denied. It was the religious capital for almost all of the Pharaonic period which is why the town is dominated by the two temples; The Temple of Luxor, and the immense Temple of Karnak; the world’s largest temple complex.

Dedicated to Amun Ra, the Temple of Karnak was constantly expanded by successive pharaohs, each adding his, or her, tribute to the god. The site dates back to the Middle Kingdom under the reign of Mentuhotep (11th Dynasty), but most of what can be seen today is from the New Kingdom. Other parts of the complex include sites dedicated to Mut, the wife of Amun Ra, and their son Khonsu.

Most people know that Luxor was once Thebes, but “Thebes” was not what the ancient Egyptians called it. Ancient texts show that it was called t-apt, which means “the shrine”, with the ancient Greeks calling it tea pie. The Arabs had problems with pronunciation and so it became Thebes to them. The name vanished then as the area submitted to the desert and then by the 10th century Arab travellers thought the ruins were of grand buildings so started to call it Al-Oksour, or “site of the palaces” which slowly became Luxor.

Though it was never the capital of a united Egypt, Thebes was capital of Upper Egypt during the times when Egypt resorted to being split into two. This was especially true during the period of the Hyksos invasion when Avaris became capital in the North. Thebes was where the various pharaohs of Upper Egypt were based, and it was from here that the final campaign, under Ahmose I, to expel the Hyksos originated.

 

Today Luxor is split into two, by the River Nile, and these two areas are known as the East Bank (where the town lies) and the West Bank. Though this was also true in ancient times, the two parts were called the city of the living (East Bank) and the city of the dead (West Bank). Like most of the River Nile, the western side tends to be more desert, with the eastern side having far more arable land, and so settlement sites tended to favour this latter side.

Luxor is situated 670Km (416 miles) to the south of Cairo, 220Km (137 miles) to the north of Aswan, and 280Km (174 miles) to the west of Hurghada. It is the second most popular place to visit in Egypt, behind Cairo, and is accessible in a number of ways.

By flight:
Luxor International Airport is located 6Km (4 miles) east of the city and can be reached from most countries around the world, though it is most popular for charter flights. From here you can also fly to most of the main cities and towns in Egypt, as well as arriving from them. EgyptAir runs daily flights from Cairo to Luxor, as well as Luxor to Cairo, which take, on average, about 50 minutes.

By train:
Luxor is situated on the main Cairo to Aswan railway line and has a modern station in El-Mahata Square. Services to both Cairo and Aswan are very frequent, though restriction on tourists are in place right now which allows them to only use the sleeper service, or the trains either side of them.

By road
Though Luxor is connected by road to Cairo and has a good bus connection with the capital, tourists are asked not to attempt to use this mode of transport for this journey and are therefore left with only rail or flight as an alternative. The road to Aswan can be used though as it gives the opportunity to visit sites such as Edfu and Kom Ombo. Hurghada is reachable by a 3.5 hour bus journey, opening up the Red Sea for those who wish a change. Please note: if you do intend to use this mode of transport you are best booking your seats at least 24 hours in advance to ensure you get the seats you want.

By Cruise
Nowadays you can only go to Aswan by cruise boat, though some operators do offer the opportunity of a one day sail to see Dendera. The River Nile has not been used for cruises between Cairo and Luxor since the late 1990’s.

 

The capital of Egypt and the largest city in Africa, the name means "the victorious city". It is located on both banks of the River Nile near the head of the river's delta in northern Egypt and has been settled for more than 6000 years, serving as the capital of numerous Egyptian civilizations. Cairo is known locally as "Misr", the Arabic name for Egypt, because of its centrality in Egyptian life.

Greater Cairo is spread across three of Egypt's administrative governorates. The north eastern part is known as Kaliobia Governorate, while the west bank is part of the governorate of Giza, and the eastern parts and south eastern parts are another governorate known as Cairo, the three parts are known together as greater Cairo. The city is marked by the traditions and influences of the East and the West, the ancient and the modern. However, the city also reflects Egypt's growing poverty, and it struggles to cope with problems caused by massive population growth, urban sprawl, and a deteriorating infrastructure.

The city of Cairo covers an area of more than 453 sq km (more than 175 sq m), though it is difficult to separate the city from some of its immediate suburbs. Bracketed by the desert to the east, south, and west and bounded by the fertile Nile delta to the north, Cairo sits astride the river, though it spreads farther on the east bank than the west. Cairo also includes several river islands, which play an important role in the life of the city. As the region's principal commercial, administrative, and tourist centre, Cairo contains many cultural institutions, business establishments, governmental offices, universities, and hotels, which together create a dense pattern of constant activity.

The centre of downtown Cairo is Tahrir Square, located on the east bank. A hub of tourist activity, the vast and open square contains numerous attractions, including the Egyptian Museum, the Arab League headquarters, and the modern Umar Makram Mosque. Extending from north to south along the east bank of the Nile is the Corniche, Cairo's main thoroughfare. Located nearby is the narrow strip of land known as Garden City, one of the city's newer residential areas. In the centre of the city is the river island of Zamalek (also called Jezerah, meaning "the Island"), which contains the upscale residential and commercial neighborhood also known as Zamalek, the Cairo Opera House (founded in 1869), and the Cairo Tower (1961). Three bridges link the island with both banks of the river. The island of Al-Rodah, located to the south, is linked to the mainland by two additional bridges, while another bridge to the north carries road and rail traffic across the Nile.

Outside the city's central area on the east bank, spanning from the northeast to the southeast, are the neighborhoods of Islamic Cairo. These neighborhoods are known for their narrow streets, crowded markets (bazaars), and hundreds of Mosques, many dating back to the medieval period. South of the Islamic district is Old Cairo, where some of the city's oldest architectural monuments can be found. Old Cairo is the home of Cairo's Coptic Christian community, and the site of the Coptic Museum plus a number of Coptic churches.

The irrigation of Cairo's desert periphery has allowed for the development of suburbs, such as Heliopolis, located to the northeast. Other modern suburbs are interspersed with recently created migrant neighborhoods that accommodate the city's growing population. Industrial areas further crowd the city, restricting its growth. An international airport serves Cairo, situated approximately 24 km (about 15 m) northeast of the city; the Ramses railway station and the bus terminal are located near downtown Cairo.

Cairo is the chief commercial and industrial centre of Egypt. Local industries manufacture cotton textiles, food products, construction supplies, motor vehicles, aircraft, and chemical fertilizers. Iron and steel are produced at the south part just outside the city. Cairo is also a centre for government activities and service industries. Because of the city's warm climate and numerous historical and cultural attractions, tourism plays an important role in its economy. Cairo receives goods shipped on the Nile at the river port, located at the northern end of the city. From Cairo, products are sent by road, railroad, and waterway to the Mediterranean ports of Alexandria and Port Said. The city is connected by train service to other major cities. Traffic congestion is a growing problem in Cairo, but it is the only city in the Middle East and Africa that has a subway. A subway system opened in the city in 1987.for the first time carrying about 2 million passengers everyday. Lately a second line has been opened, this linked the old line with the western superb in the west bank (Giza), The third line is still under construction which will connect Cairo airport to the city centre and finish in the busy suburb of Imbaba.

Population

In 1998 Cairo was estimated to have a population of 16 million. The people of Cairo are known as Cairenes; nearly all of them are Egyptians with small number of foreigner. The city is an important centre of the Islamic faith, and Cairenes are predominantly Sunni Muslims; however, the city is also home to a sizable Coptic community, which traces its origins to the Christians who populated Cairo before the arrival of Islam. Cairo's population swells daily as workers flow into the city from the surrounding area, clogging roads and rail lines every morning and evening. Many Cairenes are recent arrivals from villages along the Nile. These rural migrants arrive with few skills or resources, and compound the existing problems of unemployment and scarce housing.

Education and Culture 

The most famous educational institution in Cairo is the Al-Azhar University, the oldest in the Islamic world. The institution has grown up around the Al-Azhar Mosque, the oldest Mosque in Cairo. The Fatimid founded both the university and Mosque in 970. Al-Azhar University is an authoritative voice throughout the Islamic world, and its positions on important issues are influential in Egypt and the Arab world. Other institutions of higher education include Cairo University (Founded in1908) and Ain Shams University (1950), which together enrols more than 100,000 students; and the American University in Cairo, founded in 1919, where the children of Egypt's elite mingle with students and faculty from abroad. Egyptian history is displayed and preserved in the city's numerous Museum collections. The Egyptian Museum (Founded in 1902) contains hundreds of thousands of artefacts, including more than 1700 pieces from the collection of Tutankhamen. The Museum of Islamic Arts (1881) contains a vast collection relating to early Islamic civilization, and the Coptic Museum (1910) traces the history of the Coptic community in Egypt. Other Cairo Museums maintain collections relating to more modern themes; these range from the El-Gawhara Palace Museum, built in 1811 in the Ottoman style, to the Mahmoud Khalil Museum, founded in 1963, which contains works by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Peter Paul Rubens, and other European and Egyptian painters of renown.