Forget diving in Sharm El Sheikh - an alternative travel guide to Egypt
The recent shark attacks in the diving idyll of Sharm el Sheikh have no doubt rocked the Egyptian travel experience for many tourists, especially as the country hits its peak winter season. There are however lots of alternatives in this North African destination, from ancient monuments, the largest hot desert on earth, the world’s longest river and the only surviving ancient monument from the Seven Wonders of the World.
Cairo and the pyramids
Whilst diving orientated holidays in Egypt fly direct into Sharm el Sheikh, there’s another airport at Cairo. As the capital and one of the densest populated cities in the world, Cairo has a vibrant history and culture that hits the traveler on arrival with an infrastructure that straddles the ancient, modern and everything in between. Alongside vast Islamic architecture, remnants of the 10th Century city and the world famed pyramids at Giza, the city offers a full onslaught of Egyptian life at full throttle.
Mount Sinai and St Catherine's Monastery
An important pilgrimage site for all faiths, Mount Sinai is believed to be the spot where Moses received the Ten Commandments - towering at 2285m, Mount Sinai has become a popular destination for tourists as well as pilgrims with daily treks to watch the sunset or sunrise over the expansive, rocky vista. The Monastery of St. Catherine nestles at the foot at Mount Sinai - with UNESCO World Heritage status, the site is claimed to be the oldest working Christian monastery in the world.
Cruising the Nile
The north flowing Nile snakes its way through Africa from Rwanda and Tanzania, through Uganda, Sudan and Egypt before emptying into the Mediterranean. As the northern part of the river passes through desert landscape it’s presence has played an important role in civilization throughout the ages, and in Egypt all the major monuments and settlements are found on or near the banks of the Nile. Cruising on a felucca, an ancient sail boat, can be the ultimate way to travel through the heart of the country. Aswan and Luxor are the hub of the river trade with tours and excursions well catered for.
Luxor and Aswan
Created around the 4,000 year old city of Thebes, the birthplace of Dionysos and Hercules, Luxor itself is stacked with antiquity, whilst the Valley of the Kings, resting place of King Tutankhamun, lies on the west bank. Cruises follow the well worn Luxor to Aswan water route, Egypt’s most southerly city – a sleepy settlement hugging the river, it’s one of the driest inhabited places on earth. Tourist highlights include Elephantine Island, home of the Nilometers and Temples of Sati, Khnum and Pepinakht-Heqaib; numerous tombs and mausoleums dot the west bank.
The vast plains of the Sahara carpet most of the country, but the huge sand seas and oracle like oases offer the ultimate desert experience. Dakhla Oasis has become the most popular of the seven oases, surrounded by pink cliffs and stuffed with date palms, mulberry trees, citrus and figs; the White Desert, of Farafra, has huge natural chalk rock formations that have been sculpted by the wind and sand; whilst the Great Sand Sea is the third largest dune field in the world – the size of England, travel across them via jeep, camel, donkey or foot.
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