Modern tourism was founded in Egypt more than a hundred years ago when a fellow named Thomas Cook began organizing trips down the Nile to view ‘the world’s greatest display of antiquity’. Not-surprisingly, Egypt has been a major tourist destination ever since, enthralling the world with its incredible pyramids and temples.
Despite being somewhat of a traffic calamity, Cairo is one of the world’s great tourist cities, largely thanks to the Great Pyramids of Giza, guarded by the Sphinx, on the city outskirts.
Visiting Islamic Cairo is like stepping back in time six centuries, its full of tiny alleyways, mud brick houses, food hawkers, and goats, camels and donkeys. The Citadel is a medieval fortress with its own Al-Azhar Mosque that dominates the skyline. Coptic Cairo has Roman origins and the Fortress of Babylon is the sole remaining evidence of Christian influence in the city. The world famous Egyptian Museum is unmatched in its display of antiquity.
Luxor outdoes Cairo with temples and amazing ancient architecture. The Temples of Karnak complex is the centerpiece, consisting of endless chambers and enclosures, a courtyard of towering pillars, statues, sphinxes and fascias covered in hieroglyphic reliefs. Nearby, Luxor Temple is smaller but offers an impressive front entrance with towering statues of Ramses.
Ever since the arrival of Alexander the Great, Alexandria has commanded importance in Egypt as a busy maritime city and center of learning. Roman remains include the recently excavated Roman Amphitheatre, the enormous Pompey’s Pillar, Catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa and much more submerged under the port or on display in the excellent Greco-Roman Museum. There are several sun-soaked resort towns along the stretch of the Mediterranean coast near Alexandria, such as Sidi Abdel Rahman.
Despite its size, much of Egypt’s attractions are drivable because they are clustered along the Nile or Red sea coast. These areas are safe and it is easy to cross the desert landscape while driving through the stark mountainous Sinai is a unique experience. There are many tourist police and offer convoys if you’re nervous.