Egypt holidays

Experience Egypt

Best Places to Visit

Many package holidays to Egypt centre around Cairo, but Luxor is also an excellent option. The Valley of the Kings is where most of the pharaohs were buried, and those tombs are now numbered with a King's Valley or KV prefix. The tombs themselves are open to visitors throughout the summer and winter months, with closing time a little earlier in the winter.

For a slightly different experience during a holiday to Egypt, head to Aswan. This smaller city is also more relaxed than either Cairo or Luxor, and is the furthest south of the major tourist destinations on the River Nile. It also has something unique to offer, in the form of the Aswan Dam, which is often included as just one stop on a longer bus tour. Generally speaking, this is a sensible way to visit it, as those who do so tend not to spend too long at the site once they have ticked it off of their to-do list.

Alexandria is an awe-inspiring destination for many travellers on an Egypt holiday, not so much because of its present-day status, but because of some of its former landmarks. Sadly these did not survive, but still there is a hugely spiritual feeling when you walk through the streets of the modern city and think about what came before. Among those treasures was the Library of Alexandria, believed to have housed all of the great knowledge of the time, which was sadly destroyed in its entirety sometime in the first few centuries AD. The Lighthouse of Alexandria, on the island of Pharos, was up to 150m in height, built around the third century BC. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it survived about a millennium and a half, until successive earthquakes in the early 1300s brought an equally sad end to the structure.

Wherever you go on holiday in Egypt, you get the sense that you are walking through history. Many cultures and traditions are represented throughout the country, its cities and even in its tourist resorts, instilling evocative and emotional sentiments in the vast majority of those who make the journey to this ancient part of the world.

Top Landmarks

Egypt's main landmarks are instantly and universally recognisable. The great pyramids that stand on the outskirts of Cairo are the one remaining Wonder of the Ancient World, still in close to their original condition. The Pyramids of Giza, to use their most common name, date back to the third millennium BC, and were constructed as tombs for the pharaohs. You can actually enter two of the pyramids at any one time, while the third is closed for a two-year restoration period.

Outside on the Giza Plateau is another iconic structure often associated with the Pyramids, but standing alone a short distance away. This is the Sphinx, whose name in Greek literally translates as 'Strangler', and the human-headed lion figure represents the sun god Re-Horakhty, known to the Egyptians as Abu el-Hol or the Father of Terror. It is not actually a construction in the same way that the Pyramids are built from millions of individual blocks of stone; in fact, the entirety of the Sphinx is carved from a single block of sandstone and measures 22m wide and 45m long. The missing nose is attributed to troops playing target practice, although nobody is certain whether the British, French or Turks were to blame for this.

Entertainment

Although it is not a form of entertainment as such, a trip to the top of Cairo Tower is a good idea if you are staying in the city. It's a catch-all way to spend an afternoon as you can enjoy a delicious dinner with great views across the cityscape around you. Telescopes can be used for a closer look at particular parts of the city too, and this gives you the perfect opportunity to get a good Getting Around of the 'fabric' of Cairo as a whole, and potentially spot some landmarks or streets that you would like to go and see close up later in your visit.

You might want to head to one of the city's sports clubs, where you can usually buy a day pass as a foreign guest. There are changing rooms on site, along with places to buy food, and your ticket should give you access to the full range of sports available at the relevant club. On particularly hot days, this can be a good way of getting access to a swimming pool for a refreshing dip, and the clubs often also have grounds and gardens where you can simply relax in the sun or in the shade of a tree.

Dining Out

Although the iconic view of the Pyramids can give the impression that Egypt is a desert, it has coastlines on both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. Seafood forms a hugely important part of the local diet here, and of speciality dishes of the region. For an authentic taste, buy from a stall located close to a fish market. You may well be given your own choice of exactly which kind of fish you want to be served, and it's always a good sign if the communal tables are occupied by as many local diners as they are by tourists.

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Need to know

Language

The official language throughout Egypt is Arabic. However, you shouldn't face a language barrier, as European languages are widely spoken. These include French, German, Spanish and Italian, along with English, and they are especially likely to be spoken as a courtesy in the tourist resorts.

Currency

The currency is the Egyptian pound, although you will find major currencies including sterling, US dollars and the euro may be widely accepted. Resist the temptation to spend your own currency - you'll get better value by exchanging it. Withdrawing cash from ATMs is a good way to avoid having large amounts of currency with you, or if you want to exchange cash, do it at a bureau de change for better rates than at hotel reception desks. An interesting point is that foreign currency notes may be accepted, but coins are not - and if a local approaches you in the street with a handful of sterling coins, they may actually be hoping to exchange them for Egyptian currency so they can spend them.

Visas

International arrivals into Egypt require a visa, which can be obtained at the airport and is valid for a fairly short period of one month. An exception is the popular package holiday destination and coastal area of Sharm el-Sheikh, as you may be allowed in without a visa as long as you don't leave your resort.

Climate

When choosing an Egypt holiday, keep in mind that it has a largely desert climate - think of the sands surrounding the Pyramids and you're along the right lines. Expect it to be very hot and dry in summer, with greater humidity on the coast and the Nile Delta. Pure cotton clothing is sensible for the summer, as it will let your body breathe.

Main Airports

There are a number of international airports in Egypt, giving you several options as to where you land. Cairo, Luxor and Alexandria each have an airport to serve them and it is Cairo that handles the bulk of international air traffic. This is ideal if you want to see the Pyramids, as they are located close to the outskirts of the city, just a short distance from the buildings.

Flight Options

Egypt’s airports are served by a range of airlines, flying to both domestic and international destinations. Those booking package holidays to Egypt can choose to fly with names like British Airways, EgyptAir and Emirates, from a range of UK airports.

Travel Advice

If you are planning to fly into Egypt from one of its closest neighbouring countries, it is worth checking beforehand that the route is still in operation, as schedules change quite often. As with any destination, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office issues regularly updated advice on which locations to consider safe and which you should avoid. Check this information before you travel so you can be more confident that the part of the country you intend to visit is not considered to be a cause for concern at the present time.

Other Transport Options

Strict border controls mean driving to Egypt isn’t an option for package holiday-goers, but you can always travel by boat if you don’t fancy hopping on a plane. You may have to fly part-way, but can then catch a ferry and enjoy the scenic route.

Getting Around

Egypt is a diverse and varied country, with transport systems to match. If you’re looking to travel around the country or simply explore the local area as thoroughly as possible, there are plenty of options open to you.

Bus

Long-distance bus services are an alternative, and on the more popular routes you should have a choice of operators for these. You travel at your own risk; some drivers will speed considerably, and Egypt's road safety record is not the best. In the cities, taxi drivers are equally reckless, but they are a convenient way of getting from place to place at a relatively low cost. It is wise to make sure you have all of your belongings with you at the moment you step out of the car - and definitely before you hand your money to the driver.

Train

Almost the entire rail network is state-owned, with regular and frequent services, including along the route from Cairo to Alexandria. Long-distance trains may include sleeper cars for you to rest during the overnight portion of the journey, and it is often said that the relatively small additional cost for First Class accommodation is well worth it. There are caveats, however, such as the risk of trains being fully booked in the peak season, making it worthwhile to buy a ticket in advance if possible. In some circumstances you may find as a foreigner that you are simply not allowed on a certain train due to security restrictions.

MAP

EGYPT`S WEATHER TODAY

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FACTS

  1. The Pyramids of Giza were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and are the only entry from the original list to survive intact to this day.
  2. 'Intact' is open to some debate. The Great Pyramid of Khufu, built using more than two million individual blocks of stone, was originally 146m tall. However, today it stands at 137m, probably due to the outer layer of 'casing stones' having been removed after a 1303 AD earthquake shook them out of position.
  3. A few casing stones remain in place. Their precision positioning is often said to be so close to perfect that it would be almost impossible to achieve.

FACTS

  1. The Pyramids of Giza were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and are the only entry from the original list to survive intact to this day.
  2. 'Intact' is open to some debate. The Great Pyramid of Khufu, built using more than two million individual blocks of stone, was originally 146m tall. However, today it stands at 137m, probably due to the outer layer of 'casing stones' having been removed after a 1303 AD earthquake shook them out of position.
  3. A few casing stones remain in place. Their precision positioning is often said to be so close to perfect that it would be almost impossible to achieve.

Where to go in Egypt

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