From Cairo's medieval mosques to the gargantuan pyramids of Giza, Egypt is a nation of biblical proportions and epic history. The nation's main artery is the river Nile, which snakes through the capital southward to a verdant delta dotted with pharaonic sites and the great temple of Abu Simbel. From vast desert dunes and hilltop monasteries to the vibrant coral reefs of the Red Sea, Egypt is a rich tapestry, a land as old as civilization itself.
The river Nile coils through Egypt's capital, Cairo, where the narrow alleyways of the medieval marketplace Khan el-Khalili meander past sturdy Mamluk mosques. Cleopatra's royal quarters lie submerged in the seas around coastal Alexandria, where the high-tech Bibliotecha is just a short walk from traditional Greek houses. The sturdy pillars of Luxor temple dominate the city, looking even more dramatic under spotlight at night. Farther south at Aswan, white-sailed feluccas and regal dahabbiya boats flutter across the tranquil, palm-fringed river.
In Egypt's far northwest, the sand-colored 13th-century Shali Fortress crowns Siwa Oasis, a sleepy outpost favored by Alexander the Great. Bridging Africa and Asia, an arid moonscape of jagged mountain ranges fill the Sinai desert, where visitors trek to sacred Mount Sinai to see St. Catherine's Monastery cast in dawn's first light. Find your way along hidden trails through the verdant Ras Mohammed National Park to a lagoon-filled peninsula inhabited by storks and foxes.
Brilliant technicolor fish dart between coral reefs and sponges off the Red Sea coast, one of the world's most glorious sites for scuba diving or simply paddling about with snorkel and fins. Swim with dolphins at El Gouna or dive the wrecks near popular resort Sharm el-Sheikh. Ride the waves while windsurfing at busy Hurghada, or relax with beatniks on laid-back Dahab's tawny beaches.
Eating and Drinking
In Egypt, you're never far away from spicy minced lamb kofta, little cups of thick Arabic coffee and fruity sheesha pipe. In Cairo, fill up on local favorites such as lentil-filled koshary and fava-bean fuul off tin plates in street stalls, or dine on sushi in a chic riverside restaurant. The scent of fresh herbs and fish cooked in earthenware pots wafts from backstreet Aswan restaurants. Alexandria shows off its Greek heritage, favoring grilled calamari and mezze starters.