Egypt is one of the most popular places in the world for international tourists to visit, so at one point or another, if you consider yourself a world traveler, you’ll probably end up there. That’s not a bad thing! You’ll see pyramids. You’ll see the Sphinx. You’ll see 20 million people packed very tightly into the greater Cairo metro area. A trip to Egypt can be deeply
fulfilling, especially if you find interest in ancient cultures and early non-Western approaches to religion, science, math and philosophy. On the other hand, being a tourist in Egypt isn’t always safe, isn’t always easy and can even be downright exhausting.
Despite the twenty million residents of Cairo all shouldering for the same seat on the bus, much of the annoyance tourists experience when visiting Egypt has to do with the fact that there are so many tourists visiting Egypt. The main sites are packed with both international
tour groups and with Egyptians who earn their modest living by separating tourists from their money. Don’t be daunted, but when you plan your trip, do understand that you’re not the only Westerner who’s ever thought, “I’d sure like to see me some of those pyramids!”
Don’t miss the many only-in-Egypt historical sites, such as:
— the Giza pyramids, including the Great Sphinx:
At Giza, not far from Cairo, there are three main pyramids, each built to act as a burial chamber for an Egyptian pharaoh. The biggest of the three, and the largest pyramid in the world, is “The Great Pyramid,” built as the tomb of the pharaoh Khufu/Cheops, who we met above, which is composed of 2.3 million stone blocks, each of which weighs between 2.5 and 15 tons. (Learn about the Great Pyramid. See many photos of it on Flickr. Watch The UnMuseum’s video arguing that the pyramids were not built by aliens.) On the east side of the complex is the Sphinx, which the preponderance of Egpytologists believe to be a portrayal of the head of Pharaoh Khafre, son of Khufu/Cheops, fused to a lion’s body. (Learn about the Great Sphinx of Giza. See many photos of it on Flickr. Do you believe the Sphinx was built by residents of Atlantis? Refuting Dr. Hawass, who we met above | What happened to the Spinx’s nose?)
— The Valley of the Kings:
Across the Nile from ancient Thebes, now known as Luxor, is a valley containing 63 known tombs and chambers which served as the final resting places of pharaohs of the New Kingdom, such as King Tut, who we met above. (See Ancient-egypt.org’s overview of the Valley of the Kings, which includes a detailed, tomb-by-tomb listing | An explanation
and some photos of the Valley of the Kings, brought to you by world travelers Eve and George DeLange)
— The Temple Complexes at Luxor and Kamak:
Two massive temple complexes near ancient Thebes (modern Luxor) built by Amenhotep III and Ramses II, dedicated to the three most popular gods in Thebes during the New Kingdom (Amun, creator of all things and the god of air and wind, his wife Mut, the
“divine mother,” and their son, moon-god Khonsu), though also built to encourage awe of the pharaohs. Let TourEgypt.net introduce you to the Temple Complex at Luxor and Karnak.
PBS takes you on an interactive tour of Ancient Egypt | National
Geographic’s introduction to Egyptian pyramids | Who built the pyramids? Mark Lehrer
says it was Egyptians, though not as many as you’d think, including the “Friends of Khufu
gang,” while you can scroll down to see that Zani Hawass (here he is again) says it was 36,000 working class Egyptians, not slaves. Though who are these smartypants Egyptologists kidding? It had to be aliens.
When you go to Egypt you should definitely hit all the main sites. Hit them and hit them hard, but then get off the beaten track. LonleyPlanet.com’s Egypt pages suggest over a thousand things to do around the country. With a thousand ideas, as well as tips from Lonely Planet’s hand-picked Egypt travel bloggers, you should definitely be able to find something to do that doesn’t involve a pyramid, an ancient temple or having to pay anyone more than the customary baksheesh.
Want to travel to Egypt with your kids? TravelforKids.com’s Egypt pages are a great place to start your research. They’ll suggest you join gaggles of Egyptian schoolkids at Cairo’s Egypt museum, where not only you’ll learn about King Tut but you’ll get to meet lots of mummies, go to the Giza where you should “[r]ide donkeys, camels or horses around the pyramids,” and visit Luxor where you should go to the Karnak Temple,
but where your kids will probably want to run around all the columns in the courtyard (though, as the site advises, “You do need to run quietly [shouting is frowned on] and try not to bump into any tour groups.”) TravelForKids.com also gives you great kids’ book recommendations for the countries it suggests you visit; scroll down on their Egypt pages for their Egyptian suggestions.<br