Cairo, the very model of a modern megalopolis, is perfect for watching the human parade at night. Hit the town to see belly dancers in a dive bar or a luxury-hotel cabaret, embark on a Downtown bar crawl or find some live music.
Beyond the Pyramids
The Egyptian Museum is so crammed with thrilling artefacts that it’s a destination in itself. Fast-forward through time to visit the early churches in Coptic Cairo, or stroll through picturesque Islamic Cairo, with its awesome mosques and palaces.
Souqs & Boutiques
Heaving with commerce for more than a millennium, the souq of Khan Al Khalili is a great browse. If nothing strikes your fancy there, try the city’s many boutiques for stylish souvenirs, from vintage movie posters to leather-bound books.
Cairo Outskirts & the Nile Delta
The Other Pyramids
The vast complex of Saqqara, with Zoser’s experimental Step Pyramid, is a full-day outing from Cairo. Dedicated Egyptomaniacs can also visit Tanis, set between lush fields and desert.
Oases & Farms
Just an hour from Cairo is the semi-oasis of Al Fayoum, where the arts colony of Tunis harbours ceramicists and other creative types. In the fertile Nile Delta, there are few tourist sites, but the countryside is lush.
The birthday of 13th-century religious leader Al Sayyed Ahmed Al Badawi draws up to a million people each year to the town of Tanta.
Luxor & Karnak
Luxor has the highest concentration of ancient Egyptian monuments: the astonishing temples of Karnak, and Luxor Temple, open till late for atmospheric sightseeing. And that’s just on the east bank of the Nile.
Valley of the Kings
On the Nile's west bank, it just gets better: the Valley of the Kings, of King Tut fame; the Temple of Hatshepsut, cut out of the cliffs; and, oh, the 1000-tonne Colossi of Memnon just standing by.
More than just a means to enjoy the air-conditioning, the exemplary Luxor Museum has an excellent and beautifully displayed collection of finds from nearby temples – including two royal mummies, displayed unwrapped.
Fun in the Sun
Traces of Alexandria’s cosmopolitan glamour can still be found in scores of old cafes where writers Lawrence Durrell, Constantine Cavafy and others once mused.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina only opened in 2002, but it was inspired by the ancient library that once drew scholars from all over the Mediterranean. For a portrait of the city from Graeco-Roman times on, visit the excellent Alexandria National Museum.
Seafront pleasures here include fresh-fish dinners on Alexandria’s corniche and beaches strung out to the west, mobbed in summer as Egyptians escape the heat.
Northern Nile Valley
Temples & Tombs
You might think you'll see everything ancient worth seeing between Cairo, Luxor and Aswan, but the temples and tombs here – such as Beni Hasan and Tell Al Amarna – are well worth visiting and Abydos is in itself worth a journey to Egypt.
At Deir Al Muharraq, in the oldest church of the world, monks conduct Mass in the Coptic language. At the beautiful Red Monastery, near Sohag, the walls still display 4th-century frescoes.
Minya, the official gateway to Upper Egypt, is a surprisingly elegant midsize city with faded early-20th-century architecture.
Red Sea Coast
Fun in the Sun
Resorts & Beach Camps
The concrete resort town of Hurghada is offset by the sophistication of El Gouna and the simpler pleasures of beach camps around Marsa Alam, or if you’re a kitesurfer, the windy coast at Safaga.
The Coptic monasteries of St Anthony and St Paul, the world's first Christian hermitages, are adorned with 13th-century wall paintings. In the photogenically crumbling port of Al Quseir, visit an Ottoman fortress.
Tourist infrastructure in the Eastern Desert is sparse but with a guide you can trek to abandoned Roman mines, spot migratory birds and even visit a remote camel market.
Fun in the Sun
God is said to have given Moses the law here at Mt Sinai, traditionally a popular hike for religious and secular travellers alike. St Catherine's Monastery, at the base of the peak, is home to early Byzantine icons.
Beach Camps & Resorts
The beach camps between Taba and Dahab are relaxed and low-key. At the other end of the scale, Sharm El Sheikh serves up a glitzy, international holiday scene.
Deserts & Reefs
The interior of the Sinai is the place for starlit treks with Bedouin guides, while Ras Mohammed National Park is a coral wonderland.
Southern Nile Valley
The Temple at Edfu is one of the best preserved in Egypt, and the quarries of Gebel Silsila are where so many monuments got their start. In the southernmost spot is the grand Ramses II temple at Abu Simbel.
Lake Nasser & Aswan
A cruise along Lake Nasser’s banks reveals crocodiles and gazelles, while around Aswan the birdwatching is exceptional, especially in winter.
Trance-like folk music, elegant mud-brick architecture and distinctive clothing are characteristics of the unique culture in this part of Egypt.
Ismailia & Port Said
Squint just right in downtown Ismailia and Port Said and you can almost see the pashas and European dandies who built the canal, strolling in front of the decaying French-colonial buildings.
Before the British and French opened up the shipping channel between Africa and Asia, the pharaohs and the Persians dug waterways here. See the archaeological traces at the Ismailia Museum.
Cruise the Canal
Watch global commerce in action as giant container ships transit through the newly enlarged canal. In Port Said hop on a free ferry to get a glimpse of the action.
Ruined garrisons hint at the lively trade routes that criss-crossed the Western Desert in Roman times. Well before that, the Oracle of Amun foretold destruction in the 6th century BC.
‘Desert’ doesn’t convey the full variety of wild land here: soak in hot springs or cold pools, and explore the White Desert gleaming like a snowfield in full moon.
Few trips are lower impact than to walk out of an oasis and into the desert. Try Siwa or Dakhla, where you can round out the adventure with a stay at a lodge designed to integrate seamlessly with the desert landscape.