The land: Egypt is located in the northeastern corner of Africa and covers an area of 386,000 square miles. Only about 5% of the country is inhabited along the banks of the Nile whose course stretches over 900 miles from the Mediterranean in the North to the Sudan in the South. To the West lies Libya and to the East are the desert plateau, Red Sea and Sinai. Egypt's most fertile area is the Nile Delta. Cairo, Egypt's capital has more than 20 million inhabitants, and Alexandria, the country’s second largest city, has a population of 6.5 million.
The people: In 2010, Egypt's population totaled. More than 82 million. About 90% of Egyptians are concentrated in the fertile Nile Delta and live in 5% of the country's territory - 44% in urban areas and most in some 4,000 villages. However, during the past few years, there has been an urban migration. The Egyptians are outgoing, warm and have a distinct sense of humor. They have respect and a liking for foreigners, and a deep sense of tolerance for other races, religions and nationalities.
Geography: Egypt is located in the northeastern corner of Africa. Rectangular in shape, it covers an area of 386,000 square miles. To the West lie the Western Desert and Libya, and a desert plateau, Red Sea and Sinai, borders the East. The Sudan is on Egypt's southern border and to the North lies the Mediterranean. Only about 4 to 5 percent of the vast country is inhabited along the banks of the Nile. Below Cairo, the Nile fans out in two main branches - Rosetta on the West and Damietta on the East.
Egypt can be divided into the following parts:
The Eastern Desert: including the plateau extending from the Nile Valley to the Red Sea, and The Sinai which includes Mount Catherine, Egypt's highest mountain, reaching 8,668 feet.
The Western Desert: about 68 percent of the country's total territory. It extends from the Nile Valley to the Libyan borders, and from the Mediterranean coast to the Sudan.
The Nile Valley: Egypt's main inhabited area. This fertile valley is a strip 7 to 9 miles wide along the Nile and some 6,000 square miles in the Nile Delta. The Nile's total length in Egypt is about 900 miles.
Founded on the site of Babylon, near the ruins of ancient Memphis, Cairo has been the largest city in Africa for centuries. Modern Cairo encompasses many former cities and their monuments: the pyramids of the pharaohs; early Christian monasteries and churches; Salah al-Din's Citadel; mosques of the Mamluke and Ottoman sultans. Five thousand years of culture are concentrated here, at the center of three continents.
Travel through time in a city that is a living index to civilization. Enjoy the comforts of a cosmopolitan twentieth-century capital. Cairo, a microcosm of the greater world.
Today's skyline mixes minarets and palm trees with art deco villas and multicolored neon - but you can still see the sunset over the Nile. Cairo has a unique atmosphere: both exciting and relaxed. The city pulses with life while the Nile flows on to the sea.
Cairo is divided into 4 categories
1- Pharaonic Cairo:
The Egyptian Museum:
One of the world's most famous museums. The magnificent collection of antiques includes mummies, Sarcophagi and the fabulous treasures from Tutankhamen’s tomb.
The Great Pyramids:
"One of the Seven Wonders of the World, King Cheops' pyramid was built c. 2650 BC "" it is impossible to get tired of the Pyramids."
"Sacred symbol of the union of the strongest physical with the highest intellectual Power on earth,"
The Solar Barque of King Cheops:
A cedar-wood craft built to take the Pharaoh through the underworld.
The royal burial-ground during the Old Kingdom (2705-2155 BC). There are so many periods represented that Saqqara could almost be a book, in whose pages the story of Egyptian Civilization through the Pharaonic Greek and Roman periods is told. Discoveries are still being made today. The Mastabas of Mereruka, Ti and Path-Hotep: Carved and painted tombs vividly illustrate everyday life more than 5,000 years ago.
The Step Pyramid in Sakkara:
The first proper pyramid, built for King Zoser in the 27th-century BC by the architect Imhotep.
One of the oldest cities on earth, legendary Memphis was the capital of ancient Egypt throughout the Old Kingdom.
2- Coptic Cairo:
The Hanging Church (al-Mu'allaqua):
Originating in the 4th century, the hanging Church was built over the southern gate of the fortress of Babylon. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, its treasures include a 1 4th-century wall painting of the Nativity.
Church of St. Sergius and St. Bacchus:
A 5th-century basilica, built over a crypt where the Holy family is believed to have stayed during their flight into Egypt.
Church of St. Mercurius: (Abi, Sefein):
A unique collection of Coptic art including 175 icons representing scenes from the Old and New Testaments wall paintings, etchings and stained glass.
The Convent of St. George (Plad Girgis):
In the oldest part of Cairo, the chapel is reached through a ratimid hallway and contains the relics of St. George in a cedar wood casket.
The Coptic Museum:
It contains a collection of rare antiquities from one of the earliest Christian communities in the world. It holds a collecction of valuable pieces of architechetures, Knit artifacts, icons, and old manuscripts. It is also offers the most extensive collection of Coptic artifacts in the world.
3- Islamic Cairo:
The Citadel of Salah Al-Din:
Built between 1176 and 1182 AD, the Citadel fortress provides a panoramic view of Cairo from the Moqattam Hills. "...The living world spread out close beneath one's feet. " The Citadel complex includes the Alabaster Mosque.
The Mosque and Madrassa of Sultan Hassan:
A masterpiece of Mamluke architecture it includes bronze doors inlaid with gold and silver, marble paneling, and a fountain that used to run with sherbet on special occasions.
The Qalawun Nasir Barquq complex:
A medieval complex of mosques, mausoleums and madrassas built by three Mamluke sultans.
The first Fatimid mosque arid the oldest Islamic University in the world, founded in 970 AD.
Part of the city's fortifications, the gate dates from 1092 AD and was formerly a place of public execution, crowned by the heads of criminals on spikes. Minarets were added to the towers in the fifteenth century.
The Blue Mosque (Mosque of Aqsunqur):
Famous for the indigo and turquoise tiles that decorate the interior.
The Mosque of Ibn Tulun:
Built between 876 and 879 AD in the classical courtyard style this is Cairo's oldest, intact mosque, still in use today.
Gayer Anderson House:
The Ottoman-style residence of an eccentric British major restored and furnished in period style and filled with his collection of Islamic art.
The Islamic Museum:
Includes works of art from all over the Islamic world, ranging from large architectural pieces rescued from mosques to ceramics, manuscripts and tapestries
4- Shopping and nightlife
Cairo offers an incredible selection of shopping, leisure, culture and nightlife. Shopping ranges from the famous Khan El-Khalili Souk, largely unchanged since the 14th century, to modern air-conditioned centers displaying the latest fashions.
All the bounty of the East is here particularly good buys are spices, perfumes, gold and silver, carpets, brass and copperware, leatherwork, glass, ceramics and mashrabyia. Try some of the famous street markets, like Wekalet al-Balah, for fabrics, including Egyptian cotton, the Tentmakers' Bazaar for appliqué-work, and Mohammed Ali Street for musical instruments. And, although you probably won't want to buy, the Camel Market makes a fascinating trip. When you need a break from city life, try a round of golf on the famous Mena House course overlooking the Pyramids watch the horse-racing at the Gezira Club or visit the Zoo and the Botanical Gardens. Take a trip on the Nile in a felucca or ride on horseback from the Giza Pyramids to Saqqara. For a day trip. outside Cairo visit Haraniyya village and see the beautiful tapestries and weaving produced by local people. Or get away from it all at the top of the Cairo Tower modem 187 meter-high tower with views of the city from all sides, topped by a revolving restaurant.
Cairo comes alive at night, the best time to shop, eat delicious Middle Eastern cuisine, or simply watch the world go by from a pavement cafe. You can dine in a floating restaurant on the Nile, sample a shisha at a coffee-shop or see oriental dancers and cabarets at a luxury hotel. The splendid Opera House complex houses several galleries (including the Museum of Modern Art), restaurants and concert halls. Listening to Arabic music under the stars, in the open-air theatre, is a magical experience. At El-Ghuriya, in the heart of Islamic Cairo, you can watch folk musicians and whirling dervish dancers. And don't forget the most essential after-dark experience, the Sound and Light show at the Pyramids, a dramatic fusion of light and music recounting the story of antiquity.
Alexandria is the second largest city in Egypt, It has an atmosphere that is more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern; its ambience and cultural heritage distance it from the rest of the country although it is actually only 225 km. from Cairo. Alexandria lies northwest of the Nile Delta and adjoins Lake Mariut. It is linked to Cairo by the Delta Road (231 km.) and the Desert Road (225 km.). It is one of the most notable summer resorts in the Middle East, known for its temperate winters and beaches, with soft sands and magnificent scenery that stretch for 40 km. along the Mediterranean Sea. Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, Alexandria became the capital of the Greco-Roman Egypt, its status as a beacon of culture symbolized by Pharos and the setting for the stormy relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. The city, immortalizing Alexander's name, flourished, beyond all expectations, into a prominent cultural, intellectual and economic metropolis, the remains of which are still evident to this day. There is so much to see in this city.
Listed below is a brief overview of some of the sites that you can visit.
Alexandria National Museum:
The museum was inaugurated on the first of September 2003. It is considered one of the most unique museums of the world as it narrates a story of a city across different ages from the past till now. The museum was situated in a place built by one of Alexandria’s Merchants in 1928 on the modern Style. The museum contains 1800 monumental pieces representing Alexandria History.
The Greco-Roman Museum:
Houses many collections of rare Roman relics and coins- about 40 thousand pieces, from the 3rd century B.C. to the 7th century A.D. The most important being the " Tanafra " statues.
Pompey's Pillar: This is a granite pillar, over 25 meters high, and built amidst the ruins of the Serapium in 297 A.D., in honor of Emperor Diocletian.
The Catacombs of Kom al-Shoqafa:
This is the largest Roman cemetery. It is of three levels and cut in the rock to a depth of 100 feet. Dating to the beginning of the 2nd century A.D., it is a blend of Pharaonic and Roman art.
The Tombs of Al-Anfushi:
These Limestone tombs, dating from about 250B.C. are decorated with pictures of Egyptian gods and daily life.
The Fort of Qait-Bay:
It lies at the northern tip of eastern harbor, on the site where the ancient Pharos of Alexandria stood. This fort was constructed in the 15th century by Qait-bay and consists of 3 floors similar to medieval fortresses in Egypt. It also houses the naval museum which revives the marine heritage of Alexandria.
The Royal Jewelry Museum:
Established in Fatma El Zahraa Palace, Alexandria – Zezenia District. It is considered a magnificent architectural piece of art ; its halls comprise several paintings, decorations and restates. The Museum houses collection of Mohamed’s Ali Family’s jewelry.
Morsi Abu Al-Abbas Mosque:
Situated at El Anfoushi, it is one of the most important Islamic monuments in Alexandria with its high minaret and four domes.
The Montazah Palace Gardens:
Acres of formal gardens and a beautiful beach make Montazah (shown to the right ) the foremost city pleasure grounds. Montazah Palace, a grand structure built in a mixture of Turkish and Florentine styles, is now a great statehouse.
The Bibliotheca Alexandria
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina is located on a magnificent site in the Eastern Harbor, facing the sea on the north, and Alexandria University Complex on its southern side. It overlooks the Silsilah Peninsula. It is very close to the location of the Old Library in the Brucheion (the Ancient Royal Quarter). The principal objective of reviving the Bibliotheca Alexandrina is to establish a comprehensive research library of a unique collection and intention. The new library is designed as a modem state-of-art translation of the old, adequate for crossing the frontiers and meeting the challenges of the 21st century. It will certainly contribute to excellence in research and advancement of human knowledge. The library will become a unique admired research institution, a haven for scholars worldwide to produce their quality work of excellence. It will also be an invaluable information resource to support decision-making and broaden future horizons for the cultural, social and economic development of Egypt and the region. Subsequently, the library will play a needed role to further cooperation between the north and south of the Mediterranean Basin. as well as between the east and west. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina has adopted its collection development policy in cooperation with UNDPIUNESCO and with valuable input of national and international experts, in order to evolve its unique collection and functions and to avoid repetition and unnecessary overlapping with other research libraries regionally or internationally. Since the famous 1990 Aswan Declaration, UNESCO and the international community has been cooperating with the Egyptian Government to muster resources for the library implementation.
Luxor is unique among the cities of the world. Wherever you tread, you feel you are experiencing the past and the present at one and the same time. There is hardly a place in the city that does not have a relic that tells of the grandeur of the Ancient Egyptians several thousand years ago. Luxor is the world's greatest open-air museum, filled with awe-inspiring monuments of ancient civilization.
Where does the name 'Luxor' comes from?
Luxor is part of ancient Thebes: the one hundred-gated city' as it was called by the renowned Greek historian, Homer, because of its buildings and large gates. The city grew over the years, and the Arabs, impressed by its beautiful palaces and huge edifices, re-named it Luxor: City of Palaces.
Luxor remained the seat of power from 2100 to 750 B.C. That is why the visitor is awed by the city, made immortal by its huge pillared-monuments along both banks of the Nile, in the City of the Living, in the east, where the life-giving sun rises; and in the City of the Dead, in the west, where the sun, in its never-ending orbit, bids farewell to life!
The Divisions of Luxor:
The East Bank of the Nile: The Temples of Luxor and Karnak, and the Museum. : The Temples of Luxor and Karnak, and the Museum.
The West Bank of the Nile: The Colossi of Memnon - The Tombs of the Valleys of the Kings and Queens - Mortuary Temples - The Tombs of the Nobles - The Tombs of Deir al-Medina.
Tourist Attractions On The East Bank Of The Nile:
Temple of Luxor:
Built by the two pharaohs: Amenhotep III and Ramses II. The temple was dedicated to Amun-Ra, whose marriage to Mut was celebrated annually, when the sacred procession moved by boat from Karnak to the Luxor Temple. The entrance is a huge pylon built by Ramses II and has two seated statues of the king. Originally, two large obelisks stood in front of the pylon. However, only one remains, while the other now stands in Place de Ia Concorde, in Paris. Beyond the pylon, is the peristyle hall - built by Ramses II - and bordered on three sides by double rows of columns with bud papyrus capitals. In the north-eastern part of the hall is the Mosque of Abul Haggag. The rest of the Temple was built by Amenhotep III, starting with the Colonnade that has fourteen hug pillars in two rows. Seated statue of Ramses II. Then we come to the large Court of Amenhotep III that is surrounded on three sides by double rows of pillars. This leads to the hypostyle hall, containing 32 pillars, and on to the Sanctuary of the Sacred Boat. Alexander the Great built a kiosk within that of Amenhotep III. Finally, we reach the four-columned Holiest of Holies: the Sanctuary of the Sacred Statue.
This is the greatest place of worship in history. It includes many singular temples, dedicated to Amoun, his wife (Mut), and their son (Khonsu), the moon deity. Since the Arab conquest, it became known as Ôal-Karnak': the Fort.
The temple starts with the Avenue of the Rams, representing Amun: symbol of fertility and growth. Beneath the rams’ heads, small statues of Ramses II were carved. The colossal statue of Pinedjem in the first courtyard.
The Sound and Light Show:
This spellbinding show, through the exquisite use of words, light and music, tells the story of this magnificent temple. The program is presented twice daily in Arabic, English, French and German.
The Luxor Museum:
The Museum is situated between the Temples Of Luxor and Karnak. It houses Pharaonic relics from Luxor and the nearby areas. The picture on the right displays how illuminating the museum is at night.
Tourist Attractions On The West Bank Of The Nile:
The Colossi of Memnon:
The only remnants of a temple commemorating Amenhotep Ill, these statues are 19.20 meters high. When they suffered cracks, and were said to sing, the Greeks named them after Memnon, the legendary hero killed at the Trojan Wars, who, each morning, called his mother Eos, the Dawn goddess, and she bewailed him, shedding tears that were the dewdrops.
The Tombs of the Valleys of the Kings and Queens: These are the two tombs, ordered by the kings and queens of the New Kingdom to be carved in the rock-faces of the valley so as to safeguard them against grave-robbers. The tomb is composed of several rooms and corridors leading to the Burial Chamber. The chief tombs of the Valley of the Queens are those of: Queen Nefertari, wife of Ramses II (shown to the left). The most important of these tombs are those of:
1) Tut-Ankh-Amun III 2) Ramses Ill 3) Seti I 4) Ramses VI 5) Amenhotep II 6) Hur-Moheb 7)Tuthmosis III
Deir el-Bahari Temple:
This temple was built by Queen Hatshepsut to perform the rites of the nether world. Deir el-Bahari is a fairly recent nomenclature from the 7th century B.C. when the Copts used it as a monastery. The Temple is composed of three impressive rising terraces, split by a road.
The Ramesseum: built in commemoration of Ramses II, its murals record the Battle of Kadesh.
Madinet Habu Temple:
Built in commemoration of Ramses Ill, characterized by its well-preserved religious and military scenes. These paintings still retain their vivid colors.
The most important tombs of the area are:
Tombs of the Nobles: portraying the lives of nobles and their families.
The Tomb of Nakht: the inscriptions portray the skill of the Egyptian artist.
The Tomb of Menna: scribe of the fields of the Two Lands, during the reign of Tuthmosis IV.
The Tomb of Ramose: one of the state officials during the reign of Amenhotep III and Akhnaten. The tomb contains inscriptions depicting Akhnaten and his wife, Nefertiti.
The visitor to Luxor may also see the Temples of Dendara and Esna:
Temple of Dendara:
This Greco-Roman temple lies about 60 kms north of Luxor. The temple was first initiated by Ptolemy III with numerous additions by subsequent Roman Ptolemaic rulers. It houses a famous painting of Queen Cleopatra, and Caesar on, her son from Julius Caesar. The temple is renowned for its horoscope inscriptions.
Temple of Esna:
Located south of Luxor, the temple has a hypostyle hall with pictures and texts telling of the Roman emperors who came to Egypt and offered sacrifices to its deities.
Aswan, Egypt's sunniest southern city and ancient frontier town, has a distinctively African atmosphere. Small enough to walk' around and graced with the most beautiful setting on the Nile, the pace of life is slow and relaxing. Days can be spent strolling up and down the broad Corniche watching the sailboats etch the sky with their tall masts or sitting in floating restaurants listening to Nubian music and eating freshly-caught fish.
Here the Nile is at its most beautiful, flowing through amber desert and granite rocks, round emerald islands covered in palm groves and tropical plants. Explore the souk, full of the scent and color of spices, perfumes, scarves and baskets; view the spectacular sunsets while having tea on the terrace of the Old Cataract Hotel. Aswan has been a favorite winter resort since the beginning of the nineteenth century and it's still a perfect place to get away from it all.
Main Tourist Sites:
One of the strongest forts along Egypt's southern borders, this island lies opposite to the "Cataract Hotel". Its chief deity was "Khnum", in the shape of a ram's head. The tourist is advised to first tour the island before visiting its monuments and museum.
The Island Temples:
There are ruins of several stone temples from various periods. The inscriptions on the pylon of a hall in the southern temple depict Alexander II as king of Egypt while offering sacrifices to the local deities.
Located east of the old city, the museum houses a number of important relics from Greco-Roman times, collected from Aswan and Nubia.
Dating to the Roman period, the Milometer shows the height of the Nile floods in Greek, Demotic and Arabic, and was used until very recently.
The Angelika Island:
This Island now houses the Temple and relics of Philae Island that was submerged by the waters of the High Dam. The Temple of Philae was dismantled and re-assembled on this island which lies about 500 meters from the original Philae Island. Sound and Light Spectacle is performed in various languages.
The Agha Khan Mausoleum:
The Mausoleum of the late leader of the Ismaili sect stands on the west bank opposite them Cataract Hotel. It is an exquisite example of Fatimid architecture.
Plantation Island “Botanical Garden” :
Lies mid-stream, near Elephantine Island, is a natural exhibition of equatorial and tropical trees and shrubs.
Tombs of the Nobles:
These rock-tombs are hewn in the western hills, opposite the northern tip of Aswan, and date back to the 23rd century B.C. The inscriptions covering the walls of these tombs depict the role of these nobles in protecting the land, and of their journeys to the interior of Africa.
The Monastery of St Simeon (Deir Amba Sama'an):
Dating back to the 6th century AD, the Monastery is one of the most intact Coptic monasteries, it comprises a church with paintings showing Christ and the Saints.
The Unfinished Obelisk:
This huge unfinished obelisk measures 41 meters in length and 4 meters square at the base. It is important because it shows the techniques adopted by the Ancient Egyptians in cutting out these obelisks.
From Nubia Temples:
The Temple of Kalabsha:
Dating back to the Roman Emperor Octavius Augustus (30 BC-14 AD), the temple was moved from its original site 55 kms south of Aswan, on the west bank, and rebuilt near the High Dam. It is one of the largest sandstone temples in Nubia. Its walls are covered with texts and inscriptions depicting Egyptian deities such as Isis, Osiris and others.
Beit El Waly Temple:
This rock-hewn temple is one of the five temples built by Ramses II in Nubia. It comprises a courtyard, a hypostyle hail, and a kiosk, with multicolored texts and inscriptions, as well as scenes of the King in the battlefield.
Features of Modern Aswan:
The Aswan Dam:
Built in 1902 AD south of Aswan, it signaled the beginning of modern irrigation in Egypt.
The High Dam:
This 20th century engineering miracle is one of the largest dams in the world, and was built to safeguard Egypt against the high Nile floods, which either destroyed large tracts of land or ran wastefully into the Mediterranean. The dam, 111 meters above sea-level, is 3,600 meters long and 40 meters wide at the top.
There are several other monuments in the Governorate of Aswan:
The Temple of Kom-Ombo:
Located in the town of Kom-Ombo, 45 kms north of Aswan, the Temple, dating to the Ptolemy’s, is built on a high dune overlooking the Nile. There are also tombs from the Old Kingdom in the vicinity of Kom-Ombo village.
The Temple of Edfu:
This huge and exquisite Temple, from the Ptolemaic period, and devoted to the god, Horus, is located at the town of Edfu, 123 kms north of Aswan.
The first, and largest of the temples, is dedicated to the sun god Ra-Harakhte, while the second, which is smaller, and a few meters to the north, was dedicated by Ramses II to his beautiful wife, Nefertari, to be worshipped together with other deities.
These two temples attracted world-wide attention when they were threatened by inundation by the waters of the High Dam. In response to an appeal by the Arab Republic of Egypt, UNESCO, in 1959, initiated an international donations campaign to save the monuments of Nubia, the relics of the oldest human civilization. The salvage of the Abu Simbel temples began in 1963, and cost some 36 million dollars. Once again the Abu Simbel temples were relocated on the plateau to greet the sunrise every morning.
The Greater Abu Simbel Temple (Ramses II)
This is one of the many relics erected by the Pharaoh Ramses II, this is the grandest and most beautiful of temples. The facade is 33 meters high, and 38 meters broad, and guarded by for statues of Ramses II, each of which is 20 meters high. High on the facade, there is a carved row of baboons, smiling at the sunrise. On the doorway of the temple, there is a beautiful inscription of the king's name: Ser-Ma'at-Ra and between the legs of the colossal statues on the facade, we can see smaller statues of Ramses II's family: his mother "Mut-tuy", his wife "Nefertari" and his sons and daughters. There is also a number of dedications, important amongst which is Ramses II's marriage to the daughter of the King of the Hittites. Beyond their entrance, there is the Great Hall of Pillars, with eight pillars bearing the deified Ramses II in the shape of Osiris. The walls of this hall bear inscriptions recording the Battle of Kadesh waged by Ramses II against the Hittites. Then we enter the smaller hall of the temple - the hall of the nobles, containing four square pillars. Then we come to the Holiest of Holies, where we Amun-Ra find four statues of: Ra-Harakhte, Ptah, Amun-Ra and King Ramses II. This temple is unique, since the sun shines directly on the Holiest of Holies two days a year: February 21, the king's birthday, and October 22, the date of his coronation.
The Smaller Abu Simbel Temple (Nefertari)
Located north of the Greater Temple, this was carved in the rock by Ramses II and dedicated to the goddess of Love and Beauty, Hathur, and also to his favorite wife, Nefertari. The Facade is adorned by six statues, four to Ramses II and two to his wife Nefertari. The entrance leads to a hall containing six pillars bearing the head of the goddess, Hathur. The eastern wall bears inscriptions depicting Ramses II striking the enemy before Ra-Harakhte and Amun-Ra. Other wall scenes show Ramses II and Nefertari offering sacrifices to the gods. Beyond this hall, there is another wall with similar scenes and paintings. Finally, we reach the Holiest of Holies, where we find the statue of the goddess Hathur.
This is, indeed, a most awesome sight to the visitor; for here he finds the greatest artificial dome that bears the man-made mountain behind the Temples of Abu Simbel.
THE WESTERN DESERT AND OASIS OF EGYPT
The Western Desert of Egypt (west of the Nile) has always been an unknown and mysterious land. Perhaps the most exciting aspect in traveling through the Western Desert is the feeling that the great age of desert exploration is not over. Making your way into the interior of the desert and riding in the wind to an ancient fort is one of the few great adventures left in the world. Knowing that the last time someone visited the area was years ago produces a euphoria that is unparalleled.
In Egypt, there are several oases in the Western Desert. The most significant are Fayoum, Kharga, Dakhla, Farafra, Siwa and Baharyia. The Oases are famed for their numerous mineral and sulfur-rich springs, distinguished by their unique chemical composition that places them at the highest level worldwide. In addition, the silt contained in these wells has numerous curative properties for the treatment of bone, stomach, chest, and skin ailments.
Siwa is different. It is not Egyptian, but North African. Most Siwans are Berbers, descendents of Bedouins that roamed the North African coast from Tunisia to Morocco. In appearance, dress, and language the Siwans are unique. Their customs are alien to the other Oases in the Western Desert, as is their history. Answering to a host of names through the centuries, Siwa has been called Santarieh, the Oasis of Jupiter-Amun, Field of palm trees, and during the Old Kingdom, Tehenu (Olive land).
Some of the oasis most interesting sights :
Temple of the Oracle:
It is believed that Alexander the Great wished to consult the Siwan Oracle to seek conformation that he was the son of Zeus, the Greek God of Gods.
Gebel El Mawta:
Gebel El Mawta (Mountain of the Dead) guards the northern entrance to the Oasis. Tombs from the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, Ptolemaic, and Roman periods are cut into the side of the mountain.
The springs of Siwa are famous throughout the Western Desert. Most of them are surrounded by palm groves and some have interesting histories.
Hidden amongst the sand dunes, camping and bathing in this natural hot spring is one of the delights that visitors should not miss.
The old town of Siwa was built on a hill inside a protective wall originally breached by a single gate. Arag, Baharein, setra and nawamesa Oases: these oases are located amongst the sand dunes on the track between Siwa and Baharyia Oasis. The visitor seeking adventure should not miss this excursion. Mummies and ancient pottery are easily found among the numerous rock tombs.
Gabal El Dakrour:
This Mountain is most famous for the treatment developed for rheumatism and arthritis. Sand bathes are taken during the hottest months of the year.
Named after the Coptic word phiom, meaning lake, the triangular depression of the Fayoum looks like a delta. The Fayoum can be explored in a series of pleasant day trips and offers a wide variety of activities from boating, swimming and fishing, to visiting antiquities, bird watching, and searching for fossils (from tiny shells and skeletons of the invertebrates to giant turtles, monkeys, and even whales).
Wadi El Rayan:
This valley was named after a king who was buried with all his gold and riches in the wadi. Most enjoyable, is the splendor of swimming under the water
Pyramid of King Amenemhat III of the XII dynasty which dates from the 19th century BC
Valley of the Whales:
A prehistoric sea once existed in this area, leaving behind evidence in the form of whale skeletons and other fossils.
Kom Aushim Museum:
Was erected in 1974. Exhibiting artifacts dating from the Prehistoric The Roman Periods.
The site that was almost completely buried contains foundations of hundreds of houses, several temples, factories, and baths, including a sauna, with hot and cold running water.
Bacchias: Was founded in the third century and abandoned in the forth. Several interesting ruins are still standing.
Lake Qarroun (Birket Qarroun):
Covers approximately 214.5 square kilometers. Several local legends relate to the lake.
Temple of King Qarroun (Qasr Qarroun):
The most interesting aspect of the temple is that it is the only temple in the Western Desert with its roof intact, offering us a sense of the atmosphere that once prevailed all the temples in the Western Desert. The temple is said to have 360 rooms, some of which can be explored using a flashlight.
Kharga, whose bold name seems to perfectly sum up the character of its environment, is the most populous Oasis of the Western Desert. It offers a variety of sites of interest to the visitor, including ancient fortresses and villages.
Om el Dabadeeb & Qasr el Labeka:
Two of the most spectacular forts and temples in Kharga. Tucked into a beautiful valley, imbedded in the sand dunes and accessible only by a 4WD, the ruins are impressive with two marvelous buildings, a Roman well, several rock tombs, and plenty of shards.
The Monastery. This fortress was built of mud brick. It has twelve round towers with wonderful graffiti in the interior of the fortress.
Dating back to the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, is dedicated to the Holy Triad (Amun Ra’ – Mut – Khonsu).
Cemetery and church of Al Bagawat:
It is regarded as one of the oldest Christian cemeteries and churches In Egypt and the world Contains 263 tombs in the pattern of domed chambers. In the center is a church dating back to the eleventh century AD.
Dakhla Oasis has been populated for over 10,000 years. The climate of Dakhla was similar to that of the African savanna. Buffalo, elephants, rhinos, zebras, ostriches, and hartebeests wandered around the shores of a huge lake, on whose southern bank primitive man had settled to herd his goats and cattle. Remains of the evidence to this nourishing life are still found.
El Muzawaka Tombs:
Very impressive set of Roman tombs with a lot of colorful inscriptions.
Al Qasr Village:
It is an Old Covered City, with its oil press, school, courthouse and dwelling chambers, the mosque dates back to the Ayyubid period. It has a three-story wooden minaret (twenty-one meters high), and wooden lintels decorated with inscriptions from the Koran at the entrances.
Bir El Gabal:
Considered to be one of the most beautiful springs in all the Western Desert.
Deir El Haggar:
A Pharaonic Roman Funerary temple most unique for the twelve pillars demonstrating the twelve months of the year which was followed in all the Orthodox churches throughout time ( St. Catherine Monastery ), this Pharaonic Roman Temple was dedicated to the god Amon Rah and the goddess Mut.
Open to the harsh desert elements, hard to reach, sparsely populated and poor, Farafra Oasis remained isolated for centuries. Its isolation created a special world of eternal sunshine and incredible beauty that is just beginning to be penetrated by the outside world.
The White Desert:
As the name implies, the White Desert is a large landscape of pure white color. If one did not know better it would seem like snow covering the entire region.
Ain El Wadi:
Also called the Magic Spring, is recognized by a single palm tree sitting atop a knoll. It is the highest point in the area and the only other green spot on the vast plain.
The closest to Cairo yet the most distant oasis in time. Baharyia had many names through the centuries. Called the Northern Oasis, the Little Oasis, Zezes, and the Oasis of El Banasa.
Valley of the Golden Mummies:
Only very recently discovered, this site is considered the most important discovery after King Tuts tomb.
The Black Desert:
This prehistoric area contains extinct volcanoes with millions of lava scattered along the plains.
Bir El Ghaba Hot Spring:
Also known as The Well of the Forest, is a natural hot water well located in a grove of eucalyptus trees. A real pleasure to bathe in on a cold night.
Sinai; land of discovery. The route to the Promised Land; where Isis sought Osiris and the Pharaohs found gold. Where Moses witnessed the burning bush and Bedouins camped by Crusader forts. A meeting point for three great religions, at the crossroads of Africa and Asia. After 80,000 years at the heart of history, experience the continuing contrasts. Sinai: where rock meets coral reef and the desert stops at the sea. Where the grandeur of granite meets the golden beaches of the " Red Sea Riviera ". Tropical Fish and rare birds; spectacular sunsets and clear starry nights.
Sinai - by its geographical location - is the junction between Asia and Africa. It is shared like an inverted triangle, with the base stretching between Rafah and Port Said, in the north, and the apex, Ras Mohammed, in the south. This prominent and strategic position of the Sinai Peninsula has made it the gateway to Egypt from the east. Sinai’s history goes back to the Pharaohs who explored its land, searching for gold, copper and turquoise. Thus, it came to be known as the Land of Turquoise.
Sinai is rich in scenery. To the north, palm-shaded sandy beaches stretch along the Mediterranean shore. Along the Gulfs of Aqaba and Suez, soft golden sands surround bays of clear blue water. There are tourist villages, fishing and snorkeling centers, where the waters are rich with rare marine life and exquisite coral reefs. Sweet water springs are scattered throughout Sinai. In the south, the towering mountains with their beautiful reddish colored rocks are surrounded by huge valleys leading to the Holy Mountain.
Sinai also has various medicinal plants and different kinds of indigenous and migrating birds.
The Governorate of South Sinai extends from Taba on the Gulf of Aqaba across the northern foothills of Al-Tin plateau to Ras Masallah on the Gulf of Suez in the west, and Ras Mohammed in the south.
Main Tourist Sites in South Sinai:
About 15 km. east of Suez, it is an oasis compromising 12 sweet water springs.
Hammam Fara’un (Pharaoh’s Bath):
A group of hot sulfur springs, with at temperature of 72 C at the source.
An object of pilgrimages prior to the advent of religions.
Moses and Sefsafa Mountains:
2 km. long mountain chain, the highest peak of which Moses mountain.
(Gabal) (Mount Moses):
Also known as Mount Sinai, it is said that this is the site where Moses received the Ten Commandments. The climb up the mountain (2,286 meters or 7,498 feet) is an excursion not to be missed.
Monastery of St. Catherine:
This was built in the 6th century and dedicated to the daughter of a ruler of Alexandria, who converted to Christianity and was subjected to great torture. The huge walls of the Monastery surround a number of small churches. On the east wall is an ancient basket and a pulley, which was used instead of opening the door.
Main Landmarks of the Monastery:
* The Basilica Church
* The Chapel
* The Refectory
* The Library
* The Mosque
So called because the sandstone walls that flank it features remarkable hews and shades of color, ranging from white to yellow and all the shades of red imaginable.
The White Canyon:
This natural canyon takes its name from the rainbow hues of the sandstone into which it was carved by water erosion during the Quaternary Period. The walk through the canyon end in the Oasis and palm groves of Ain Khudra.
Impeded by high mountains , Ain Khudra is distinguished by the great abundance of water and palm trees.
Oasis of Ain Umm Ahmed:
Is one of the least visited, most beautiful in the Sinai. This is a huge palm grove broken by small gardens and orchards.
Oasis of the Mangroves:
The Mangrove Forest, located in the protected area of Nabq, is the largest and most important in Sinai.
The Temple of Sarabit al-Khadim:
Lies on a small hill top north of Al-Tor. It consists of several caves, most important of which are: Cave of the Goddess, Hathor, built during the reign of King Snefru, and the cave of Souidu, the God of War.
National Park of Abou Galloum:
Is among the most picturesque protectorates in the country, with its high mountains, narrow sinuous valleys, freshwater springs, and coastal sand dunes. The turquoise waters are among the best features of the area.
Main Tourist Beaches:
SHARM EL SHEIKH:
Overlooks the Gulf of Aqaba, and is about 53 km. from Ras Mohammed and 336 km. from Suez. It is both a summer and winter resort due to its moderate climate all year round and depends on fishing and tourism. It is the Mecca of all those who seek tranquility and love the sun. There are several well-equipped diving centers.
About 81 km. north of Sharm Al-Sheikh, it is one of the most beautiful beaches in South Sinai because of its gleaming sand, clear waters and colorful marine life. It has a tourist village, diving centers, camping sites and boats and water-skiing facilities.
About 87 km. from Dahab on the Aqaba Gulf, it is famous for its beautiful sandy beaches. It has a diving center, a tourist village, cafeteria and fish restaurant.
Take a boat trip to Pharaoh's Island, crowned by a Crusader fortress. Taba is an international border town. Majestic mountains. The coastline in this area is the most picturesque in Sinai, with bays, coves, lagoons, a fjord and an island. The most significant sight of this area is the Salah El-Din fortress on Pharaoh's Island, which has been restored by the Egyptian Antiquities Organization.
Among the best diving sights in the Sinai are :
Situated at the peak of the Sinai Peninsula, 53 km. from Sharm Al Sheikh and its narrowest part between the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba. It is renowned for having the most exquisite coral reefs in the world and for being a refuge to rare marine life. It has recently declared a nature preserve and most fit for diving. It houses the infamous shark reef, Sharks Observatory, Fisherman’s Bank: (Jack fish Alley) and Ras Zaatar reef.
SHA’AB ALI REEFS The Wreck of Dunraven, the Wreck of Sarah H. and the Wreck of Thistlegorm. The Thistlegorm, loaded with military equipment of all kinds for the British troops in North Africa, was hit and sunk by a German fighter plane. But today the Thistlegorm has returned from the dead to become the vital hub of wreck diving in the Red Sea, and one of the most sought after wreck dives in the entire world.
THE STRAITS OF GOBAL:
Is located south of the Sinai Peninsula and in the path way of commercial liners, the streets of global throughout time has become a grave yard for ships among the most interesting wreck dives in the area are : The Wreck of Chrisoula K, The Wreck of Gianni’s D. and the Wreck of Cranatic.
THE DEEP SOUTH:
This area is inaccessible except by boats, its well known for being a virgin area and has a lot of big fish ( sharks, gropers’, mantarese and dolphins ).
We visit a lot of spectacular dive spots like (Elphinstone Reef, Abou Dabab and Dolphin Reef: ).
EASTERN DESERT & RED COAST
Bordering with Sudan and one of the remotest and least discovered areas in Egypt, lying east of the Nile, the Eastern desert is a paradise for explorers. Few travelers have walked its valleys, climbed its mountains or communicated with its local inhabitants (the Ababda tribe) . The Eastern desert is the last refuge for a lot of plant and wild life, the Egyptian gazelle, the ibex, the fox, the African hyena and most interestingly the Sudanese leopard. For those interested in solitude and adventure, the Eastern desert is the experience that is not to be missed.
Egypt’s Red Sea coast runs from the Gulf of Suez to the Sudanese border. Its mineral rich red mountain ranges inspired the mariners of antiquity to name the sea Mare strum, or the Red Sea.
Hermits seeking seclusion founded early Christian monasteries here, sharing the wilderness with camel-trading Bedouin tribes. Today, the crags and limestone wadis
Of the Eastern Desert remain relatively unexplored, home to ibex and gazelle. But the
Red Sea itself, dotted with coral reefs, fringed b ancient ports, teeming with underwater life, has a rich maritime history which stretches back to Pharaonic times.
The thermal winds that once sped clippers to the East still bring thousands of migrating birds to the shores of the Red Sea, making it a paradise for b P-watchers. Today, the ancient ports are better known as some of the best diving and fishing resorts
in the world. Here, you will find over 800 fish species, including the deadly stone-fish, the equally dangerous butterfly-fish, as well as surgeon fish, jellyfish such as the Cassiopeia, crabs that sometimes overrun the shore in the evening and some species of shark. Sunbathers relax on white sand beaches, or tad shade in the mangrove lagoons that line the coast, while snorkelers explore the reefs, and the un or water wonder of the Rod Sea remains a living tapestry of vibrant corals and exotic fish, waiting for you to discover its secrets.
It lies 395 km south of Suez, and is noted for its magnificent summer and winter climate. The clarity of its water made it a center of tourist attraction especially for divers and practicing water sports is use of the worldwide fame of its coral reefs and rat marine life through well-equipped glass bottom submarines. Hurghada was founded in the early 20th century, and until a few years ago, remained a small fishing village. But today, it has gone on to become the foremost tour t resort of the Red Sea coast and an international center for aquatic sports. If it takes place in or on the ‘Nat you can do it here: windsurfing sailing, deep-seaing. Swimming, but, above all, snorkeling and diving - The unique underwater gardens offshore are some of the finest in the world, justifiably famous divers. The warm waters here are ideal for many varieties of rare fish and coral reefs, which might be observed through glass bottom boats. This area has many fine accommodations, usually offering warm and efficient service. Restaurants are mostly along the main road. While in Hurghada done is the museum and aquarium, with their complete collections offiora and fauna of the Red Sea.
El Gouna, the Red Sea’s Premier Leisure Destination, is built on 10 kms of scenic beachfront & boasts unique & diverse architecture. Spread across a myriad of islands interlinked together by beautiful turquoise lagoons, El Gouna offers a wide range of accommodation facilities, from comfortable guest houses to luxurious beach-front resorts.
El Gouna is easily accessible by air, lying 22 kms north of Hurghada International Airport — a short flight away from Europe’s capitals.
El Gouna Musuem
This museum focuses on ancient Egyptian history and art, with over 90 exhibits including statue replicas (made by the Egyptian Cultural Investment Company), stones and musical instruments.
Opened in January 1996, it is designed to give tourists an insight into the Ancient Egyptian culture. Facilities include 3 interactive computer displays giving descriptions of each exhibit, and also an exhibition hall of 52 contemporary Egyptian paintings by Hussein Bikar.
Safaga, or Port Safaga (Bur Safaga) is a working port located 37 miles from Safaga with several tourist villages specializing in diving holidays, a handful of hotels and some excellent fish restaurants. Its unspoiled beaches and stiff breezes made it the ideal venue for the 1993 World Windsurfing Championships. Day trips to Tobia Island or Mons Claudianus in the Red Sea Mountains can be arranged with local guides Safaga Bay is one of the top kite surfing and wind surfing destinations in Egypt. The large gulf of incredibly transparent water is well protected by Safaga Island and the permanent winds and sandy beaches, generally devoid of fringing reefs, make the shores a perfect start for any water sport. The dive sites around Safaga have until recently only been accessible by live aboard as it is well out of the range of day boats from Hurghada. This has kept the reefs incredibly well preserved with prolific fish life. Although the numbers of sites are relatively small, they offer a nice range for both the beginner and experienced diver, with a rich and well-preserved underwater environment, Highlights are the coral garden at Sha’ab Saiman, the great drop-offs at Panorama Reef and the possibility of encounters with big game (sharks and mantas) at Abu Qifan. Daily boat, half day trips and diving courses including nitrox are offered in the majority of the few diving centers in Safaga. There is also excellent shore diving.
The importance of Al Quseir is due to the fact that it is located at the end of the shortest route from the Nile River to the Red Sea, and therefore it came one of Ancient Egypt’s very earliest and most important ports. It was the route used in ancient times to transport goods to and from remote lands to Egypt and the Mediterranean.
So today, Al- Quseir is one of those actually unusual places in Egypt where one may go for some scuba diving in the Red Sea or spend a comfortable afternoon sunbathing on a pristine beach, and at the same time, visit historical sites located only a stone’s throw away.
Marsa Alam is a village with a small harbor and stone quay. It is the ideal base for a fishing holiday. It is a fishing village on Egypt’s Red Sea coast 132 km (82mi) from. Quseir. However, with a new international airport, a number of other planed tourism projects and any new hotels, it is rapidly becoming much more than a fishing village. Marsa Alam sits on the T Junction between the Red Sea coast road and the road from Edfu which sits on the Nile river about 230k ‘142mi) inland. Just off this road are found two areas, called Wadi Barmiya, and cat 30 kilometers further into the mountains. Wadi Baramiya extends into another larger Wadi named Miya, where a temple was built by, among others, Seti.
Ancient Emerald Mines
The emerald is the oldest known gemstone. Uniquely green in color and widely used in jewelry, emeralds were prized and cherished as symbols of eternity and power during antiquity. It believed that Egyptian Pharaohs began mining emeralds in the mountainous area in the Eastern Desert so °west of Marsa Alam. Later identified as the Cleopatra Mines or Mons Smaragdus (Emerald Mountains), the area maybe me the most famous mining complex throughout the arc “t world. The mines at Wadi Gimal, Wadi Sikeit, Wadi Nuqrus and Gebel Zabara were energetically exploited during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. The mines were also worked during late” centuries until left deserted after the Spaniards discovered emeralds in Columbia in 1545.
Two thousand years ago Myos Hormos was the Roman Empire’s principal gateway to India and East Africa. Only recently have archaeologists been able to identify the exact location of this ancient port, just eight kilometers north a Quseir. During its peak period around 20 AD, reportedly 120 ships laden with wines, fine pottery, glass, precious metals and textiles set out each year from Myos Horn - to India. They brought back all kinds of luxury goods including spices, medicines, silk and pearls. Myos Hormos seems to have been abandoned in the 2nd century AD. During the 14th and 15th centuries however, the site was revived into a thriving port for Mecca pilgrims.
and a rejuvenated India trade. At Myos Hormos you can see foundations of ancient port structures and have a numerous remnants of empty Roman storage jars (amphorae). Pottery shards are strewn all over the area, evidence of thriving economic activity.
Bir Um Fawakhir
Bir Um Fawakhir lies in the rugged Precambrian mountains of the central Eastern Desert and is almost exactly halfway between the Nile and he Red Sea. The site is approximately 65 km (two and a half to three days by camel) from Quft (ancient Coptos). This route, which is the shortest from the Nile to the Red Sea has been in use for at least 5,000 years and follows a Series of wadis (dry canyons) cutting through the mountains. The most famous ancient site enroute is the Wadi hammamat, which was the Source of a fine-grained dark greywacke that was highly prized in Pharaonic times for statues, sarcophagi, and the like. Bir Umm Fawakhir, about 5 km northeast, lies in a different geological zone. The Fawakhir granite is a stock intruded into the older Precambrian rocks. As no agriculture has ever succeeded in this hyperarid desert, the only resources are mineral, namely, gold, granite and water. The granite was quarried to no great extent in the Roman period, but it also acts as aquifer, carrying water in tiny cracks until it is stopped by the dense ultramafic rocks to the West. 3 V have always been dug there. Most importantly, however, the quartz veins injected into the granite are auriferous, particularly towards the edge of the stock. (Many other minerals occur as well, including pyrite, chalcopyrite, and hematite, which stain the quartz reddish.)
This Ottoman fortress in the town center of Quseir is certainly worth a visit. It was built in the 16th century during the reign of Sultan Selim to protect trade links with India. Napoleon’s troops occupied the fortress in 1799, fortifying it with cannons mounted high on the walls. They also added a new viewing platform. A few years later, British forces ejected the French after a fierce battle and added a new gate to the fortress. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 led to the decline of Quseir and its fortress.
Mons Claudianus is at the foot of Jebel Fatira, located about 30 miles from Port Safaga just of the Qena road. This was a Roman Penal Colony of substance, where Quartz diorite, high quality granite, was mined as building materials for the Roman Empire. This black stone can still be seen in Rome in the portico of the Pantheon, in Hadrian’s Villa, and public baths and in the columns and floor of the Temple of Venus. A temple begun by Hadrian but never finished is in ruins, but the staircase leading to it can still be seen. There is also a Roman camp, dwellings, workshops, stables and a dromos. The camp is surrounded by granite walls with rounded defense towers on the corners, to protect it from Bedouin attacks. There are hot springs today, which were used in a complex underground heating system for the sweating baths. The actual quarries are on the opposite side of the wadi. There are fragments of granite, with several ruined artifacts such as a broken column and column slab.
Mons Porphyrites (Porphyry Mountain) was an important Roman quarry complex near Gebel Abu Dukhan (Father of Smoke Mountain) in the heart of the Eastern Desert. For over three centuries, from 29 AD to 335 AD, an exquisite purple rock found nowhere else in the world called Imperial Porphyry was extracted for the glory of Roman emperors. This purple stone, fine¬ grained and speckled with white crystals, was discovered by a Roman legionnaire named Caius Cominius Leugas in 18 AD. Its beauty soon made it a symbol of royalty and successive emperors claimed exclusive rights to it. Much of this gem-like rock ended up as pillars, basins, statues and sarcophagi in Rome and Istanbul. Today excursions to Mons Porphyrites can be arranged from Hurghada, Safaga and Quseir. You can explore the remains of ruined fortresses, dwellings, temples, shrines, wells, broken pillars and cracked stone baths.
The Temple of Seti 1
Located in Kanais, east of Edfu along the desert road to Marsa Alam, lies a small rock-cut temple built by Seti I (1305-1290 BC). Unfortunately, you will only be able to view the entrance of the temple. The chamber inside the cliff, which has magnificent drawings of Seti I slashing at his enemies and offering a gift to the god Amun, is closed to the public to protect it against defacement. Not far from the temple there is an ancient well. Superb rock art from pre-dynastic times about 6000 years old up to the period of Seti I decorate the wadi’s steep walls with rowing boats, dancing goddesses, long-horned gazelles, fat hippos and hunting scenes. Closer to the main road are the remains of a Roman fort; an indication of how important this area was in ancient times
Wadi el Gemal National Park
The stunning Wadi el Gemal National Park is one of the most recent additions to the high number of parks and protected areas of the Red Sea. At only half an hour drive by bus, the park has a very well organized eco-lodge which offers guided tours of the wadi with camel or by foot. The lodge has also a cinema where you will be shown a documentary about the park, its nature, geology and inhabitants, the ancient nomadic tribes of the Bishari and the Ababde. Finally, you will seat in the exotic, desert-elegant main “fustat”, adorned with antiques and local handicrafts, and served breakfast, lunch or dinner, depending on the type of excursion you join.
St. Anthony’s Monastery (Deir Mar Antonio’s), and its neighbor St. Paul’s, are the oldest monasteries in Egypt Hidden deep in the Red Sea Mountains and relying on springs for their water supply, both still Observe rituals that have hardly changed in 16 centuries. They are accessible by special tours from Cairo, Suez or Hurghada and a stay in either monastery can be arranged in advance. St. Anthony’s was founded in 356 AD, just after the saint’s death. Between the 12th and 15th centuries, the monastery flourished but was plundered in 1454 by Bedouin servants. Today it is a self-contained village with gardens, a mill, a bakery and five churches with exceptional wall paintings of holy knights in bright Colors and the hermit founders of the monastery in subdued colors and icons, There is also a library with over 1 700 handwritten manuscripts, but the Bedouin servants who plundered the monastery used many manuscripts for cooking fuel. At one time, there must have been a much more extensive library. St. Anthony’s Cave (magharah), where he lived as a hermit, is a 2 km hike from the monastery and 680 m. above the Red Sea It offers stunning views of the mountains and the sea, and the chance to see a Wide range of bird life.