.. ..


Egypt Story
ATA 34th Congress
Jean F. Champollion
Events Calendar
for 2009-2010
ATS Summit, Cairo

New Cruises
Egypt Tours
Nile Cruises

Egyptair Website
Egyptair Update

Egypt State Information Service

Egyptian Tourist Authority

Cairo InternationalAirport

Coptic Museum

Museum of Modern Egyptian art

Cairo Opera House

EgyptianSound and Light Show Museum

Islamic Ceramic Museum

Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum

Graeco-Roman Museum


Pharaohs Lure TourisPharoahts

Story and photos by Habeeb Salloum

From atop the Cairo Tower, the mighty Nile appears to be overwhelmed by the edging luxury hotels and towering apartment buildings. Beyond, the city with its crowded streets, literally infested with humanity, spreads out to the horizon. In between the avenues with their mass of darting autos, one sees a thousand minarets of new and historic mosques, peppered with a number of Coptic-Christian basilicas. It appears to be an inviting city to explore - a mixture of eastern exoticism and Western sophistication.

Yet, this is not what the millions of people traveling to Egypt want to see. If one turns atop the Tower to the other side, in the distance, a visitor glimpses the outline of the Great Pyramids. Located on a desert plateau on the western edge of the city, they are the magnets that draw these tourists. It is as if the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt are still caring for their descendants. Of the millions of tourists who travel to Egypt, the vast majority come to view the monumental vestiges left by one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known.

Europeans and North Americans, traveling in groups, usually stop in Cairo, the cultural capital of the Arab world, but never in reality see Africa's largest city, milling with some 15 million inhabitants. They spend one or two days visiting the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities and the Great Pyramids, then are whisked southward to see the other eye-bulging works of the ancient Egyptians around Luxor and Aswan.

pyramidsPyramids and Sphinx, World's Enduring Monuments
Perhaps the tour operators have a point when they steer their herds toward these world renowned monuments. By any standard, the pyramids - the only one of the 'Seven Wonders of the World' which still exist - are an unbelievable accomplishment by ancient man. It is said that no traveler who has viewed them for the first time, has not gasped in awe, overwhelmed by their majesty.
With their guardian, the Sphinx, they stand on a desert plateau some 15 km (9.3 mi) from the heart of Cairo. Since the days of ancient Greece and continuing to modern times, they have been visited, written about, explored and, in this century, have become a part of world mythology.

Called the Giza Pyramids to distinguish them from the other 108 pyramids in the country, they are approached by a wide-straight road built in the 19th century by the Empress Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III. She came during the inauguration of the Suez Canal and in order to see the pyramids, the empress constructed this avenue called Al-Ahram - in Arabic meaning 'the pyramids'.

Giza Pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mykerinos
In the early 1960s, when I first visited the pyramids, this road was mostly edged by desert. Today, it is one of Cairo's major and longest streets and, on both sides, a forest of buildings cover every inch of space to the very edge of these venerable monuments.
Standing immutably majestic, the Giza Pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mykerinos, the most famous of all the attractions in Egypt, have watched humans come and go for untold centuries. The largest and oldest of these is the Great Pyramid of Cheops, erected about 2590 B.C. Its base covers 6 ha (13 ac) and it is estimated to contain 3 million separate blocks of stones, averaging 2 1/2 tons each.

Once these pyramids and others played a vital role in the lives of Egypt's kings and peasants. Today, for many, they are the trademark of lasting power, drawing, from across the globe, tourists and those who dabble in magic and the extraterrestrial. Watching haughtily over the pyramids is the nearby famous Sphinx, carved out of solid natural rock by Chephren the son of Cheops, the builder of the second pyramid. He had this huge statue sculptured from soft limestone with a lion's body, and a god's face - believed to be his own. For over 45 centuries, it has defied time, witnessing all the morning suns civilized man has seen. Carved in the midst of temples, which are in the process of being excavated, this half man half beast statue has acquired, through the centuries, an air of mystery and romance.

The magnificence of the pyramids and the Sphinx are superbly portrayed in the 'Sound and Light' shows, presented nightly. After sunset throughout the year, on different nights, in Arabic, English, French and German, these shows, the finest of their kind presented anywhere, draw droves of tourists. They add much to the appreciation of the Giza phaorononic monuments and their history.

Egyptian Museum of Antiquities
On the other hand, more thrilling to many tourists is the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, housing some 100 thousand exhibits. It contains a very rich store of remains from the Ancient Egyptian civilizations, including the 4000 piece treasure found in Tutankhamen's tomb. Few museums in the world can even come close to its impressive exhibits.
This huge classical-style museum was built in 1853 by Auguste Mariette, the great pioneer archaeologist, but its collection has only occupied the building since 1902. Days are needed to truly appreciate the exhibits, not the half or one day tours allotted most visitors.

However, the museum has long become too small for its ever-increasing collections and a modern and larger one is in the works. Nevertheless, this too will likely be not spacious enough after it is completed. The untold thousands of pieces of one of the oldest and grandest civilizations on earth can easily fill half a dozen museums.

After this storehouse of priceless ancient treasures, one becomes eager to explore the boundless pharaonic monuments around Luxor and Aswan where, it is said, half of the world's important ruins are to be found. The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Cairo is the best door through which tourists can enter into this heart of the pharaonic history.

Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan
The best way to see the most important monuments of Upper Egypt is to take a Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan. Luxor, the pharaonic Thebes, a city of a half million, was divided by the ancient Egyptians into two parts - on the East Bank of the Nile, the City of the Living; and on the West Bank, the City of the Dead. On the East Bank, the Karnak and Luxor Temples where the gods lived - two of the 10 temples in the area - still greet the sunrise; and the sunset on the West Bank throws shadows over the 400 tombs located in the Valleys of the Kings, Queens and Nobles; and Queen Hatshepsut's Temple.

The city's most important monument, the Karnak Temple, dedicated to the god Amon-Ra, was for the ancient Egyptians, a highly esteemed place. Covering over 40.5 ha (100 ac) and spanning thirteen centuries, the complex is a massive collection of ruins on which at one time 81,000 people toiled - the largest series of temples ever built in one complex. In both the Karnak and Luxor Temples, imagination overtakes eyesight, as thousands upon thousands of these visitors take a thrilling walk through history. Beneath pillars carved with lotus buds and the papyrus plant, past statues of gods and animals, and climbing down into fantastically decorated tombs, they are never far away from the early Egyptians and their remains.

From Luxor the ship stops at Esna - 64 km (40 mi) to the south. Its temple, dedicated to Khnun, the ram-headed god who modeled people on his potter's wheel, is a Ptolemaic building with Pharaonic, Greek, Roman and Coptic elements. At one time, the Temple was completely concealed with debris and sand. This kept the hypostyle hall with its forest of 24 columns, 13 m (43 ft) high, topped by capitals of flowers and plants, in almost perfect condition.

The next stop, Edfu, 123 km (76 mi) north of Aswan, has the best preserved of Egypt's 100 temples which were built to honor some 750 gods. The sand that for centuries had covered the temple and was responsible for its preservation. Dedicated to the falcon-headed god, Horus, the most famous deity in Upper Egypt, it is covered inside and out, with mythological and religious decorations, bas-reliefs and hieroglyphic texts.

Before reaching Aswan the ship stops at the Temple of Kom Ombo, dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god of fertility, and Haroeris, the Good Doctor. Built a few centuries before the Romans occupied Egypt, the temple also served as a hospital - a whole series of medical instruments are sculptured in reliefs on the temple walls.

At Aswan, the Philae Temple and, to the south, the Temple of Abu Simbel, both moved due to the waters of the High Dam, draw annually thousands of visitors. From Cairo to Aswan and beyond, these, and the dozens of other temples, especially after peace has returned to the Nile Valley, are again enticing tourists in the millions. With the foreign exchange these Ancient Egyptian monuments bring, there can be little doubt that the god-king pharaohs are lending a helping hand in the life of modern Egypt.

Writer: Habeeb Salloum
58 Langbourne Place, Don Mills (Toronto), Ontario
Canada M3B 1A9, Tel: (416) 445-4558, Fax: (416) 510-2143

Egypt: How to Get There:
The best way to see Egypt is to take an organized tour from North America or Europe. There a good number of companies offering these excursions. No matter what one pays to take these tours, it will be much less troublesome and cheaper to join a group before traveling to that country.

If one does not join a tour group, Misr Travel in Egypt, 1 Talaat Harb St., P.O. Box 1000, Cairo, Tel: 20-2-392-3177, Fax: 20-2-392-4440, e-mail Misrtrav@link.com.eg will make arrangements for tours to any part of the country. Also, there are excellent river, air, bus and rail connections between Cairo and Luxor.

Facts to Know About Egypt:
1) Visas are needed to enter Egypt. Tour companies can easily obtain them, but they are available at the airports in Egypt - cost $15.

2) The best place to exchange foreign currency is in banks. Branches are found in all major hotels. The U.S. dollar hovers around 3.80 LE (Egyptian pounds).

3) Despite reports of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, Egyptians are very friendly and hospitable to tourists. The country is very safe - safer than most countries in the West. Also, in spite of poverty, crime is rare.

4) To get around the cities, taxis are the best bet, but you must bargain - make sure of the price before you enter the cab. Small autos rent for around $40. per day, but renting a car is not recommended. Traffic does not seem to have any rules.

A Good Place to Stay in Aswan:
Hotel Sofitel Old Cataract, an excellent luxury hotel which is reasonably priced. Abtal El Tahrir St., Aswan, Egypt. Tel:(+20)97/3l6000. Fax:(+20)97/316011. Daily cost for a room from a $130. to $160., depending on location. Also, hotels in Egypt charge an extra 26% for taxes and services charges.
Note: All prices quoted are in U.S. dollars

For Further Information Contact:
Egyptian Tourist Authority
, 1253 McGill College Ave., Suite 250, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3B 2Y5. Tel: (514)861-4606. Fax: (514)861-8071.

or Egyptian Tourist Authority, 630 Fifth Ave., Suite 1706, New York, NY 10111, U.S.A. Tel: (212)332-2570. Fax: (212)956-6439.


(1) Great Sphinx of Giza (2) Gold Mask of Tutankhamun

This site is sponsored by the
Africa Travel Association
Suite 610, New York, NY 10016
E-Mail: africatravelasso@aol.com .
Tel: (212) 447-1926, Fax: (212) 725-8253