Egypt holiday highlights

Renowned for its spectacular architecture including two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and an ancient history of civilisation, Egypt offers so much more than its reputation precedes.

CAIRO

Known as the ‘City of a Thousand Minarets’, the bustling capital city of Cairo buzzes with thriving markets and souks such as the Khan el-Khalili Market, selling local handicrafts, coloured fabrics and flavoursome local cuisine. Take the time to walk amongst the multitudinous stalls vending an array of colourful spices that fill the air with mesmerising and intriguing aromas before heading to the Nile’s West Bank, where The Great Pyramid of Giza awaits, alongside the colossal Sphinx.

LUXOR

Popularly known as ‘the world’s greatest open air museum’, Luxor is the perfect hub to delve into the history of ancient Egypt. Luxor is divided by the Nile into the East Bank and West Bank. The East Bank is where you’ll find the temples of Luxor and Karnak, as well as the modern part of the city, and the vast majority of hotels. The West Bank is the location of Thebes, the old capital of Egypt. The Theban Necropolis is home to the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.

NILE CRUISES

From Luxor and Cairo, a plethora of escorted Nile Cruises await, offering a unique and enthralling perspective of the East and West Banks of the Nile with expert guidance from an Egyptologist. Enjoy the comfort and luxury of a fully equipped cruise as you sail into popular destinations such as Luxor: home of the Valley of the Kings and the Temples of Karnak and Luxor. A cruise along this majestic river will take you on a journey through Egypt’s most treasured sights, each playing a pivotal role in the country’s rich development.

ASWAN

Aswan is relatively compact so it is easy to explore on foot, but taxis are available to take you to the Philae Temple, Unfinished Obelisk and High Dam. A public ferry transports tourists between the two banks, while feluccas sail around the river islands. Meander through the busy Sharia as-Souq and barter for handicrafts. Enter the Nubian Museum to view the vast collection of artefacts rescued before they were submerged by the waters of Lake Nasser. Visit the Philae Temple (also relocated to save it from destruction), situated on a small island on the Nile and dedicated to the goddess. Another popular site is the Unfinished Obelisk, carved directly into the rock into a granite quarry.

HURGHADA

Located on the western side of the Red Sea Riviera and hemmed by soft golden sands, the town of Hurghada has blossomed from a quaint fishing town to a bustling seaside resort, catering to almost 100,000 tourists annually. By day, the Marina Boulevard is where the local tradesmen vend a variety of local goods, as well as a selection of ubiquitous Pharaonic statuettes. However, by night the town comes to life as restaurants and bars bustle with visitors wanting to savour a taste of authentic local cuisine and entertainment.

EL GOUNA
Ten miles to the north of Hurghada lies the picturesque fishing village of El Gouna – a popular location for watersports including windsurfing, kitesurfing, waterskiing and parasailing. The two main beaches of this resort are Zeeeytuna and Mangroovy, which offer many of these exhilarating activities. Walk towards the centre of town and wander through the many winding alleys that lead to charming houses bedecked with traditional Egyptian characteristics.

Egypt key facts

Time difference

GMT +2 hours

Capital

Cairo

Currency

Egyptian Pound

Language

Arabic

Passport & visas

UK passport holders require a visa. Visas are available online and are valid for a maximum of 30 days.

Egypt good to know

Tipping

Tipping or ‘baksheesh’ is a way of life in Egypt. It’s customary to tip about LE£1 for every little service, so keep a pocketful of small change!

What to wear

•   Egypt is predominately a Muslim country, so make sure you’re properly dressed when out and about. Revealing outfits are a no-no, especially for women.
•   Pack lightweight cotton clothes in the summer and a jumper or jacket for cooler winter evenings.
•   Cover up when Egypt sightseeing or walking the streets – women shouldn’t go out scantily dressed.

Shopping in Egypt

•   Practise your bargaining skills  at Khan el-Khalili, Cairo's celebrated bazaar.
•   Shops selling handicrafts right are scattered through touristy areas, especially Giza.
•   You'll find alabaster for cigarette boxes and other decorative items from the Nile valley.
•   Watch as brass and copper are hammered into trays, coffee sets and samovars at Khan-el-Khalili.
•   Egyptian cotton, among the finest in the world with its long fibres and smooth finish, is used in gallabiyas, those long, flowing robes sold for men and women.
•   Shirt- and dressmakers are ready to provide you with custom-made cotton clothing in next to no time.
•   Jewellery can be extremely beautiful and good value if you choose wisely. Exquisite workmanship goes into gold and silver pieces set with precious or semi-precious stones. Take your pick from pharaonic styles inspired by King Tutankhamun's treasure.
•   Leather goods such as handbags, satchels and wallets make interesting buys, but examine each article carefully for flaws.
•   The excellent woodwork includes mashrabiya, the delicate lattices through which Muslim women used to look at the world.
•   Marquetry objects are finely designed and executed - choose perhaps a chess board or cedar or sandalwood box skilfully inlaid with bits of ivory, mother-of-pearl and ebony.

Food & drink

Food
Starters
•   Molokhia is a soup of leafy green vegetables, garlic, pepper and coriander, usually eaten with rice.
•   Fool is a thick, spicy stew of beans flavoured with tomatoes, finished off with a dollop of olive oil and lime juice and some piquant taamia vegetable paste.
•   Turshi (spicy pickled vegetables) and araq inab (stuffed vine leaves) are also popular starters.
•   Flat bread is good for scooping up mouthfuls of leben zabadi (yoghurt), tahina (sesame seed puree, sometimes flavoured with mint) or tangy baba ganoug (smooth puree of baked aubergine, lemon and garlic).

Main courses
•   Tuck into fresh fish from the Mediterranean, often seasoned with a pinch of cumin.
•   Large Alexandrian prawns are grilled over charcoa, as are kebabs (succulent chunks of lamb or mutton coated in spices and threaded on a skewer) and kofta (balls of spiced, minced lamb).
•   Shwarma is the Egyptian equivalent of the Turkish doner kebab: layers of meat stacked on a vertical spit and shaved off as cooked.
•   Other meat specialities are quail or pigeon, grilled or stuffed and roasted.

Desserts
•   The cheeses may be too salty for your taste, but fruit such as fresh dates (red, yellow, black or brown) is delicious.
•   Try some baklava, a many-layered, super-sweet pastry stuffed with nuts and honey; or its variant atayeef, which is filled with cheese.
•   Another tasty dessert is ommu-'ali, a dessert of rice, milk, almonds, raisins and coconut.

Drink
•   Vineyards in the delta have been cultivated for centuries. Red wines include Omar Khayyam and Chateau (or Kasr) Gianaclis and the slightly drier Pharaons.
•   White wines vary in quality but are generally better than the reds: Nefertiti, Cleopatra, Gianaclis Villages and Cru des Ptolemees.
•   Rubis d'Egypte is a popular rose.
•   Local beer, Stella or Stella Export, is quite satisfactory.

•   Zibib is the Egyptian equivalent of the Mediterranean aniseed-flavoured brandy (ouzo or pastis), made here from a distillation of grapes, or dates.
•   A tasty soft drink is karkadeh, often served cold at breakfast.
•   Both tea and Turkish coffee are good. Most foreigners prefer the latter when it is brewed mazbut (with a middling amount of sugar). 'Saadeh' is with no sugar.
•   Don't drink the tap water and avoid salads.