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What is Egypt known for?
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- Egypt, country located in the northeastern corner of Africa.
- Egypt’s heartland, the Nile River valley and delta, was the home of one of the principal civilizations of the ancient Middle East and, like Mesopotamia farther east, was the site of one of the world’s earliest urban and literate societies.
- Pharaonic Egypt thrived for some 3,000 years through a series of native dynasties that were interspersed with brief periods of foreign rule.
- After Alexander the Great conquered the region in 323 bce , urban Egypt became an integral part of the Hellenistic world.
- Under the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty, an advanced literate society thrived in the city of Alexandria, but what is now Egypt was conquered by the Romans in 30 bce .
- It remained part of the Roman Republic and Empire and then part of Rome’s successor state, the Byzantine Empire, until its conquest by Arab Muslim armies in 639–642 ce .
Egypt has so much to offer, here are some of the things Egypt is known for.
Pyramids of Giza
The Pyramids of Giza: are at the top of most travel itineraries and for good reason. However familiar the image of the only surviving wonder of the ancient world, they remain both awesome to see and fascinating to visit. While archaeologists continue to debate exactly how and why the millions of blocks were hauled into place, visitors tend to marvel at the size of each block, only fully appreciated when you stand beside one. For a panoramic view of the three pyramids with all of Cairo as a background, head for the cliff beyond the third pyramid.
With the greatest concentration of ancient monuments in Egypt, you could spend weeks visiting Luxor:, although most visitors stay for only a day or two. However long you have, be sure to walk through the columned halls of the great temple complexes of Luxor and Karnak on the east bank of the Nile, or climb into the tombs of pharaohs, queens, courtiers and workmen in the Theban hills on the west bank. Watching the sun rise over the Nile or set behind the Theban hills are some of Egypt’s unforgettable moments.
Cruising the Nile
The Nile: is Egypt’s lifeline, the artery that runs through the entire country, from south to north. Only by being adrift on it can you appreciate its importance and its beauty and, more practically, only by boat can you see some archaeological sites as they were meant to be seen. Sailing is by far the slowest and most relaxing way to go, especially on a dahabiyya (houseboat), but even from the deck of a multi-storey floating hotel you’re likely to glimpse the magic.
Old Kingdom Art
The walls of the tombs around the Step Pyramid of Saqqara: are adorned with some of the world's oldest art works. The exquisite painted reliefs in the Mastaba of Ti: or the tomb of Kagemni: give a subtle and most detailed account of daily life in the third millennium BC. The first rooms in the Egyptian Museum: show the most brilliant Old Kingdom art. Looking at these masterpieces is essential to understand what comes in the thousands of years that follow.
Western Desert Safaris
You need only travel for a couple of hours into the desert, by 4WD, camel or foot, to be able to savour the simple beauty and sheer isolation of wildest Egypt. ## Egypt has so much to offer, here are some of the things Egypt is known for. of an excursion into Egypt’s Western Desert: include camping under a star-studded sky among the surreal formations of the White Desert, heading into the mesmerising dunes of the Great Sand Sea, and deep desert excursions, such as living out The English Patient fantasies at the remote Gilf Kebir.
The incessant salesmanship of Egyptians makes more sense when you see it at work in one of the country's many souqs. Here vendors are set up cheek by jowl, all hawking their wares in their set district, cajoling and haggling. Visit a centuries-old souq such as Khan Al Khalili: first, and you’ll see its pattern at work everywhere, even in ad hoc modern markets set up near the main tourist sights. Along the way, pick up rusty antiques, lovely Egyptian cotton, King Tut kitsch…or even a donkey.
It’s impossible not to relax in an oasis: after all, this was what inspired the idea of paradise, something you will appreciate as, with the endless desert shimmering on the horizon, you float in hot springs or explore the remains of ancient Roman outposts and dusty villages. Even in Bahariya:, the most easily accessible oasis from Cairo, you can soak in hot or cold springs in the shade of lush date palms, drive out into the White Desert, or visit the museum to see the latest ancient finds: the golden mummies.
Red Sea Diving
Egypt’s Red Sea coastlines: are the doorstep to a wonderland that hides below the surface. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a first-timer, Egypt’s underwater world of coral cliffs, colourful fish and spookily beautiful wrecks is just as staggeringly impressive as the sights above. Bring out your inner Jacques Cousteau by exploring the enigmatic wreck of WWII cargo ship the Thistlegorm, a fascinating museum spread across the sea bed. Even if diving isn't your thing, with a mask and snorkel it is still possible to see some of this beautiful underwater world.
Ramses II built Abu Simbel: a long way south of Aswan, along his furthest frontier and just beyond the Tropic of Cancer. But these two impressive temples are a marvel of modern engineering as well: in the 1960s they were relocated, block by block, to their current site to protect them from the flooding of Lake Nasser. To appreciate the isolation, spend the night at Abu Simbel, either on a boat on the lake or at Nubian cultural centre and ecolodge Eskaleh.
The grandest and most remote of Egypt's Western Desert oases, Siwa: on the edge of the Great Sand Sea offers the ultimate oasis experience. This is not only where Alexander the Great came to consult the oracle of the gods, it is also the perfect place to hang out and relax after travelling along the Nile. Cycle through huge palm groves, take a desert tour to hot and cold water springs and lakes, or slide down the inclines in the many dunes.
Time is short and everyone wants to see the Pyramids, Tutankhamun’s gold and the Valley of the Kings. But some of the most rewarding moments in Egypt are to be had away from the crowds at the less-visited monuments, where you can contemplate the ancients’ legacy in peace. Nowhere is this more true than at Abydos:, an important place of pilgrimage for ancient Egyptians and home to some of the most beautiful wall carvings. It's north of Luxor – the opposite direction from the tour buses.
Watch the sun set over Aswan:, frontier of the ancient Egyptian empire and southernmost outpost for the Romans. It’s still the gateway to Nubia, where cultures blend to create a laid-back place that values time to enjoy the view. There is something about the way the river is squeezed between rocks, the proximity of the desert, the lonely burial places of the Aga Khan and of forgotten ancient princes that makes the end of the day more poignant here than anywhere else along the Egyptian Nile.
It was to the barren mountains and jagged cliffs of the sprawling desert that the first early ascetics came. Today Coptic monasteries such as those of St Anthony: and St Paul:, where the tradition of Christian monasticism began, play an increasingly important role in the modern Coptic faith, especially with so much pressure on their communities along the Nile. Visit Wadi Natrun, or walk on the walls of St Anthony’s, and ponder the impressive faith that took men away from the ease of the towns and into the wilderness.
Though the ahwa gets its name from the Arabic word for coffee, shai (tea) is much more common at the traditional cafe that is a major centre of Egyptian social life. With your drink on a tiny tin-top table, a backgammon board in front of you and perhaps a bubbling shisha (water pipe) to one side, you’ll slip right into the local groove. These days, ahwas can be a series of tables in old-city alleys, such as Fishawi’s: in Cairo, or a chic lounge serving a range of flavoured tobaccos.
Cairo's Quiet Mosques
The tranquil, shady arcades of a medieval mosque are the perfect place to take a break from the modern world. Far from being austere places of worship, many mosques function as peaceful places in an increasingly noisy city as well as being prayer halls: many Cairenes drop in for a quiet chat or an afternoon nap. While some mosques bustle with theological students and others have become national monuments, the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan: is a medieval monument, working mosque and architectural wonder. Kick your shoes off, sit down and stay a while.
Flaunting the pedigree of Alexander the Great and powerful queen Cleopatra, Egypt’s second-largest city: is rich in history, both ancient and modern. Visit the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the new incarnation of the ancient Great Library, or any number of great small museums around town. Walk the souqs of atmospheric Anfushi, the oldest part of the city, or hunt for dusty antiques in Attareen. Above all, be sure to stop on the corniche or head along the coast to feast on fresh seafood with a Mediterranean view.
The scale of the Egyptian Museum: is so overwhelming that, if you have the time, we recommend at least two visits. The vast rooms are packed to the rafters with some of the world's most fascinating treasures: glittering gold jewellery, King Tut’s socks and mummies of the greatest pharaohs. After taking in the highlights, go back a second time and wander through the less-visited rooms, looking for alabaster offering tables, life-size wood statues, scale models of armies, farms and ships, and even mummified pets – everything the ancients hoped would accompany them to the second life.
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