Discover Ancient Egypt
With countless documentaries on the Discovery channel and touring exhibits of pharaohnic treasures, it could be easy to see Egypt as a one trick pony. A vast, dusty museum of a country pondered and prodded by an endless stream of bespectacled boffins. To escape the clichés you have to see it for yourself Carl reports.
You may not be the first but with footsteps as illustrious as Napoleon, Alexander the Great and Moses to follow in, you're unlikely to be the last either.
All trips by present day explorers tend to originate in Cairo. A frenetic mass of a city and Africa's most populous, it's Arabic name, Al-Qahirah translates as "The Vanquisher", which feels all too apt when plunged into the maze of the Khan El Khalili, Cairo's largest bazaar. Pungent apple smoke from bubbling shisha pipes fills the air of the narrow alleys, the smoking ban unlikely to reach the shores of North Africa any time soon. Avarice shopkeepers smelling money shamelessly implore you to sample their wares, sitting side by side an impressive array of plastic and papyrus tat. The sales pitch of a mercantile bloodline spanning centuries ensures even the most experienced of barterers will leave with a lasting memory of the city.
It's only upon leaving the base of Cairo that other facets of Egypt are revealed. The majority of the principle attractions lie conveniently along the Nile. Ranking as one of the worlds most iconic rivers, this arterial waterway cuts its way through the African continent, from the heart of Uganda to the Mediterranean. With its abundance of valuable water and rich silt, its shores have acted as a magnet for settlement for millennia. For many visitors the draw of the great temples of Luxor, the Valley of the Kings and my personal favourite, Abu Simbel, are enough to warrant a visit. However, as with all great travels, the journey there is half the experience. It's a journey not to be rushed, and one that can be enjoyed casually floating on a traditional Felucca, or reclining in the comfort of a bygone era on a cruise ship.
If dramatic landscapes drenched in Biblical lore excite enough to rouse you for a pre-dawn trek, then head for the Sinai. This wedge of land connecting Africa to Arabia was where the people of Moses wandered for forty years prior to the parting of the red sea (Exodus 16). Forty years is probably too long these days, but the moonlight ascent of Mount Sinai and the reward of sunrise are worth every rock-hewn step. The glow of dawn over the stark, golden Sinai desert is personally one of my fondest memories from the land of the pharaohs.
It's experiences such as these that make Egypt as popular as it justly deserves, not to mention year round sun, and some of the best diving reefs in the world. Of course there are camels, temples and I even heard rumour of ancient pyramids, but there's plenty more as well. Don't take my word for it though; see for yourself.
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