If you are looking for a quiet and relaxing holiday destination, Cairo is not the place. Home to more than 16 million Egyptians, Arabs, Africans and various others, the ''Mother of the World'' assaults all senses. It is chaotic, noisy, polluted and seething with people. Office blocks tower over mud-brick houses and around two million cars that are mostly old and compete with donkey-drawn carts for road space.
Cairo, founded in 969, is Africa's most populous metropolitan area and comes in sixth in the world. On the banks of the River Nile in Egypt's north, the fabulous medieval Islamic city is the world's oldest tourist destination.
Fustat was the original economic and administrative capital, but when it was destroyed in 1168-69, it moved to Cairo where it has remained ever since.
The Great Pyramids of Giza sit on the edge of the city, as do the ancient temples, tombs, Christian churches, magnificent Islamic monuments and the Egyptian Antiquities Museum.
It is believed pharaoh Khufu used up to 30,000 people to construct the Great Pyramid at Giza. Until the 19th century, the 147-metre structure was the world's tallest monument.
Egypt was for many years an important part of the overland route to India and the East. It was established in 1842 and carried passengers, mail, stores and baggage.
For a real adventure, Getaway hopped on board an air-conditioned sleeper train at Giza station to check out just a few of the many more things this ancient country has to offer. The trains run every day in both directions.
After dinner, passengers tend to mingle in the stylish Club Car to enjoy a drink or two. Cabins have basins, razor plugs, tap water, soap and towels, as well as a luggage compartment.
Luxor is often referred to as the world's greatest open air museum. It was the capital of Egypt during the Middle and New Kingdoms. The ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor stand within the modern city. Luxor Temple has been modified over many centuries.
Just south of the temple is the Old Winter Palace Hotel, used early last century by Lord Carnarvon as he worked on the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamen.
Across the Nile are the monuments, temples and tombs on the West Bank Necropolis, which include the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.
It is an excellent base for touring Upper Egypt and is a very popular holiday destination as a starting or finishing point for Nile cruises.
The West Bank was the domain of the deceased and is dominated by mortuary temples and hundreds of tombs. A major mortuary temple is that of the 19th dynasty pharaoh Ramses II.
Aswan is Egypt's southernmost city, standing on the east bank of the Nile at the first cataract. It is a busy market and tourist centre.
The quarries of Aswan were celebrated for their stone, particularly the granite rock, syenite. The quarries furnished the materials for mammoth statues, obelisks and monolithic shrines found throughout Egypt, including the pyramids.
Aswan is a laid-back city and is pleasant for strolling along the river or sailing in a felucca, a sailing vessel popular in the area.
It is one of the world's driest inhabited places. Residents in Nubian settlements don’t even bother putting roofs on their houses.
Lake Nasser is a vast man-made reservoir which came about during the construction of the Aswan High Dam; 83 percent of it is in Egypt and the balance is in Sudan, where they call it Lake Nubia.
Abu Simbel is an archaeological site on Lake Nasser's west bank. It has two massive rock temples and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage . They were carved out of the mountainside during pharaoh Ramses' reign as a lasting monument to him and his queen, Nefertiti. They were also intended to intimidate his Nubian neighbours. The complex was relocated in the 1960s to an artificial hill high above the Aswan Dam reservoir to avoid being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser.
From Cairo to Abu Simbel in Egypt
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre has nine-day Nile Explorer Tours out of Cairo. They include two nights accommodation and breakfast in Cairo, tour of the city in an air-conditioned car with a driver and private guide. It also includes a four-night Nile cruise with full board and excursions, a guide and two-night sleeper train ticket between Cairo and Aswan and Luxor and Cairo. Entry fees to sites visited are also included. Prices are from $950 per person, twin share.
They also have three-night Lake Nasser cruises from Aswan aboard the Eugenie. Prices start at $487 per person, twin share.
Emirates has flights to Cairo.
- Melbourne $2326
- Brisbane $2335
- Sydney $2344
- Perth $2770
- Adelaide $2910
- Darwin $4062
Valid for travel until March 31, 2009. Conditions apply.
Prices correct at April 3, 2008.
For further information
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre
Suite 2, 644 Botany Road
Ph: (02) 9313 4633
Fax: (02) 9313 4475
Ph: 1300 303 777
It is recommended travellers to Egypt see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended for Egypt. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information visit www.welltogo.com.au.