By Islam El Shazly
Egypt has hundreds of places to enjoy, not just for the globetrotter or the single adventurer, but for the entire family, young and old. There are, of course, the usual haunts that should be on everyone’s itinerary, but that should not deter from sampling everything else that Egypt has to offer.
There are mountains to climb, trails to hike, and caves to discover. It would be impossible to do all of them in one visit, but just sampling some of the wonders on offer might just bring you and yours back for more.
This series was inspired by Frommer’s 100 Places to Take Your Kids and it will attempt to cover everything that defines Egypt, from antiquity to natural wonders, and from deep sea wreck diving to mountain trekking in Sinai to Desert Safaris back in time in the Western and Eastern Deserts. It is a work in progress, and, insha’Allah will see collaborations with other writers and contributors.
Keep an eye on the series, we will update frequently with extra information as it becomes available.
01. Cleopatra’s Bath, Matrouh
According to legend, this natural wonder with a dash of human touch served as a bath for Cleopatra VII. It is located on the rocky beach that also bears her name, Cleopatra Beach, in Marsa Matrouh. Inside the cave there is a skylight and two openings, fresh seawater pours in from one, then forms a pool that is constantly refreshed by new waves. When the water reaches a specific level it is pushed out the other opening. Swimming is not recommended in Cleopatra Beach due to the extreme rocky nature of it, but it makes for a great day of exploration and photo ops.
Tip: Hybrid outdoor footwear is indispensable here.
02. Egyptian Museum, Cairo
The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities contains many important pieces of ancient Egyptian history. It houses the world’s largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, and many treasures of King Tutankhamen. It should be a priority on your itinerary. Although it might take a week just to see everything it has to offer, you can sample the museum in a couple of visits.
The original museum was started by the government in 1835 near the Ezbekeyah Gardens, and then moved to a larger temporary building in Boulaq in 1858 until a more suitable building was commissioned by Archduke Maximilian of Austria, also in Boulaq; however, that building suffered irreparable damage in 1878, and the collection was moved again to an annex of Ismail Pasha’s palace in Giza in 1891 before finally being moved to the first purpose-built museum in the world in 1902 designed by French architect Marcel Dourgnon.
The original museum collection was established in the 1830’s by Auguste Mariette, who would later be named the first Director of Ancient Monuments in Egypt.Address: Mariette Pasha St., Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt
Tel.: +20 2 2579 6948, +20 2 2578 2452
03. The Citadel of Qaitbay, Alexandria
For over 5 centuries, the Fort of Qaitbay has stood guard over Alexandria’s eastern harbour. Within its walls are some even more ancient rocks, taken from the fallen Pharos of Alexandria, the behemoth that stood in the same place for 15 centuries guiding sailors into the port.
The Fort was built by Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa’it Bay in 1477, and it was considered one of the most important defensive strongholds along the Mediterranean Sea coast. It stayed as such until the British fleet heavily bombarded Alexandria in 1882, severely damaging the northern and western walls, and almost levelling Alexandria in the process.
It once housed crusader weapons dating back to the campaign of Louis IX that might have been spoils from the battle and capture of Al-Mansoura.
There’s plenty to explore, and by the time your done, if you have young’uns with you, they will be ready for a nap!Address: Qaitbay St., Al-Anfoushi, Alexandria, Egypt
Tel.: +20 3 480 9144
04. Wadi Hitan, Fayoum
The Valley of the Whales is a remote valley 150 km southwest of Cairo in Fayoum where hundreds of fossil whale skeletons are being exposed by the wind. They lie trapped in a sandstone formation that represents an ancient sea bed. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, and is considered “the most important site in the world to demonstrate the evolution of the whales from land animals to a marine existence”. According to the IUCN “It exceeds the values of other comparable sites in terms of the number, concentration and quality of its fossils, and their accessibility and setting in an attractive and protected landscape.”
It contains invaluable fossil remains of the earliest, and now extinct, suborder of whales: Archaeoceti.
Tip: Don’t forget your sunscreen!
05. The Tombs of Bani Hassan, Minya
The necropolis of Bani Hassan, 20km south of Minya, is a great location and a very important Ancient Egyptian site often missed by many tour operators these days. The tombs are cut into a limestone cliff on the east-bank of the Nile. Most tombs date from the Middle Kingdom from the 21st to the 17th centuries BCE. Only four are currently open for visitors, but they are definitely worth the visit, and will instantly immerse you in the daily life and politics of the time.
Tip: Don’t miss the illustrations of wrestling techniques in Tomb 15 – Baqet III.Tags: Alexandria, Archaeoceti, Beni Hasan, Cairo, Citadel, Cleopatra, Egyptian Museum, Fayoum, Featured, Fort, Fossils, Mariette, Matrouh, Minya, UNESCO, Wadi Hitan