Farah Najam introduces the popular tourist attractions of the ancient Egypt – ‘the gift of the Nile’
Many people associate ancient Egypt with slaves building the great pyramids, although today we believe that the pyramids probably were not built primarily by slave labor. Egypt is described as ‘the gift of the Nile,’ to which travelers are drawn by the pyramids, sphinx, ancient Luxor, and the Nile River. The Pharaohs, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Turks, and the British have all ruled Egypt. Modern Egypt is a blend of these legacies.
To eat ‘real,’ you have to eat ‘street.’ Egypt is a culinary adventure. ‘Eating street,’ as we define it, does not confine itself to stand-up meals from cart vendors – it is more of an everyday cuisine of an everyday person. These everyday Egyptians eat well.
Elegant restaurants offer delicious oriental selections, such as Kofta (ground meatballs), Kebab (grilled meat), Mulukhia (green soup), Tahina (Tahini) salad, Hamam Mahshi (stuffed pigeon), Baba Ghannoug (Tahini and eggplant) and mixed green salad, stuffed grape leaves, Foul and Falafel (cooked and fried beans).
Egypt can rightfully be termed as shopper’s paradise with its exquisite carpets, typical Egyptian historical reproductions and artifacts, papyrus wall hangings, dates and dry fruits, spices and prayer beads, colourful fabrics and clothes, as well as fabulous jewellery.
Although the cities have their own Bazars, the most famous among them is the Khan-el-Khalili in Cairo. The place has a long tradition of connoisseurship in collectibles and there is always the possibility of finding a real gem. Bargaining is the best way to get your way through the market.
At the more sophisticated shopping malls, you can shop in the comfort of an air conditioner and pick up wall hangings and the famous Egyptian rugs and carpets.
Cairo is a city that often mixes the many cultures of the world with the many ages of the world.
The Great Sphinx is a mythical creature with a lion’s body and a woman’s head that devoured by-passers unable to answer her riddle. Three times a night in three different languages, the Sphinx plays the role of storyteller, narrating the history of the ancient Egypt.
The most famous site in Egypt is the Giza Plateau, which has the largest pyramids. Many believe it was the ancient burial chamber of the pharaoh and his queen, while others suggest it had astronomical functions.
The National Geographic Society Museum is located in the El Shura Council. The museum has different chambers labeled as Cairo Hall, Africa Hall, Suez Canal Hall, Egyptian Ethnography, and a General Hall about Egypt.
The Wadi Digla is made up of limestone rocks, which indicate that this area was once covered by the ocean. A very good place for camping, scouts trips, and bikers, who need rugged roads to ride along.
Alexandria, the second largest city and the main port of Egypt, was built by a Greek architect Dinocrates (332-331 BC) on the site of an old village, Rhakotis, following the orders of Alexander the Great. It was the site of the Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as well as the Great Library.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria (also called Pharos Lighthouse) was used to mark the harbor, using fire at night and reflecting sunrays during the day.
The Great Library, established by Ptolemy I (305-285 BC), was the most important centre of learning in the ancient times. The beautiful new building, with its distinctive granite wall covered by the letters of alphabets from around the world, today is a recognizable landmark of the new Alexandria.
The fort was built in the 1480’s by the Egyptian Mamelouk Sultan Qaitbay on the spot of Alexandria’s ancient Lighthouse. It was said that Qaitbay spent more than a hundred thousand Dinars on the work of this citadel.
Built on the site of the ancient city of Thebes, Luxor is one of Egypt’s prime tourist destinations. In a town, where tourism accounts for 85 percent of the economy, it is hardly surprising that you cannot move without being importuned to step inside a shop, rent a caleche, or have your shoes shined. Hassled and overcharged at every turn, some tourists react with fury and come to detest Luxor. Keep your cool and sense of humour – it is possible to find genuine warmth here. Once you get to know a few characters and begin to understand the score, Luxor becomes a funky soap opera with a cast of thousands.
Nile River Cruise
Tips for choosing a Nile River Cruise:
- Make sure you know exactly, where the cruise will stop, the time you should plan spending in the cruise, and what you will see in that area.
- Find out, what the accommodations on the boat will be like – what are the amenities, the size of your cabin, and what star level of hotel does it compare to?
- Will your guide travel with you? Will you have a private guide or be part of a group?
- Are there discounts for bringing multiple travelers? Or a supplement for a single traveler? If you are traveling alone, will you have a private cabin?
Masajid in Egypt
While most of the tourist Masjids are to be found in Islamic Cairo, the oldest of them all, the Amr Ibn El-As Mosque, is located in Coptic (Christian, or Old Cairo). Al-Azhar Mosque, one of the most influential Masjids in Islam, is the location of the World’s oldest University. Some Masjids in Egypt, particularly in Cairo, are actually complexes that include a number of other structures, which may or may not be attached to the Masjid.
You can walk into the desert by yourself, climb an unnamed hill, and watch the sun lazily dropping into the horizon reflecting on Allah’s (swt) beauty in creation. There is much to be relished in this historic country that shaped some of the very pivotal years of Islam.
Contributed by Affaf Jamal
Egypt for the Muslims, Jews and Christians holds a significant mark in history as a land where Prophets came and rose.
Prophet Yacoob (as) had twelve sons, his favorite being Yusuf (as). Yusuf (as) was sold as a slave in Egypt. When famine came to the land, Yusuf (as), who became the Pharaoh’s minister, invited his family, to come to Egypt. Their family grew and became a large tribe known as the Banu Israel. Ramses II became king four hundred years later. He made the Banu Israel his slaves. It was from this very tribe that another great Prophet arose, Moosa (as) who would defeat the great Pharaoh and add to the treasure of Egyptian history.