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Lonely Planet Egypt

Lonely Planet Egypt

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Lonely Planet Egypt

valutazioni:
4/5 (1 valutazione)
Lunghezza:
1,347 pagine
13 ore
Pubblicato:
Jul 1, 2018
ISBN:
9781787019041
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet's Egypt is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Wonder at the construction of the Pyramids of Giza, wander through the columned halls of the great temple complexes of Luxor, and dive through an underwater world of coral cliffs and colourful fish in the Red Sea - all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Egypt and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Egypt:

  • Colour maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sightseeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights provide a richer, more rewarding travel experience - covering history, people, music, landscapes, wildlife, cuisine, politics
  • Covers Cairo & Around, the Nile Delta, Suez Canal, Sinai, Alexandria & the Mediterranean Coast, Siwa Oasis & the Western Desert, Northern Nile Valley, Luxor, Southern Nile Valley, Red Sea Coast

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet's Egypt is our most comprehensive guide to the country, and is designed to immerse you in the culture and help you discover the best sights and get off the beaten track.

Travelling further afield? Check out Lonely Planet's Middle East for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer.

About Lonely Planet: Lonely Planet is a leading travel media company and the world's number one travel guidebook brand, providing both inspiring and trustworthy information for every kind of traveller since 1973. Over the past four decades, we've printed over 145 million guidebooks and grown a dedicated, passionate global community of travellers. You'll also find our content online, and in mobile apps, video, 14 languages, nine international magazines, armchair and lifestyle books, ebooks, and more.

'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times

'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves, it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

Important Notice: The digital edition of this book may not contain all of the images found in the physical edition.

Pubblicato:
Jul 1, 2018
ISBN:
9781787019041
Formato:
Libro

Informazioni sull'autore

Lonely Planet has gone on to become the world’s most successful travel publisher, printing over 100 million books. The guides are printed in nine different languages; English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Korean. Lonely Planet enables curious travellers to experience the world and get to the heart of a place via guidebooks and eBooks to almost every destination on the planet, an award-winning website and magazine, a range of mobile and digital travel products and a dedicated traveller community.

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Anteprima del libro

Lonely Planet Egypt - Lonely Planet

Egypt

Contents

Plan Your Trip

Welcome to Egypt

Egypt Map

Egypt’s Top 17

Need to Know

First Time Egypt

If You Like…

Month by Month

Itineraries

Cruising the Nile

Diving the Red Sea

Travel with Children

Regions at a Glance

On The Road

Cairo

Sights

Activities

Courses

Tours

Festivals & Events

Sleeping

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Information

Getting There & Away

Getting Around

Giza Pyramids

Egyptian Museum

Ground Floor

First Floor

Cairo Outskirts & the Delta

Desert Environs

Saqqara, Memphis & Dahshur

Al Fayoum

Wadi Natrun

The Nile Delta

Birqash Camel Market

Qanater (Nile Barrages)

Tanta

Zagazig & Bubastis

Tanis

Northern Nile Valley

Beni Suef

Gebel At Teir & Frazer Tombs

Minya

Beni Hasan

Beni Hasan to Tell Al Amarna

Tell Al Amarna

Tombs of Mir

Deir Al Muharraq

Asyut

Sohag

Abydos

Qena

Luxor

Sights

Activities

Courses

Tours

Festivals & Events

Sleeping

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Information

Getting There & Away

Getting Around

Southern Nile Valley

Southern Upper Egypt

Esna

Al Kab & Kom al Ahmar

Edfu

Gebel Silsila

Kom Ombo

Aswan

Around Aswan

Aswan Dam

Seheyl Island

Philae

Aswan High Dam

Lower Nubia & Lake Nasser

Lake Nasser

Abu Simbel

Siwa Oasis & the Western Desert

Al Kharga Oasis

Al Kharga

Around Al Kharga

Dakhla Oasis

Mut

Balat

Bashendi

Al Qasr

Deir Al Haggar & Around

Farafra Oasis

Qasr Al Farafra

Farafra Oasis to Bahariya Oasis

Al Hayz

Black Desert

Bahariya Oasis

Bawiti

Siwa Oasis

Beyond Siwa

Great Sand Sea & Gilf Kebir

Alexandria & the Mediterranean Coast

Alexandria

Around Alexandria

Aboukir

Rosetta (Ar Rashid)

Mediterranean Coast

El Alamein

Sidi Abdel Rahman

Marsa Matruh

Suez Canal

Port Said

Ismailia

Suez

Red Sea Coast

Red Sea Monasteries

El Gouna

Hurghada

Safaga

Al Quseir

Marsa Alam

Eastern Desert

Sinai

Sinai Coast

Ras Sudr

Al Tor

Ras Mohammed National Park

Sharm El Sheikh & Na’ama Bay

Nabq Protectorate

Dahab

Ras Abu Gallum Protectorate

Nuweiba

Around Nuweiba

Taba

Sinai Interior

St Katherine Protectorate

Wadi Feiran

Understand

Understand Egypt

Egypt Today

History

Ancient Egypt & the Pharaohs

The Egyptian People

The Arts

Egyptian Cuisine

Environment

SURVIVAL GUIDE

Safe Travel

Women Travellers

Directory A-Z

Accommodation

Activities

Customs Regulations

Discount Cards

Electricity

Embassies & Consulates

Food

Health

Insurance

Internet Access

Language Courses

Legal Matters

LGBTQI+ Travellers

Maps

Money

Opening Hours

Photography

Post

Public Holidays

Safe Travel

Scams & Hustles

Shopping

Telephone

Time

Toilets

Tourist Information

Travellers with Disabilities

Visas

Volunteering

Work

Transport

Getting There & Away

Getting Around

Language

Glossary

Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Welcome to Egypt

Egypt welcomes you with its mighty Nile and magnificent monuments, the beguiling desert and lush delta, and with its long past and welcoming, story-loving people.

Pyramids & More

With sand-covered tombs, austere pyramids and towering Pharaonic temples, Egypt brings out the explorer in all of us. Visit the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, where Tutankhamun’s tomb was unearthed, and see the glittering finds in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Hop off a Nile boat to visit Dendara, Edfu or one of the other waterside temples, cross Lake Nasser to see Ramses II’s masterpiece at Abu Simbel, or trek into the desert to find the traces of Roman trading outposts. You never know – your donkey might stumble across yet another find, for that is the way many previous discoveries were made.

Beaches & Beyond

That empty beach with nothing but a candle-lit cabin, and a teeming coral reef offshore: they’re waiting for you in Egypt. The coast along the Red Sea has a rugged desert beauty above the waterline and a psychedelic vibrancy below – rewarding to explore on a multiday outing to one of the globe’s great dives or on an afternoon’s snorkelling jaunt along a coral wall. There is even more space and just as much beauty in Egypt’s vast deserts. Whether you’re watching the sun rise between the beautiful shapes of the White Desert or the shimmering horizon from the comfort of a hot spring in Siwa Oasis, Egypt’s landscapes are endlessly fascinating.

Going with the Flow

The old saying that Egypt is the gift of the Nile still rings true: without the river there would be no fertile land, no food and a lot less electricity. Although people’s lives are increasingly physically detached from the water, the Nile still exerts a uniquely powerful role. Luckily for visitors, the river is also the perfect place from which to see many of the most spectacular ancient monuments, which is one reason why a Nile cruise remains such a popular way to travel.

Two Religions

Egypt once ruled an empire from Al Qahira – Cairo, the City Victorious. The metropolis is packed with soaring minarets and medieval schools and mosques, some of the greatest architecture of medieval Islam. At the same time, Egypt’s native Christians, the Copts, have carried on their traditions that in many respects – such as the church’s liturgical language and the traditional calendar – link back to the time of the pharaohs. Tap into the history in Cairo’s early churches and in remote desert monasteries.

VLADIMIR MELNIK/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Why I Love Egypt

By Anthony Sattin, Writer

Is it the way the glorious past casts long shadows over the present? Is it the way the lush Nile Valley gives way, from one footstep to another, to the harshness of the desert? Or is it the glint in the eye of someone telling me stories in a cafe? Depth of history, intensity of sunlight, love of life and sense of family: these are some of the many reasons I love this country. But there is also this fact: however much I see and hear and know, there is always more discover.

For more about our writers, see here

Egypt’s Top 17

Luxor

With the greatest concentration of ancient monuments in Egypt, Luxor is somewhere you could spend weeks visiting, 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.

Karnak, Luxor | IRAKLI SHAVGULIDZE/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

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, the pyramids 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, which is 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.

MARK BRODKIN PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

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.

OVERSNAP/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Cairo’s Quiet Mosques

The tranquil, shady arcades of a medieval mosque are perfect for taking a break from the modern world. Far from being sites 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 (below;) is a medieval monument, working mosque and architectural wonder. Kick your shoes off, sit down and stay a while.

ANTON_IVANOV/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Abu Simbel

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: 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.

NICHOLAS PITT/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

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.

NICHOLAS PITT/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Aswan Sunset

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.

NICHOLAS PITT/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Coptic Sites

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 (above;) 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.

SENDERISTAS/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Egyptian Museum

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.

AFRICA STUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

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 artistic development in the thousands of years that follow.

DEA /G. DAGLI ORTI/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Siwa Oasis

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.

Fatnas, Lake Siwa | ZO2LA/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

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. Highlights 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.

SENDERISTAS/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Alexandria

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.

Fort Qaitbey, Alexandria | KRECHET/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Top Experiences

Souqs

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.

JUERGEN RITTERBACH/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Abydos

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.

Wall carvings, Temples of Ramses II, Abydos | AMANDALEWIS/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Bahariya Oasis

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.

AARSTUDIO/GETTY IMAGES ©

Top Experiences

Ahwas

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.

PAUL PRESCOTT/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Need to Know

For more information, see Survival Guide

Currency

Egyptian pound (LE)

Language

Arabic

Visas

Required for most nationalities. Single-entry, 30-day tourist visas cost US$25 and are available online (https://visa2egypt.gov.eg) for 41 nationalities. Otherwise, visas can be purchased at the airport on arrival. Visa extensions are possible once in-country.

Money

ATMs are widely available. Credit cards are increasingly widely accepted. There is a major shortage of small change; large bills can be difficult to break.

Mobile Phones

Egypt’s GSM network has thorough coverage. Bring your passport when purchasing a local SIM card (LE15). Pay-as-you-go data service costs about LE5 per day or LE50 per month.

When to Go

High Season (Oct–Feb)

A Egypt’s ‘winter’ is largely sunny and warm, with very occasional rain (more frequent on the Mediterranean).

A Be prepared for real chill in unheated hotels, especially in damp Alexandria.

Shoulder (Mar & May, Sep & Oct)

A Spring brings occasional dust storms disrupting flights.

A Heat can extend into October, when crowds are lighter.

A Warm seas and no crowds at Mediterranean spots in autumn.

Low Season (Jun–Aug)

A Scorching summer sun means only the hardiest sightseers visit Upper Egypt.

A Avoid the Western Desert.

A High season on the Mediterranean when the weather is cooler than elsewhere; the coast is crowded.

Useful Websites

Egypt Tourism (www.egypt.travel) Official tourism site with trip-planning tools.

Daily News Egypt (www.dailynewsegypt.com) Independent English newspaper.

Mada Masr (www.madamasr.com) Independent, progressive online reporting in English.

Egypt Independent (www.egyptindependent.com) Respected online news.

Egyptian Streets (www.egyptianstreets.com) Independent features.

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/egypt) Destination information, hotel bookings and traveller forum.

Important Numbers

Drop 0 from the area code when dialling from abroad.

Exchange Rates

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than LE600

A Basic double room: LE170

A Falafel sandwich: LE2.50

A Cairo–Luxor 1st-class train ticket: LE113–203

Midrange: LE600–1800

A Midrange double air-con room: US$30

A Two sit-down meals: LE120

A Flight from Cairo to Luxor: from LE650

Top end: More than LE1800

A Luxury hotel room: US$150

A Two sit-down meals: LE300

A High-end Nile cruise: from US$175 per person per night

Opening Hours

The weekend is Friday and Saturday; some businesses close Sunday. During Ramadan, offices, museums and tourist sites keep shorter hours.

Banks 8.30am–2.30pm Sunday to Thursday

Bars and clubs Early evening until 3am, often later (particularly in Cairo)

Cafes 7am–1am

Government offices 8am–2pm Sunday to Thursday; tourist offices are generally open longer

Post offices 8.30am–2pm Saturday to Thursday

Private offices 10am–2pm and 4pm–9pm Saturday to Thursday

Restaurants Noon–midnight

Shops 9am–1pm and 5pm–10pm June to September, 10am–6pm October to May; in Cairo shops generally open 10am–11pm

Arriving in Egypt

Cairo International Airport Pre-arrange taxi pickup (around LE150) or bargain on arrival (LE120); 30 minutes to one hour to Downtown. Buses LE4; up to two hours to Downtown.

Hurghada Airport Pre-arranged pickup recommended. Hard bargaining required for airport taxi; ideally LE35 to central Sigala district.

Sharm El Sheikh Airport Taxi drivers will rarely drop below LE100 to Na’ama Bay. Pre-arranged pickup recommended.

Luxor Airport Most hotel airport transfers are preferable to having to haggle with taxi drivers at the airport.

Getting Around

Transport in Egypt is fairly efficient and very reasonably priced. Be aware that because of security concerns, some areas and transport modes are or may become off limits to foreign travellers.

Air Most domestic flights go through Cairo. When using EgyptAir’s website, switch your home location to Egypt to get the cheapest domestic fares.

Train The most comfortable option for travelling to Alexandria, Luxor and Aswan. The two classes of trains – Spanish and the more expensive Special – both have air-con 1st- and 2nd-class seats.

Bus There are frequent buses between Egyptian cities. Buses are comfortable and reliable. Book in advance.

Car Cars with driver are readily available and reasonably priced.

For much more on getting around, see here

First Time Egypt

For more information, see Survival Guide

Checklist

A Ensure your passport is valid for a minimum of eight months.

A Check your country’s foreign office advisory before booking your airline ticket.

A Organise travel insurance that includes medical cover.

A Inform your credit/debit card company of your travels before you leave home.

A Check if you can use your mobile abroad.

A Book accommodation and domestic flights.

What to Pack

A Hat, sunglasses and a good sunscreen

A Two-pin electrical adaptor to recharge gadgets

A Good mosquito protection

A A mobile phone compatible with an Egyptian SIM

A Patience to cope with a different concept of time

Top Tips for Your Trip

A Visit during the shoulder season (spring and autumn) when the weather is less extreme and there are fewer visitors around.

A Learn a few words in Arabic – greetings and ‘thank you’ are the obvious ones – and you’ll get a laugh or a smile from the person you are talking to. One of the highlights of the trip is meeting good-humoured Egyptians.

A Keep small change to hand (LE5 and LE10 notes), as it is useful to give out as much needed baksheesh (tips) just about everywhere.

A Start your visits early in the morning to avoid the midday heat.

A Rent a car with a driver rather than driving yourself. Avoid travelling on roads outside cities and towns at night, which can be particularly dangerous.

What to Wear

Egypt is a conservative country, so modest attire is recommended. Out of resort towns, women will usually feel more comfortable wearing loose clothes. There are places (mosques and churches, for instance) where arms and legs should be covered. In resort towns the dress code is more relaxed. Cotton or linen clothing is recommended for the heat, and a fleece or wool sweater is needed for the cooler nights.

The dress code in most places is fairly casual, even at night, although Cairenes do dress up to go to the hip spots in town.

Sleeping

It’s generally only necessary to book your accommodation in advance if you are planning to visit during the Christmas, Easter and half-term school holidays.

A Hotels Range from dusty fleapits to deluxe accommodation in the larger cities and resorts. In smaller towns accommodation is mostly limited to basic options.

A B&Bs Less common in Egypt, and places that call themselves B&Bs are often small family-run one- or two-star hotels.

Safety

Although the situation in Egypt has become increasingly unstable in recent years, most of the country is calm most of the time. In the current climate, it pays to be more than usually aware so check government travel advisories before leaving home, and stay up-to-date with the latest local news while on the road. See safe travel for more.

Bargaining

Bargaining is part of life when shopping in souqs and markets. It may seem an annoyance, but it pays to see it as a game. Just follow the basic rules:

A Shop around to get an idea of prices.

A Decide how much you want to pay, and then offer a lower price than that.

A Don’t show any excitement.

A Walk away if you can’t agree, and the vendor will follow you if your price was right.

Tipping

Always keep small change as baksheesh is expected everywhere. When in doubt, tip.

A Cafes Leave LE5 to LE10.

A Guards at tourist sites LE5 to LE20.

A Metered taxis Round off the fare or offer around 5% extra, depending on the ride.

A Mosque attendant Leave LE5 to LE10 for shoe covers, more if you climb a minaret or have some guiding.

A Restaurants For good service leave 10%; in smart places leave 15%.

Fresh hummus with chickpeas | DANIEL REINER/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Etiquette

Egypt is a mostly conservative country, so observing the following will avoid any awkward moments:

A Sacred ground Remove your shoes before entering a mosque.

A Touching Don’t touch someone from the opposite sex in public.

A Feet Don’t show the soles of your feet; it’s considered disrespectful.

A Hands Eat with your right hand; the left hand is used for ablutions.

A Ramadan Don’t eat or drink in public during the fasting month of Ramadan.

Eating

Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and the Red Sea resort towns have a wide variety of eating options. Away from the main centres, choices are more limited.

A Restaurants Range from smart and expensive hotel dining, where booking ahead is essential, to canteen-style budget restaurants typically serving Egyptian kebab and stew favourites. European-style dishes can be hit and miss at budget establishments and most don’t serve alcohol.

A Cafes Usually open for most of the day and night, and they only serve drinks and shisha, no food.

A Street food A huge part of the Egyptian food scene. Fast and fresh staples at local prices.

If You Like…

Wildlife

Along the Nile, in the lush river delta and in sprawling salt lakes, bird life flourishes. Underwater coral reefs teem with colour. Even Egypt’s arid deserts host a surprising array of plants and critters.

Aswan Get up before dawn to spot squacco herons, hoopoes and more with expert birders.

Wadi Rayyan This brackish lake, not far from where the ancients worshipped crocodiles, is a lifeline for migrating birds.

Shiatta Gazelles and flamingos frolic at this salt lake in the desert west of Siwa.

Lake Nasser Take a tour with African Angler to snare some fish for dinner – or just enjoy the view.

Marsa Alam Reefs off the coast here are home to mantas, spinner dolphins and even sharks.

Islamic Architecture

Bein Al Qasreen A string of the finest buildings from the Mamluk era, now restored as an open-air museum.

Mosque of Qaitbey Trek to Cairo’s not-actually-that-spooky City of the Dead to admire the most beautiful stone dome in Cairo.

Al Qasr This oasis town was built in the Ottoman era, starting in the 16th century – check out the beautifully carved lintels over doorways.

Rosetta’s Ottoman Houses Try to find the secret staircase to the women’s gallery in one restored residential compound, and admire the millworks at another.

Al Quseir The old Hajj port is a tumble of Ottoman-era buildings that seem lost in time.

Deserts

Seeking blissful isolation? The desert landscape in Egypt is vast and surprisingly varied. And there’s just as much variety in how you can explore it.

White Desert National Park For a truly mind-bending experience, schedule your overnight trip to this eerie landscape during the full moon.

Sinai Trail Trek Egypt’s first long-distance trail through wadis and vast desert plains to the rugged mountain heartland surrounding St Katherine.

Monastery of St Simeon For desert beauty without the days-long trek, visit this Coptic site in Aswan.

Eastern Desert Once criss-crossed by ancient trade routes, with rock inscriptions, gold mines and great landscapes, now only accessible with a guide.

Markets & Shopping

Whether you’re just browsing or searching for gifts for everyone on your list, Egypt’s souqs are the perfect destination, with as much entertainment as anything else – not to mention more offers of tea than you could ever drink.

Khan Al Khalili Cairo’s medieval trading zone is still a commercial hub – the perfect place to polish your haggling skills.

Souq Al Gomaa Get in the scrum at this weekly Cairo junk swap, and you might come out with new clothes or old taxidermy.

Oum El Dounia One-stop shop in central Cairo for the best and most-stylish Egyptian crafts.

Attareen Antique Market An Alexandrian trove, where you can find some mid-20th-century gems.

Habiba An excellent selection of the best of Egyptian crafts.

Lanterns for sale in Khan Al Khalili, Cairo | ORHAN CAM/SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Ancient Traces

Given Egypt’s Pharaonic riches, you could find something with a story thousands of years old in any destination. These are some of the more out-of-the-way sites to add to your itinerary.

Medinat Madi You need a 4WD to get here, but the sight of sphinxes half-buried in drifting sand is exactly what archaeology buffs come to Egypt for.

Red Pyramid At Dahshur, south of Cairo, you’ll likely be the only visitor to this enormous monument, making the climb inside its tunnels all the more exciting.

Deir Al Muharraq In Egyptian terms, Christianity is relatively new history – but this Coptic monastery claims the world’s oldest church, from AD 60.

St Katherine’s Monastery, Sinai | JAREKJOEPERA/GETTY IMAGES ©

Traditional Arts

Fair Trade Egypt A good starting point for finding traditional Egyptian crafts.

Makan An intimate space in Cairo hosting an intense Nubian musical ritual called a zar.

El Dammah Theatre This traditional music space sees regular shows by Suez Canal–area artists and others.

Eskaleh This Nubian cultural centre and hotel offers guests a chance to immerse in local food and music.

Month by Month

TOP EVENTS

D-CAF, March

3alganoob, April

Ramadan, May

Eid Al Adha, August

Siyaha, October

Cairo International Film Festival, November

January

In most of Egypt, winter means balmy days, perfect for sightseeing, but chilly nights, especially in unheated hotel rooms. Alexandria and the Mediterranean coast can be a bit rainy, but otherwise precipitation is rare.

z Cairo International Book Fair

Held at Nasr City Fairgrounds in Heliopolis in the last week of January and the first of February, this is one of the city’s major cultural events (www.cairobookfair.org.eg). Most of the lectures and other events (and the books themselves) are in Arabic only.

2 Egyptian Marathon

Endurance runners take to the west bank of the Nile near Luxor, starting from in front of the Temple of Hatshepsut. The race takes place in late January or early February, followed by a half-marathon in Sharm El Sheikh in March. See the website for dates.

February

The winter chill continues, though it’s the perfect time of year in the south. Tourists think so too, and Aswan and Luxor are packed, as are the beaches.

1 Ascension of Ramses II

Takes place on 22 February. One of the two dates each year (the other is in October) when the sun penetrates the inner sanctuary of the temple at Abu Simbel to illuminate the statues of the gods within. Draws a big crowd of theorists of all kinds.

2 International Fishing Tournament

Held at Hurghada on the Red Sea; attended by anglers from all over the world.

March

With warmer days come winds, especially the khamsin, a hot southerly current that causes periodic, intense sandstorms lasting a few hours and often grounding flights. Bear this in mind when booking trips through to early May.

z D-CAF

Downtown Cairo’s Contemporary Arts Festival is international, multi-disciplinary and great fun. It’s also a wonderful way to see the often dilapidated venues in the city centre.

April

The khamsin carries on, but on days when it’s not blowing, the air is pleasantly fresh. This is the shoulder season for tourism, and archaeological sites begin to empty out.

z 3alganoob

This three-day live-music event in Tondoba Bay, outside Marsa Alam, has grown into Egypt’s premier music festival with a range of artists playing funk, rock, disco and rap.

z Shamm Al Nassim

The Monday after Coptic Easter (29 April 2019, 20 April 2020, 3 May 2021). Meaning ‘sniffing the breeze’, this spring ritual came from Pharaonic tradition via the Copts. It’s celebrated by all Egyptians, who picnic in parks, on riverbanks and even on traffic islands.

z Moulid of Abu Al Haggag

In the third week of the Islamic month of Sha’aban (approximately 20 April 2019, 8 April 2020, 28 March 2021), this Sufi festival in Luxor offers a taste of rural religious tradition. Some villages have moulids (religious festivals) around the same time.

May

z Ramadan

The ninth month of the Islamic calendar is dedicated to fasting by day and feasting by night. Foodies will love a visit during this time; ambitious sightseers may be frustrated. Ramadan starts 5 May 2019, 23 April 2020, 12 April 2021.

Mosaher (wake-up man) calling Muslims to prayer during Ramadan. | GORGE NAZMI BEBAWI / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

June

Egypt lets out a collective sigh of relief after school is let out and the summer holidays begin. The heat is in full force by the end of the month.

5 Eid Al Fitr

The feast that marks the end of Ramadan lasts three days and, if it’s possible, involves even more food than the past month put together.

August

This is a major Egyptian vacation period. Expect beach zones, especially in the Mediterranean, to be thronged. Anywhere else is so hot you can feel your eyeballs burn. Life generally takes place after sundown.

5 Eid Al Adha

For the Feast of the Sacrifice (11 August 2019, 30 July 2020, 19 July 2021), a four-day Islamic (and national) holiday, families slaughter sheep and goats at home, even in densest Cairo. There’s literally blood in the streets, and the air smells of roasting meat. In short, not for vegetarians.

Pistachio and chocolate Egyptian pastries. | RHKAMEN / GETTY IMAGES ©

September

z Citadel Festival

Ten days of classical, traditional and orchestral Arabic music held within the Citadel and the Cairo Opera House in either August or September. See www.cairoopera.org for schedules.

October

As the summer heat finally breaks, students head back to school and the cultural calendar revs up again, especially in Cairo. An ideal time for travelling, with manageable weather and few other visitors.

1 Birth of Ramses

The 22nd of October is the second date in the year when the sun’s rays penetrate the temple at Abu Simbel.

3 International Festival for Experimental Theatre

A long-running event held at venues all over Cairo, from standard stages to antiques shops. Shows can be hit or miss, but many are very tourist-friendly as you don’t have to speak Arabic to enjoy them. See www.cdf-eg.org for the line-up.

z Moulid of Sayyed Al Badawi

In the last week of October, close to a million pilgrims throng the city of Tanta in the Nile Delta, where a 13th-century mystic founded an important Sufi order. Part family fun fair, part intense ritual, it’s worth a trip if you don’t mind crowds.

z Siyaha

An oasis-wide celebration of the date harvest, Siwa’s annual get-together takes place around the full moon this month. Much like a moulid, though not as raucous, there’s Sufi chanting and plenty of food.

November

With a light chill in the air, restaurants start serving up heartier stews, while visitors start trickling in to enjoy ruins and beaches at a moderate temperature.

3 Cairo International Film Festival

This prestigious festival, held in November/December, shows a vast range of Arab and international films. Unusually for Egypt, screenings are uncensored. Tickets to more controversial and risqué movies tend to sell out fastest. Schedules at www.ciff.org.eg.

z Moulid An Nabi

Prophet Mohammed’s birthday is a nationwide celebration with sweets and new clothes for kids. In Cairo, the week before is an intense Sufi scene at Midan Al Hussein.

December

Not much is on the calendar in Egypt, but this is when winter tourism begins to peak, as visitors flood in for winter sun and sightseeing. There’s a surprising amount of Santa Claus kitsch to be seen.

z International Cairo Biennale

This fairly conservative government-sponsored show (www.cairobiennale.gov.eg) doesn’t fully reflect the contemporary Egyptian art scene, but it’s worth checking out, although its future looks precarious. It should open late December.

Itineraries

Treasures of the Nile

2 WEEKS

Many visitors now skip Cairo and fly direct to Luxor, the world’s largest open-air museum. There’s plenty to keep you busy here before spending a few days cruising the Nile, which is definitely the most relaxed way to see Egypt.

In Luxor spend two days on the east bank visiting Karnak and Luxor Temple and the brilliant Luxor Museum, as well as strolling through the souq. The next few days cycle around the west bank of the Nile where the major sights include the Valley of the Kings, the Ramesseum and the Memorial Temple of Hatshepsut. Try to save some energy for less-visited sights, such as Medinat Habu, the Tombs of the Nobles and Deir Al Medina, which can be just as rewarding.

In the second week arrange four days sailing up the Nile to Aswan on a budget-friendly felucca or a luxurious dahabiyya; the shorter version is to find a taxi to take you there, stopping at the temples on the way. From Aswan you can visit the temples at Abu Simbel, perched on the edge of Lake Nasser.

Itineraries

Egypt Top to Bottom

4 WEEKS

In a month you can cover most of Egypt’s main sights – a trip of nearly 2000km. This takes in Egypt’s most romantic desert oasis and snorkelling in the Red Sea, as well as seeing the most important monuments along the Nile and enjoying the urban delights of Cairo.

On the first morning in Cairo, visit the Egyptian Museum to get a grasp on the country’s long history. Have a few days of urban delights in the modern metropolis. Along with the top sites, make time to sit in one of the city’s bustling ahwas (coffeehouses), wreathed in sweet shisha smoke. Next, visit the Pyramids of Giza and continue to the necropolis of Saqqara.

Head south from Cairo on the sleeper train to Aswan, where you can soak up Nubian culture and make the side trip for a day or two to the awesome temples of Abu Simbel. Sail back down the Nile from Aswan to Edfu on a felucca, or take a taxi stopping at various temples along the way, continuing on to Luxor. Visit the vast temple complex of Karnak, and Luxor Temple on the east bank, and then hang out on the west bank of the Nile for a few days – there is so much to see here. For a great day out of Luxor, take a boat or drive to the sacred site of Abydos, visiting the Ptolemaic temple at Dendara on the way.

When you’ve had your fill of ancient ruins, head from Luxor to Al Quseir for some days of snorkelling and relaxing on a Red Sea beach. When you’re done head back to Cairo, and on the way stop in at the Monastery of St Paul and Monastery of St Anthony.

Return to Cairo and from there take the train to Alexandria and spend a couple of days in its wonderful cafes and museums. From there continue along the Mediterranean coast heading for Siwa Oasis, one of Egypt’s most idyllic spots. This is the best spot for hanging out for a few days, cycling around the oasis and perhaps going on a desert safari.

Itineraries

Desert Escape

2 WEEKS

The Western Desert offers a wonderful mix of lush oasis gardens, stunning desert landscapes and ancient monuments. There’s nowhere in Egypt as peaceful as the oases.

Begin a trip to the amazing Western Desert with a bus from Cairo or Asyut to Al Kharga Oasis, and explore the Al Kharga Museum of Antiquities as well as the Graeco-Roman temples and tombs.

From Al Kharga, head northwest to Dakhla Oasis to see the fascinating, hive-like mudbrick settlements of Balat and Al Qasr. Next, hop north to the small and quaint Farafra Oasis. From there you may be able to make a two- or three-day trip to camp in the stunning White Desert National Park, and then head for the closest oasis to Cairo, Bahariya.

The desert road from Bahariya to Siwa Oasis is currently closed, so you will have a long detour via Cairo to get there. Worth the trouble? Certainly. Perched on the edge of the Great Sand Sea, and surrounded by some staggeringly beautiful desert, Siwa is renowned for its dates as well as for being the place of the oracle where Alexander the Great was declared son of the god Amon.

Itineraries

Urban Jaunt

1 WEEK

Get a taste of contemporary urban life in Egypt’s two largest cities. The heaving metropolis of Cairo allows you to wander through time in its different quarters. In Alexandria, soak up cafe culture and catch a glimpse of the Graeco-Roman achievement.

In Cairo, head to the Egyptian Museum to immerse yourself in Egypt’s long history and then stroll through the faded elegance of Downtown. The next day visit the Pyramids of Giza, and continue to the necropolis of Saqqara. For contrast on your third day, take the metro to Coptic Cairo and visit the excellent Coptic Museum. Take a taxi to Al Azhar Park to enjoy lunch and great views over the city and then spend the afternoon in Islamic Cairo. On your last day, cafe-hop in leafy Zamalek, visit some art galleries and end atop the Cairo Tower for a final view.

The next morning, take an express train to Alexandria. Follow a morning in the stunning Bibliotheca Alexandrina with a visit to the excellent Alexandria National Museum. On your second day, indulge in nostalgia: ride the creaking streetcar and tour Pastroudis and other cafes where the city’s literati once sipped coffee.

Plan Your Trip

Cruising the Nile

The world’s longest river and its extraordinary monuments, the stunningly fertile valley and the barren beauty of the surrounding desert, the light and heat, and the joy of slow travel in a superfast world all add up to one of the highlights of a trip to Egypt, or anywhere in the world.

Key Cruises

Best for Adventure

A felucca is the most likely way to find adventure. An open-top sailing boat without cabins or facilities, it is best taken from south to north – if the wind fails, you can always float downriver.

Made for Romantics

Dahabiyyas – the name translates as ‘the golden one’ – will waft you back into the 19th century, when these large and luxurious sailing boats were the only viable form of transport for visitors.

Most Popular Route

The stretch between Luxor and Aswan is the most popular route and as a result busiest part of the river – you might find yourself in a long line of boats.

Far from the Crowds

Lake Nasser is the place to go if you would rather see empty landscapes and the odd wild animal than crowds of tourists.

Cruise Tips

When to travel Summer (June to August) can be extremely hot and is therefore the cheapest season to cruise. Christmas and Easter are usually the busiest and most expensive. Spring and autumn are ideal, with the light being particularly good in October and November.

Where to start Most cruises starting from Luxor are a day longer than those starting from Aswan, partly because they are going against the Nile’s strong current. If you want to spend longer in Luxor or are concerned about cost, start from Aswan and head north.

Cabin choice On cruisers, try to avoid the lowest deck. Many boats have decent views from all cabins, but the banks of the Nile are high (and get higher as the river level drops) and you want to see as much as possible. Ask for a deck plan when booking.

Sailing time Many passengers on Nile cruisers are surprised by how little time is spent cruising – the boats’ large engines cover distances relatively quickly, cruise times are often only four hours per day, and on some itineraries you only spend one night en route.

Itineraries & Sites

Large cruisers stick to rigid itineraries on the busy Luxor–Aswan stretch of the Nile. On these trips, generally lasting from three to six nights, days are spent visiting monuments and relaxing by the pool or on deck. By night there is a variety of entertainment: cocktails, dancing and fancy-dress parties – usually called a galabeya (man’s robe) party, as passengers are encouraged to ‘dress like an Egyptian’ – are all part of the fun. Actual sailing time is minimal on most of these trips – often as little as four hours each day, depending on the itinerary.

Feluccas and dahabiyyas determine their own schedules and do not need special mooring spots, so can stop at small islands or antiquities sites often skipped by the big cruisers. But even these boats usually have preferred mooring places. Because they use sail power instead of large engines, a far greater proportion of time is spent in motion. Night-time entertainment is more likely to be stargazing, listening to the sounds of the river, and occasionally riverbank fireside music from the crew or villagers.

The stretch of the Nile between Luxor and Aswan has the greatest concentration of well-preserved monuments in the country, which is why it also has the greatest number of boats and tourists (sailing in both directions).

Feluccas and dahabiyyas rarely sail between Luxor and Esna because police permits are difficult to get and because of the issue of passing the Esna lock. Dahabiyya operators will bus passengers to Esna from Luxor. Felucca trips generally start in Aswan and end south of Esna; captains can arrange onward transport to Luxor, but this often costs extra.

Cairo to Luxor

This stretch of the river was removed from cruise itineraries after attacks on boats in the 1990s. The archaeological sites at Dendara and Abydos have been on some tour schedules for the past few years, however, and it is also possible to take a day cruise to Dendara from Luxor. Few boats cruise between Cairo and Luxor, and those that do can only travel at high water in the hottest summer months.

Luxor

The capital of Egypt’s glorious New Kingdom pharaohs, home to Tutankhamun, Ramses II and many other famous names, Luxor is blessed with some of the world’s most famous ancient monuments. Most cruises only cover the bare minimum, so if you are interested in seeing the sights, it pays to spend an extra day or two here away from the boat.

Highlights include the temples of Karnak, Luxor Temple, Luxor Museum, Valley of the Kings, Tombs of the Nobles, Deir Al Bahri and Medinat Habu.

Luxor to Aswan

This most famous stretch of the river is studded with stunning architecture and varied scenes of great natural beauty. All cruisers stop to visit the Ptolemaic temples of Esna, Edfu and Kom Ombo. On the shorter cruises, all three sites are visited in a single day. While none of the sites is so large that this is unrealistic, exploring three great temples is a lot to jam into one day and the rushed visit means that you will be moored longer at Luxor or Aswan.

Dahabiyyas and feluccas take longer to cover the distance between the three temples, usually seeing only one a day. Most dahabiyyas (and some feluccas) also stop at the rarely visited and highly recommended sites of Al Kab and Gebel Silsila. Cruisers do not have moorings here, so visitors may be limited to your fellow passengers, giving a taste of how it might have been for 19th-century travellers.

The Best of the Nile

Close to the Nile in luxury Enjoying a private cruise on a grand dahabiyya such as the Meroe.

Economy cruise Taking a felucca trip from Aswan to Edfu.

Nubian adventure Safari to Abu Simbel on African Angler’s Ta Seti.

Nostalgia trip Reliving Agatha Christie’s Egypt, on the Nile’s last steamer, the Sudan.

Five-star plutocracy Style and luxury on Oberoi’s award-winning Philae.

Aswan

The Nile is squeezed between rocks and a series of islands at Aswan, which makes it particularly picturesque, especially with the desert crowding in on both sides of the river. If you alight here you will probably spend only one night in town, but some cruisers stay moored for two nights. Most itineraries include a visit to Philae, site of the Temple of Isis; the High Dam; and the Northern Quarries, site of the Unfinished Obelisk. Occasionally cruisers offer a felucca ride around Elephantine Island as an excursion; if not, it is worth organising your own. Some also offer an optional half-day tour (usually by plane) to Abu Simbel.

Lake Nasser

The lake was created in the 1960s when the High Dam was built near Aswan, and now covers much of Egyptian Nubia, once home to hundreds of tombs, temples and churches. Some monuments were moved from their original sites before the building of the dam and are grouped together at four locations: Kalabsha, Wadi As Subua (accessible only by boat), Amada (accessible only by boat) and, of course, the Temples of Abu Simbel.

Because so few cruisers operate on Lake Nasser, moorings are never crowded and monuments – with the exception of the Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel – are not overrun. Itineraries are generally three nights/four days from Aswan to Abu Simbel, or four nights/five days from Abu Simbel to Aswan.

Sailing a Felucca

For many travellers, the only way to travel on the Nile is slowly, on board a traditional felucca (Egyptian sailing boat). Except for swimming, this is as close as you can get to the river. Read on to make sure that this is for you and that you avoid the pitfalls.

A Slow Journey

Most felucca trips begin at Aswan; the strong northward current means that boats are not marooned if the wind dies. Trips go to Kom Ombo (two days/one night), Edfu (three days/two nights – the most popular option) or Esna (four days/three nights).

Feluccas are not allowed to sail after 8pm, so most stop at sunset and set up camp on the boat or on shore. Night-time entertainment ranges from stargazing and the crew singing to partying, depending on you and your fellow passengers.

Planning Your Felucca Trip

With so many feluccas (hundreds, thousands?), arranging a felucca trip can be daunting. Small hotels can be aggressive in trying to rope you in. To be sure of what you’re getting, it’s best to arrange things yourself.

Many of the better felucca captains can be found having a drink in Nileside restaurants such as the Aswan Moon; Emy, near the Panorama restaurant in Aswan; or on Elephantine Island. Meet a few captains – and inspect their boat – before choosing one you get on well with. Women alone or in a group should try to team up with a few men if possible, as some women travellers have reported sailing with felucca captains who had groping hands and there have been some rare reports of more serious assault.

Officially, feluccas can carry a minimum of six passengers and a maximum of eight. Fares are open to negotiation and dictated by demand. Expect to pay at least LE150 per person per day, including food, for sharing a boat between six to eight people. On top of this you need to add LE5 to LE10 per person for the captain to arrange the police registration – this needs to be arranged the day before sailing. You might find boats for less, but take care; if it’s much cheaper, you’ll either have a resentful captain and crew, or you’ll be eating little more than bread and fuul (fava bean paste) for three days. Do not hand out the whole agreed amount until you get to your destination because there have been several reports of trips being stopped prematurely for a so-called breakdown.

If you do have problems, the tourist police or the tourist office should be the first port of call.

Felucca on the Nile | MARK READ/LONELY PLANET ©

Egyptian breakfast aboard a felucca | CHAMELEONSEYE/GETTY IMAGES ©

Dahabiyyas, the Golden Boats

The 19th-century novelist Amelia Edwards likened travelling by sailing boat or steamer to the difference between horse-carriage and railway. She thought the former was slow and delightful, if expensive, while the latter was quick, cheap and without charm. When she travelled in the 1870s, package tours by steamer were already crowding dahabiyyas off the Nile. But they have made a comeback in the past few years and dozens of them are now afloat. Nour el Nil, La Flâneuse du Nil, Lazuli and Nile Dahabiya are all companies with boats that are beautifully appointed, with an antique feel, tasteful decor and double lateen sails. As they carry small numbers of passengers, this is the most luxurious way to see the monuments without crowds.

As most dahabiyyas have flexible itineraries and personalised service, it is also the best way to feel truly independent while still travelling in comfort, although often at considerably more expense than on feluccas or cruisers. Prices include all meals and usually also transfers to and from airports/train stations. Some include entrance to monuments and guide fees, but you should check when booking your trip. Trips are best arranged before you depart for Egypt.

Meroe (www.nourelnil.com; 5 nights per person from €1700) A replica of a 19th-century dahabiyya indistinguishable from the original, the beautifully finished Meroe is the best-run and coolest dahabiyya on the Nile. It is also rare for being owner-operated. It has room for 20 passengers in 10 comfortable, stylish white cabins with private bathroom, and large windows overlooking the Nile.

Because it is newly built, spaces have been thought through – there is ample storage for clothes and suitcases, for example – and plumbing and water filtration are good. During the day, when not visiting an ancient site or walking in the countryside, there is plenty of space on deck to read in your own corner, to watch the scenery or to dive off and swim in the strong current of the Nile. Food comes from farmers and markets on the way, and the chef produces delicious and copious meals with plenty of fresh vegetables, farm-bred chicken, duck and fish.

This tailor-made trip, with moorings at small islands and outside villages, is a unique way to see the Nile, reminiscent of another age. If there is no wind, the dahabiyya is towed by a motor boat. The same owners have three other boats, the eight-cabin Malouka, El Nil and Assouan, which are less expensive. All boats only run from Esna to Aswan (five nights).

Orient (www.nile-dahabiya.com; 3 nights from €525) With four double cabins and one suite, the well turned-out Orient is smaller than many dahabiyyas but none the worse for that. It’s run by Egyptians who also own one of our favourite restaurants in Luxor (Sofra); this and its sister ships Zekrayaat and Loulia are good midrange choices.

La Flâneuse (www.la-flaneuse-du-nil.com; 2 nights per person from €900) is well fitted and well run. Like original dahabiyyas, it relies on sails (or tugs) to move, but it does have air-con in the seven cabins. Tours are shorter than some, taking four nights from Esna to Aswan and three nights from Aswan back to Esna.

Lazuli %0100 877 7115; www.lazulinil.com) There are now three Lazuli dahabiyyas on the Nile, one with five cabins and two with six. The long, elegant boats have spacious decks with deck chairs, cushions and a long table at which most meals are served. The cabins are comfortable with compact but modern private bathrooms and solar-power energy.

Felucca Tips

A There are no onboard toilet facilities, so you will need to go to the toilet overboard or find somewhere private when you stop on shore. Some captains now travel with basic toilet tents – really no more than a screen and a hole in the sand.

A Check that the captain has what appears to be a decent, riverworthy boat, and the essential gear: blankets (it gets cold at night), cooking implements and a sunshade. If a different boat or captain is foisted on you at the last minute, be firm and refuse.

A Establish whether the price includes food; to be sure you’re getting what you paid for, go with whoever does the shopping.

A Agree on the number of passengers beforehand and ask to meet fellow passengers – you’re going to be sharing a small space, after all.

A Decide on the drop-off point before you set sail; many felucca captains stop 30km south of Edfu in Hammam, Faris or Ar Ramady.

A Don’t hand over your passport. Captains can use a photocopy to arrange the permit.

A Bring comfort essentials. It can get bitterly cold at night, so bring a sleeping bag. Insect repellent is a good idea. A hat, sunscreen and plenty of bottled water are essential.

A Wherever you stop, be sure to clean up after yourself.

Cruisers

There were as many as 300 cruisers plying the waters between Aswan and Luxor until the tourism slump led to many being tied up. Like hotels, the ones still running range from slightly shabby to sumptuous, but almost all have some sort of pool, a large rooftop area for sunbathing and watching the scenery, a restaurant, a bar, air-con, TV, minibars and en-suite bathrooms.

A cruise remains the easiest way to see the Nile in comfort on a midrange budget and can be ideal for families with older children who want to splash in a pool between archaeological visits, or for people who want to combine sightseeing with relaxation. The downside is that monuments are almost always seen with large groups and

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