An introduction to the top three cities in Egypt.
Cairo was founded in 969 AD and is not only the Egyptian capital but the world’s 16th largest metropolis and the largest city in the Arab world. As a political and religious hub Cairo exerts a great deal of influence over Egypt as a whole.
The world’s largest collection of Egyptian antiquities is on display in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.
Cairo is known as ‘Al Qahirah’ in the Arabic language, meaning ‘The Triumphant’ or ‘The Victorious’.
Cairo’s Al-Azhar University is the oldest in Egypt.
Cairo has variously been governed by Pharaohs, Caliphs, Romans, Turkish khedives and British/French colonisers.
The Great Pyramids of Giza are situated on the outskirts of the city and are one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions. The Pyramids date back to 2560 BC and are thought to have been built as a tomb for Khufu, a fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh.
The Citadel, a complex full of beautiful and historic mosques and museums, is one of Cairo’s most visited sights.
On an island in the Nile stands the Cairo Tower, an impressive structure which provides spectacular views of the surrounding area. The revolving restaurant at the top of the tower is a must visit.
Shopping fanatics can’t visit Cairo without paying a visit to Khan al-Khalili – one of the world’s largest markets. The market stocks a huge array of goods, from perfumes to jewellery, clothing to knick-knacks; make sure you give bartering a go!
Cairo is a prime destination for museum lovers. The Egyptian Museum in particular is well worth a visit as it houses the world’s grandest and biggest collection of Egyptian antiquities.
Alexandria is the leading port for Egypt as well as being the nation’s second largest city. The Middle Eastern city with the Mediterranean atmosphere has remained a key centre of transportation and commerce from ancient times and is now the heart of a prominent industrial area.
Alexander the Great founded Alexandria in 331 BC, making it the capital of Graco-Roman Egypt.
Alexandria was the setting of the dramatic relationship between Cleopatra and Mark Antony.
The majority of Ancient Alexandria is underwater or built over with very few original landmarks easily accessible.
During his pursuit of Pompey and Octavian Julius Caesar temporarily occupied Alexandria.
Napoleon also took Alexandria in 1798 during his Egyptian campaign but it fell into the hands of the British just three years later.
The Mosque of Abu al-Abbas al- Mursi is one of Alexandria’s main draws. It’s stunning from the outside and has a beautiful interior. If you want to get the most out of your visit it’s best to take a guided tour.
One of the top ranked attractions in Alexandria is the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. This modernised version of Alexandria’s ancient library is eleven stories high and a striking cylindrical shape, but what really attracts the tourists is the fact that the unique architecture houses more than 8 million books.
Anyone with an appreciation of Egypt’s history will want to visit the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa. The catacombs are said to have been discovered by a donkey (after it fell into an underground tunnel) and date from the Roman period. Although a little dark and gloomy in some places the catacombs do boast some impressive wall paintings.
If the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa appeal then you should definitely visit Alexandria’s Roman Amphitheatre, built in the 2nd century AD. With its 13 semi-circular marble tiers it certainly makes an impression!
Alexandria’s Stanley Bridge overlooks the Stanley Bay along the Corniche and offers spectacular views, particularly of the Stanley beach with its three levels of beach cabins.
Giza, capital of the Giza Governorate, is Egypt’s third largest city and is situated on the west bank of the river Nile. Although there is a lot more to the city than history its most famous aspect is undoubtedly the Giza Plateau, on which a complex of ancient Egyptian structures stand.
Giza is famous for its three large Pyramids and Sphinx.
Khufu was the first Pharaoh to build a pyramid at Giza.
The Great pyramid took over twenty years and 2,000,000 building blocks to build.
The capital of ancient Egypt (Mn Nefter or Memphis) is just 20 km outside of Giza and the iconic Pyramids of Giza were built to overlook it.
There are three chambers currently known of inside the Great Pyramid – the unfinished chamber, the King’s chamber and the Queen’s chamber.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu is the most famous of Giza’s pyramids and was included in the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is also the largest, being 481 feet tall at its highest point. A museum is housed on the south side of the pyramid.
The Great Pyramid is also responsible for protecting another Giza attraction, the Khufu Ship. The Khufu Ship is a full-sized and intact vessel from Ancient Egypt which survived the centuries by being sealed in a pit within the pyramid complex.
The second largest pyramid in Giza (10 foot shorter than the Great Pyramid) is the Pyramid of Khafre and was commissioned by Khufu’s son. Khafre’s granite sarcophagus can still be seen by visitors.
Close to Khafre’s pyramid is the Sphinx, an iconic sculpture of a half cat half human creature. Many believe it was built to watch over the pyramids. The human face of the Sphinx has been missing its nose since about the 14th century.
If you’re still hungry for history after seeing those attractions then you may want to pay a visit to the Mastaba of Ti. This is a private 5th dynasty tomb which was only discovered in 1865. The tomb is of a high quality and features richly decorative wall-paintings.