Along the River
Those seeking to tour Egypt likely first think of the Giza pyramids, tombs of pharaohs, and the mysterious Sphinx. Those are just some of the numerous Egyptian historical sites showcasing the ancient world. The River Nile has provided life-sustaining water to the civilized world for millennia, so it is no surprise that along its banks you will find the three Egyptian cities—Aswan, Cairo, and Luxor—most visited by foreign travelers and domestic tourists alike.
Along the northern banks of the River Nile you’ll find the Egyptian capital city of Cairo. Established as a commercial center in the Roman Empire during the 10th century, Cairo was once a bustling metropolis known as Babylon. As Africa’s most populous city—with an estimated 12 million people as of 2014—Cairo is not only the site of ancient Babylon, but is home to the Egyptian Museum. The museum contains more than 100,000 relics from the ancient past, including items acquired from the most famous discovery of an Egyptian pharaoh’s tomb—that of King Tutankhamen, more commonly popularized as King Tut.
Cairo is also near the Great Pyramids and the mysterious Sphinx at Giza. The Cheops’ Pyramid, which at 481 feet high is the greatest of all pyramids in Egypt, was created about 2560 B.C. as a tomb for the Fourth Egyptian Dynasty Pharaoh Khufu. For more than 3500 years, the Cheops’ Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure on Earth. With the head of a woman and the body of a lion, the Sphinx was carved around 2500 B.C. to represent the strength of the pharaoh, and has represented Ancient Egypt’s artifact-rich history—along with the Great Pyramids—throughout modern times.
About 670 km south of Cairo is the city of Luxor. Considered by many to be the world’s largest open-air museum, it has been estimated that Luxor contains approximately one third of the world’s antiques. In 1922, a famous British archaeologist put Luxor on the world stage after he discovered a largely undisturbed tomb belonging to a young 18th dynasty pharaoh—the previously mentioned Tutankhamen.
Aside from having its own impressive museums, Luxor is also home to other interesting tour destinations, including the temples of Karnak, Luxor Temple, and the Valley of the Queens. Build by Pharaohs Amenhotep and Ramesses II, Luxor Temple is located directly in the center of Luxor, and was used to worship the god Opet. The nearby temple of Karnak is over 1,500 years old and contains obelisks, pylons, and sanctuaries dedicated to the worship of Theban gods. The Valley of Queens is where Pharaohs buried their queens and children and where visitors can view the tomb of Queen Nefertari, wife of Ramesses the Great.
The town of Aswan has many museums and tombs to explore, and is the destination of a River Nile cruise which departs from Luxor. Lake Nassar Cruises have three and four night cruise packages which allow visitors to see most of the attractions in the Aswan area, which include Lake Nasser itself, the world’s largest artificial lake.