Egypt is a country shaped by an illustrious history of pharaohs and pyramids, gods and mythology. Everyone knows about the Ancient Egyptians, their Great Pyramids and their now-ruined cities, but few know to visit the country’s buzzing metropolises of Cairo and Alexandria, with their trendy arts scenes and waterfront developments. Located in northern Africa and bordering the Middle East, Egypt is blessed with year-round sunshine and warmth, pierced by the River Nile and home to some of the world’s most famous archaeological sites – think the Valley of the Kings and Luxor – and also the fascinating Suez Canal. Head to its cities for a taste of Egypt’s modern Islamic history, some incredible museums, galleries, markets and restaurants.
Why cruise Egypt
With the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Nile river running through it, Egypt is a fantastic and popular cruise destination for both ocean and river lines. Ocean lines can dock at Med ports like Alexandria and Port Said, while river cruises typically run between Cairo and Luxor. For those looking to visit Egypt by ocean ship Port Said and Alexandria draw in big players like NCL, Marella Cruises and Celebrity along with smaller ships from Azamara, Windstar and Celestyal Cruises. Luxury lines such as Crystal Cruises also offer sailings to Egypt.
Best places to visit in Egypt
Alexandria has a fascinating history, founded by Alexander the Great, the home of Cleopatra and a now-lost lighthouse ranking among the wonders of the ancient world. While the sands of time have swallowed up much of her grandeur, the edgy Mediterranean port boasts fascinating sights like the feverish Souq District and Royal Jewellery Museum, housed in the former palace of the Egyptian royal family. Days in Alexandria are spent wandering the seaside Corniche, luscious gardens (Shalalat and Montaza) and dipping in and out of old-world cafés. Ancient Alexandria was also home to one of the largest and most important libraries in antiquity and has been rebuilt as a major cultural centre with three museums, art galleries and exhibitions.
Wadi El Natrun
Everyone knows about Egypt’s ancient and Arabic history, but few know about its fascinating Christian history. One of the best day trips from Alexandria is to the Coptic monasteries of Wadi El Natrun. Almost 2,000 years ago, this area in northern Egypt became a sanctuary for Christians fleeing Roman persecution, and once flourished with 10 monasteries built to protect the Coptic monks from the Berbers and Bedouins. Only four have withstood the test of time and you can visit them today – the Monastery of Anba Bishoy, Monastery of Baramus, Monastery of Abu Makar and Monastery of El Suryan. The valley itself is located 23 metres below sea level and full of alkaline lakes, salt marshes and salt deposits.
History lovers should make sure to visit El Alamein, a drive west from Alexandria and the site of one of the most heart-wrenching and decisive battles of the Second World War. The now peaceful, palm-fringed desert land witnessed horror in 1942 where over 72,000 men were wounded or killed, and travellers can now pay their respects and visit the El Alamein War Museum with uniforms and tanks and see the sprawling El Alamein War Cemetery. Just outside the town is German war memorial with a central obelisk and Italian memorial tower. A poignant way to pay tribute to and remember the thousands who lost their lives.
In the Arab world’s greatest city, a cacophony of car horns, calls to prayer and the babble of 10 million voices gives way to the peace and grandeur of the last remaining wonder of the ancient world. A three-hour drive from Port Said, Cairo is known for its colourful Khan el-Khalili bazaar, Mosque of Muhammed Ali, modern Cairo Tower (with viewing platform) and mummy-filled Egyptian Museum – along with a trendy street art and culinary scene. Journey outside and you’ll soon come to the great pyramids of Giza, appearing like a mirage out of the sands. Gaze in awe at these mighty 4,000-year-old tombs, and the famous Great Sphinx, and you’ll soon see why Egyptians call their capital ‘Mother of the World’.
The Giza Pyramid Complex
The Pyramids of Giza are the last remaining wonder of the ancient world. Standing alone in desert just outside of Cairo, the complex includes the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Kharfe, the Pyramid of Menkuaru and the Great Sphinx of Giza. Nearly 5,000 years ago, Giza served as the burial grounds for the Egyptian royals and today is a fascinating open-air museum complex complete with the Khufu Ship (an ancient ship used to transport to the afterlife found buried nearby), camels and a nightly sound and light show. The Grand Egyptian Museum – described as the largest archaeological museum in the world ¬– is also just two kilometres away.
The Suez Canal is the border between Asia and Africa, an artificial waterway connecting the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea, and a popular route for cruise ships to take. The canal was built in Egypt’s Belle Epoque, an era of extravagance and innovation, and birthed the canalside cities of Port Said and Ismailia. Today sailing the canal is fascinating, passing through the seaport of Suez with its elegant mosques and verdant Ganayen neighbourhood. Other canalside sights include Ismailia, all faded grandeur with colonial villas and orchard, and cosmopolitan Port Said. Make sure to book a cruise itinerary that transits the Suez Canal – a truly memorable experience.
Transiting the Suez? Then make sure to disembark in Port Said, situated on the northern banks of the Suez Canal. Port Said was built for the canal, emerging from the ground during the Egyptian Belle Epoque at a time where dreams were big and money was no object. Due to its position and passing trade, the city turned into a den of iniquity, and the exhilarating spirit of smugglers, sleuths and spies is still felt in its faded streets of once-grand buildings like the Art Deco Simon Arzt department store – now disused. Make sure to visit the Port Said Military Museum and wander the pedestrian-only boardwalk running alongside the canal – offering fantastic views.
Ismailia is known as the 'The City of Beauty and Enchantment', a waterfront metropolis on the west bank of the Suez Canal, easily accessed from the canal and Port Said. The city was built in the image of its French inhabitants who occupied the land during the colonial era, and the best place to soak up this history is the historic town centre – one of the most beautiful and peaceful areas in Egypt. Here, visitors can wander elegant streets lined with 19th-century colonial villas and sprawling manicured gardens, before heading to the old European quarter to see the Sharia Thawra and Midan Al Gomhuriyya squares.
Best things to do in Egypt
Explore modern Egypt
It can be easy to get caught up in the fascinating history and ancient sites, but modern-day Egypt is worth exploring. Visit a gallery in Cairo and go shopping in the waterfront in Alexandria.
Shop in a souk
Embrace chaotic Egypt in the souks and haggle for carpets, spices, cloth and other lovely items. The most famous is in Cairo – the Khan el-Khalili bazaar.
Try Egyptian cuisine
Egyptian cuisine is seriously underrated, a delicious mix between North African, Middle Eastern and Arabic. If stopping for lunch make sure to try kushari – a mix of rice, macaroni, lentils and tomato sauce with garlic vinegar, chickpeas and fried onions.
Hit the dunes
Whether it's riding a camel or sandboarding, get out into the desert and have some fun. Many companies offer tours into the desert and riding a camel is a must for people visiting the Giza plateau.
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The ship will transit the Suez Canal
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