The Giza plateau’s Necropolis in northern Egypt near Cairo. From left the pyramids are Khufu (The Great Pyramid), Khafre, Menkaure and a piece of the Pyramids of Queens. In the background is Cairo city. Photo by Mstyslav Chernov.
During Ramadan most, if not all Muslims will neither eat nor drink during the daytime and consequently many cafes, restaurants and even shops may open only after sunset.
Ramadan in 2020 (may alter by one day depending on location) runs from 24 April to 23 May. Public eating, drinking and smoking by tourists may upset the locals. In one Muslim country the only alcohol served to us during our visit was in a teapot, into tea cups in a first class hotel. Furthermore service personnel may be missing, careless or irritable during the daytime.
The last day of Ramadan, known as Idd al Fitr, can be a wild time with much celebrating, depending on location.
Dates depend on the full moon rising in your location so they may differ by one day depending on where you plan to be.
A small group of ancient Egypt’s gods seen in Luxor’s Karnak temple by Jim.
From left: ibis headed Thoth; Hathor; Pharoah Amenophis III next to his obsession, lion-headed Sakhmet; finally two hawk-headed Horus figures. A popular Egypt travel souvenir is The eye of Horus. Some of the superb Egyptian collection at the British Museum in London, England.
Egypt main attractions
***Cairo, the Sphinx and Pyramids.
These are sensational sights and shouldn’t be hurried. Take a couple of days if possible, climb inside a pyramid and have a camel ride, horse ride or walk into the desert on the far side of the pyramids.
There are no café facilities nearby so bring plenty of water.
The excellent Egyptian Museum is more than worthwhile to see the incredible pharaonic treasures such as King Tutankhamen’s gold chair, ceremonial hat, burial mask more.
A large, lively and labyrinthine bazaar, arguably the best in North Africa, with a stupendous selection of excellent souvenirs, but it’s definitely a must haggle situation!
There are plenty more smaller, earlier pyramids 30kms (19 miles) south of Cairo at Saqqara, including the famous Step Pyramid. These are easily accessible by taxi. Cairo needs at least three days, and it’s a long way north of Luxor.
An interesting 2 hour drive into deep Egypt south of Cairo (120kms), this is a rural bliss of strolling goats, donkeys, oxen, water wheels, mud pigeon houses and fellaheen doing the everyday thing that they’ve been at for 5, 000 years. The little village of Meidum sports an experimental and nowCollapsed Pyramid, built by Snofru 4, 600 years ago.
Karnak Temple in Luxor, southern Egypt. Photo by Marc Ryckaert.
Stay on the calmer west bank if possible – there’s now a bridge – and/or trail around the temples before/ after the package tourist rush to try to absorb the majesty of the structures outside the tourist frenzy.
Taking a sailing boat (felucca) onto the Nile (with an Egyptian skipper) is a delightful way to escape the crowds, especially for sunset, but – as with taxis – carefully negotiate a price beforehand – and take your own drink if you want a sundowner.
Luxor needs at least three days and is a few hundred miles south of Cairo so will require a flight or overnight train journey (recommended).
Alexandria Waterfront photo by Francisco Anzola.
A couple of hours north of Cairo via either the Nile delta road or the desert road, Alex was once renowned for its 400 ft lighthouse – an ancient world wonder, its massive library and its psychotic and incestuous Ptolemy dynasty.
Now Alexandria is little more than one of Egypt’s Mediterranean ports and with no decent beaches or ancient sites is not superficially attractive.
However! Fort Qaitbey, possibly the bottom part of the lighthouse, lurks there at the harbour entrance, the Great Library of Alexandria has been rebuilt with some help from UNESCO. Also intrepd tourists will find a couple of new museums are loaded with weird and wonderful jewellery, statues, furniture and other recently released artefacts.
In addition there’s a real live underwater museum out in the harbour where Greek wrecks dissolve but Cleopatra’s Palace and its stone sphinxes and statues are permanent homes to a thousand fish – that you will be served for dinner later. . .
Furthermore, if you head west towards Libya from Alex sensational long white beaches soon appear, especially around Mersa Matruh, though facilities may be extremely limited, so bring everything you need. Remember, it’s still the Mediterranean so the water will not be warm November – May.
Air temperatures will be in the mid 40C’s (over 110F) for the three summer months.
Sailing around southern Egypt in a felucca. Trips range from an hour to several days and can be delightful if you get the right skipper, so make sure you get on with the guy before making a deal. You cannot sail the boat yourself. Photo by Jim.
Riding: camels and horses, especially near the Giza pyramids or around Sinai Red Sea resorts. Overnight trips are possible for the more adventurous.
Sailing: laze for an afternoon or voyage a few days down the Nile in a felucca (open old sail boat); a local captain is necessary.
Biking: not much generally, though tooling around Luxor – especially the rural west bank – on two wheels is a terrific way to see the sights.
Scuba and snorkeling: In the Red Sea/Gulf of Aqaba around Sharm el Sheikh or Dahab, the former an upmarket resort town, the latter a laid back and bohemian village. Both of them have first-class dive shops and equipment available and excellent coral right near the shore, with some superb dives a little further out.
Also dive from Hurghada and other new resorts on the mainland Red Sea coast.
Alternatively for something different dive into ‘Cleopatra’s Palace’, an underwater treasure in Alexandia’s harbour, courtesy of Alexandria Dive Co.
Walking: other than around towns, not much fun – except maybe a walk to St Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai.
22 Feb, Abu Simbel Festival one of the two days when the rising sun hits the three key statues inside the temple, courtesy of Ramases II. See the light and party!
22 Oct, Abu Simbel Festival, as above.