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Things to Do in Egypt - page 4

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Mosque of Amr ibn Al-As
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Constructed in 642 AD under orders of the commander of the Muslim army that conquered Egypt, the Mosque ofAmr ibn Al-As

was the first mosque to ever be built on Egyptian soil.

Situated north of the Roman Fortress of Babylon, it sits on the edge of Fustat, the country’s first capital, which was founded by Amr ibn Al-As.

The mosque is said to have been built on the site where the general pitched his tent, and the original structure was thought to consist of only palm trunks covered with leaves. It expanded to its current size in 827 AD, while the Fatimid period saw the mosque ornately decorated with marble, mosaics, silver coatings, and a moving pulpit. The building has been restored and expanded upon many times since, with parts of the entrance reconstructed as recently as the 1980s.

The mosque incorporates both Greek and Roman architectural styles. It features 200 marble columns, many taken from ancient sites, and three minarets.

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Abu Serga (Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus)
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Abu Serga (Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus) is a Coptic Christian church situated in the Coptic Quarter of Cairo. Dedicated to the saints, Sergius and Bacchus, it is most famous due to the belief that it was built on the site where Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus resided during their time in Egypt.

Abu Serga was thought to have been built in the 4th or 5th century and is one of the oldest Coptic churches in Egypt. One of its most interesting features is the crypt where the Holy

Family were said to have rested. The crypt is 10 meters deep and, when Nile levels are high, is often prone to flooding.

The building is a traditional basilican structure with a nave and two side aisles with a western return aisle. Twelve grand columns stand between the nave and the aisles, eleven of which are made from white marble, while one is made from red granite.

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Elephantine Island
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Set in the middle of the Nile River at Aswan, Elephantine Island is home to Nubian villages, a handful of tourist sites, and a landmark hotel. Gorgeous views across the water make this a favorite destination for both sunset sails and strolls, while other visitors make laid-back Elephantine Island a home base for exploring Aswan.

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Al-Azhar Mosque
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Nestled in Cairo’s medieval El-Darb El-Ahmar district, the Al Azhar Mosque is the city’s first mosque—dating back to 972. Boasting five minarets and a white-marble courtyard, its biggest claim to fame is its sister Al Azhar university next door, reputedly the oldest Islamic university in the world.

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Church of St. Barbara
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A signature sight of Coptic Cairo, the Church of St. Barbara stands close to the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church. Its history may date back to the fourth century, although it’s been extensively reworked over time. Coptic Christians believe the chapel houses the relics of St. Barbara, martyred by her father in the city of Heliopolis.

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Giza Plateau
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A raised desert area on the fringes of Cairo, the Giza Plateau is most famous for its necropolis (city of the dead), which includes the Giza pyramids, the Sphinx, the Solar Boat Museum, and the Valley Temple. The largest and most famous of the Giza pyramids, the Great Pyramid of Khufu, is the last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World.

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Babylon Fortress
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The ancient Babylon Fortress was originally built by the Romans in the area now known as Coptic (or Old) Cairo. The fortress was built in a strong and strategic position – a canal ran through this area connecting the Nile with the Red Sea.

The persecution of Coptic Egyptians led them to take refuge within Babylon Fortress, and a stroll along the length of the walls will reveal a fascinating combination of Roman and Coptic architecture. The Coptic Egyptians built a monastery as well as several churches in the fortress grounds and embedded within its walls, including the El-Muallaqa (Hanging Church) and the Church of St George.

The towers of the fortress stand at almost 10 meters tall and are more than 30 meters in diameter. The fortifications have been altered and expanded upon by a number of emperors throughout the centuries.

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Deir el-Medina (Valley of the Artisans)
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Creating the Valley of the Kings was no simple undertaking: a small army of builders, engineers, engravers and other workers was required to carve the dozens of tombs out of sheer rock over the centuries.

Naturally they all had to be housed somewhere, ideally not too far away. But it was only with the discovery of Deir el-Medina (Valley of the Artisans), around the time of the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb, that we learnt more about their living conditions.

The outlines of the “workmen’s village” are still clearly visible, and extant reliefs offer a fascinating portrait of everyday life. All of this makes Deir el-Medina a pleasant change after countless monuments glorifying the pharaohs and their morbid fixation on the afterlife.

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Nubian Museum
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Established in association with UNESCO to preserve the ancient Nubian culture, which was devastated when the Nile was dammed in 1970, the Nubia Museum is one of Aswan’s most fascinating and least-visited attractions. Exhibits run from 6,500 years ago to the present day, from the Kingdom of Kush to contemporary folk culture.

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Luxor Cruise Port
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The Luxor Cruise Port on the Nile River is the disembarkation point for visitors heading to the famous ruins of Luxor. Smaller ships come right into town, while larger ships spread out or dock side by side along the East Bank waterfront.

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More Things to Do in Egypt

Mummification Museum

Mummification Museum

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Located in Luxor, to the north of Luxor Temple and overlooking the River Nile, the Mummification Museum is a small yet interesting museum dedicated to explaining the ancient art of mummification. It can easily be explored and appreciated in less than an hour.

At the museum’s entrance is an ornate statue of Anubis, the god of embalming. The Ancient Egyptians applied their embalming techniques to many species, and the museum displays a number of mummified animals, including cats, fish, and crocodiles. There’s also a particularly well-preserved mummy of the high priest Maserharti of Amun from the 21st dynasty.

The tools used for the mummification process are also on display, including macabre items such as spoons and spatulas that were used for scraping the brain out of the skull. Several artefacts that were believed to aid the mummy’s journey into the afterlife are also exhibited, along with some intricately painted coffins.

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Temple of Kalabsha

Temple of Kalabsha

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Built as a tribute to the Lower Nubian sun god, Mandulis, Temple of Kalabsha is one of Egypt’s numerous ancient and historic structures and a prime destination for travelers looking to step back into the country’s incredible past. Built during the rule of Augustus around 30 BC, Kalabsh is known for its ornate stone carvings and ancient records inscribed on the temple walls. The temple was moved to its current location at New Kalabsha in 1970 and is in close proximity to the Kiosk of Qertassi and Beit al-Wali.

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Cairo Opera House

Cairo Opera House

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The first on the African continent, the Cairo Opera House was built in 1869 as the Khedivial (Royal) Opera House, opening with a performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto. While the original building burned down in 1971, the structure that took its place continues the operatic tradition.

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Aswan Botanical Garden

Aswan Botanical Garden

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Designed by Lord Kitchener, the 16-acre Aswan Botanical Garden is home to trees, flowers and plants from India, Africa and even the world beyond. Travelers can relax in the wide-open spaces of this garden’s breathtaking natural beauty or wind through the extensive exhibit hall of towering palm trees. More than 400 species of subtropical vegetation exist in this urban oasis that’s just a Nile cruise away.

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Coptic Museum

Coptic Museum

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Founded in 1908, Cairo’s Coptic Museum houses one of the world’s biggest collections of Egyptian Christian art. The displays trace the history of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church—one of Christianity’s oldest denominations—and how it was shaped by pharaonic, Roman, and other influences from the second century on.

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Ramses II Statue at Giza

Ramses II Statue at Giza

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Ramses II was a the longest serving pharaoh in Ancient Egypt, reigning from 1279 BC to 1213 BC, a total of 66 years and 2 months. This made him a very powerful and significant man in history and it's not surprising he left behind so many huge statues of himself. The Ramses II Statue at Giza is the freestanding red granite statue reaching 36 ft (11 m) in height discovered by Giovanni Battista Caviglia in 1820 in Memphis, the ruined ancient capital city. It was broken into 6 pieces but in 1955 Egyptian President Nasser had it restored and installed in Cairo at Ramses Square. Pollution took its toll on the 3,200 year old sculpture however and in 2006 it was moved to Giza where it will be installed in the new Grand Egyptian Museum when that opens in 2020.

Other statues of Ramses II are found at Abu Simbel and Luxor. The British Museum also has one which was found at Thebes.

Please note The Ramses II Statue was moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum in 2018. The Grand Egyptian Museum is currently scheduled to open in late 2020.

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Church of St. George (Mar Girgis)

Church of St. George (Mar Girgis)

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Dedicated to one of the region’s most popular Christian saints, the current Church of St. George (Mar Girgis) was constructed at the beginning of the 20th century, although the original was established as far back as the 10th century.

This Coptic Christian church has a distinctive style, having been built on top of a round Roman tower; it is the only circular church in Egypt. Its dark interior is an atmospheric place, thick with incense and with sunbeams filtering in through stained glass windows. There’s a flight of steps leading down into the old Roman tower, although this is closed off to the public.

The Monastery of St. George next door is also closed to visitors. The Coptic Moulid (saints’ festival) of Mar Girgis is held here each year in April.

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Cave Church (St. Simon the Tanner Monastery)

Cave Church (St. Simon the Tanner Monastery)

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Formally known as St. Simon the Tanner Monastery, Cairo’s vast Cave Church pays tribute to a miracle St. Simon (also written St. Samaan or St. Simeon) is believed to have performed. The city’s Coptic Orthodox Christian garbage collectors (Zabbaleen) dug the church out of the Mokattam mountain during the 1970s.

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Al-Hakim Mosque

Al-Hakim Mosque

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One of Cairo’s oldest mosques, the Al Hakim Mosque is located in the heart of the city’s old Islamic quarter. Completed in 1012 by the Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim Bi Amrillah, it centers on an arcaded courtyard, two minarets, and a grand gateway—distinctive features that are key draws for visitors.

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City of the Dead (Al-Arafa)

City of the Dead (Al-Arafa)

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Consisting of two 4-mile-long (6-kilometer-long) cemeteries dating to Mamluk times (1200s to 1500s), Cairo’s City of the Dead is still in use today. Traditionally, all families kept a mausoleum; these days, some families use them to live in as well as for burials. There are also shops, cafés, and even a post office within the cemeteries.

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Makadi Water World

Makadi Water World

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This beachfront water park in Hurgada is a favorite for many families visiting the area. With 46 different water slides, a wave pool, water cannons, a wave simulator for surfing, waterfalls throughout and the turquoise ocean merely steps away, there are dozens of ways to enjoy the water. Brightly colored themed structures provide ways to stay cool while climbing and playing in the freshwater. Palm trees create shade in a lagoon area for when it’s time to relax.

There is also a lounge area facing the sea on the hotel’s private beach, seven large pools (three of which are freeform,) or the option to stay in the water and float along in one of the many inner tubes. Water slides range from small and slow to extreme and fast, the largest of which is a 19-meter free fall slide. There are also supervised smaller pools designated for children.

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Pharaonic Village

Pharaonic Village

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Set on Jacob’s Island on the River Nile in Cairo, the Pharaonic Village is an outdoor leisure park themed around ancient Egypt and its pharaohs. Visitors wanting a relaxing and educational break from Cairo’s commotion come here to enjoy the re-enactments of ancient Egyptian life, mini-museums, replica buildings, and fun activities.

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Solar Boat Museum (Khufu Ship)

Solar Boat Museum (Khufu Ship)

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Dedicated to one single, spectacular item, an ancient boat used in the funeral rites of the pharaoh Khufu (Cheops), the Solar Boat Museum (Khufu Ship) is a highlight of any visit to the Giza Pyramids. The 143-foot-long (44-meter-long) cedar ship may have been used to float his body down the Nile or intended for his use in the afterlife with the sun god, Ra.

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Gayer-Anderson Museum

Gayer-Anderson Museum

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John Gayer-Anderson, a British major and army doctor, received special permission from the Egyptian authorities to reside in a pari of sixteenth century houses adjacent to the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo. From 1935 to 1942, Gayer-Anderson restored the buildings and populated them with a collection of art and antiques from around Egypt, the Arabian peninsula and Central Asia.

Upon his death in 1945, Gayer-Anderson donated the space to Egypt, and it has since been transformed into the Gayer-Anderson Museum. A mosaic fountain set into a marble floor greets visitors in the museum’s reception area. Each of the maze of rooms has a theme — a silver tea set and lacquered furniture are on display in the Queen Anne Room, while the Persian Room features beautifully intricate tile work.

Travelers with an appreciation for pop culture trivia will recognize the Gayer-Anderson Museum as a filming location for the James Bond filmThe Spy Who Loved Me.

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