Egypt is one of the oldest countries of the world and Egyptians consider themselves culturally distinct – neither Arab nor African. They are rightfully proud of their country, and they boast about it any chance they get because it is a birthplace of civilization, regardless of the so-called third-world state it is currently in.
Egypt, or Misr in Arabic, has been labelled “The Mother of the World” by many. More than 7,000 years ago, Ancient Egypt developed an outstanding culture that was cleverly preserved for future generations, and can now be seen all over the country today, in museums or along the majestic River Nile.
It is also said that Egypt is the “Gift of the Nile”. It may take visitors more than a month to discover all the country has to offer. Yet travelers will still leave wanting for more, despite the chaos of the modern world. While on a Nile cruise northward from the Aswan High Dam, which controls the water, travelers will witness just how magnificent and precious Egypt is.
Aswan serves as a major market center for farmers of the Nile Valley and for nomads called ‘Bedouins’. Egyptian ‘Bedouins’ are considered a very friendly and hospitable people, they make up a distinct ethnic minority among the population and traditionally live in small groups in Egyptian deserts. Most have settled and became farmers, but some wandering tribes remain. The largest non-Arabic-speaking minority in Aswan are the Nubians.
Pharaonic ruins, temples and tombs are located all over Aswan and at the nearby island of Elephantine. The Temples of Abu Simbel, are two ancient Egyptian temples that were carved in a rocky mountainside beside the Nile River in southern Egypt. The Pharaoh Ramses II built the temples during the 1200s B.C.
Further along is the town of Edfu. Its ancient name was Wetjeset-Hrw, or “The Place Where Horus is Extolled”. The modern Arabic name of Edfu is derived from the ancient Egyptian name Djeba, or Etbo in Coptic. Djeba meant “Retribution Town”, since the enemies of the gods were brought to justice there. Ancient Djeba was the traditional location of the mythological battle between the gods Horus (the falcon god, or god of the sky) and Seth (god of evil or darkness), and its sandstone Ptolemaic temple, dedicated to Horus, is the most complete and best preserved of all the temples of Egypt.
According to ancient Egyptian myth, Horus was avenging his father’s (Osiris, god of the dead or afterlife) murder when he lost his eye during the battle with Seth. ‘The Eye of Horus’ became an important religious symbol, and was used during burial rituals as a protection from evil during the journey to the afterlife. Egyptians still paint this symbol on their cars or trucks, wear it around their necks, or hang it on their doors to protect them from envy or any other harmful thoughts toward them. This symbol can also be found in the architecture and designs of many modern cultures around the world.
Esna is also a town south of Luxor. The main attraction there is the Temple of Khnum. The temple, which lies in a hollow below the level of the houses in Esna, is dedicated to the ancient god Khnum. He was the ram god that was worshiped throughout this area and who fashioned mankind from mud of the Nile on his potter’s wheel.
After Esna, is the magnificent city of Luxor. Luxor is the present day site of Thebes, a capital of ancient Egypt with the wealth of monuments, temples and statues. It is where the temples of Karnak and Luxor stand, and where the large private and royal cemeteries and funerary complexes, including the Valley of the Kings, are located.
Finally, travelers will reach the capital of modern Egypt, Cairo. It has more people than any other city in Africa. It is part of the Nile Valley and Delta, one of the few parts of the country that has fertile soil and plentiful water. Cairo is a mixture of the old and the new, the very poor and the very rich.
Other than the famous Pyramids of Giza, attractions include many museums, such as the Coptic Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art. The Egyptian Antiquities Museum is the largest. It was built by the reigning government in the late 1800s and has 107 halls; the ground floor has the large statues among other artifacts, and the upper floor houses small statues, jewels, Tutankhamun treasures and the mummies. The museum also has a photography section and a large library and comprises many sections arranged in chronological order.
If travelers grow tired of all the history, they can always go shopping at a bazaar. Khan Al-Khalili is the well-known and most respected bazaar. It is mostly made up of inter-twining narrow streets filled with hundreds of small stuck-together shops and it has the feeling of an Arabian Nights story. Travelers will also find Cairenes (citizens of Cairo) bargaining with shopkeepers, and tourists are advised to do the same. Egyptian market traders and shop owners respect customers who bargain.
Continuing the Nile cruise, travelers will pass many small towns along the Nile River to the Mediterranean Sea. Alexandria, the chief port and second largest city of Egypt, lies on the Mediterranean Sea at the western edge of the Nile Delta. Known as “The Pearl of the Mediterranean”, it was founded by Alexander the Great, the king of Macedonia, in 332 BC, and ruled by the famous Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, during the first century BC. It has been a main port and cultural center since ancient times.
There, travelers can visit the famous Library of Alexandria, which houses the largest and the most famous of ancient scrolls. The Egyptian rulers Ptolemy I and Ptolemy II developed it in the 200’s B.C. All human knowledge of the ancient world was stored in the library, not just of Egypt or the Greek territories, as Ptolemy I sent his representatives throughout the known world to collect reference works.
It now contains rare artifacts from the Pharaonic, Greek, Roman, Coptic and Islamic eras. Ptolemy I also began building the seventh wonder of the world, the Pharos Lighthouse of Alexandria, although he died prior to its completion. The Citadel of Qaitbay now stands in the place of the lighthouse, which was probably destroyed by an earthquake, however remains can be seen in the construction of the old fort.
This is Egypt along the River Nile in a nutshell. It will take more than this blog post to detail all of Egypt. There are still many precious areas worth mentioning, such as Saint Catherine, Mount Moses and Sharm El-Sheikh in the Sinai Peninsula of the glorious Red Sea. There, travelers can go mountain hiking as well as diving.
But it is famously said that, if travelers drink from the Nile, they are bound to return to it again.