Q: I visit Egypt this December. I have two nights each in Cairo and Alexandria, and four on the Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor, covering Aswan High Dam, the locks at Esna, West Bank and Abu Simbel. Is there anything I am missing out? Also, how do I visit Farafra? This is my first time outside Asia, so some useful tips will be appreciated.
Marco Says: If the tips weren’t useful, I wouldn’t be here. As for missing out, countries are diverse–there is never enough time to do it all. First, the obvious: while in Cairo, visit the Giza pyramid complex, Egyptian Museum, ruins of Memphis, Khan el-Khalili, Saqqara pyramids, Ibn Tulun mosque and Al-Azhar mosque. For something offbeat, see the solar boat museum, an excavated cedar barge used by the ancient Egyptians (EGP 50), and enjoy a play at the Cairo Opera House (cairoopera.org). In Alexandria, the essentials are Alexandria National Museum, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Serapeum, Abu al-Abbas al- Mursi mosque, Montazah Palace Gardens and Fort Qaitbey. Offbeat places include the El Kobba El Samaweya planetarium and the Alexandria Naval Unknown Soldier Memorial.
You seem to be well covered on your cruise, but in Aswan, try to see the unfinished obelisk, the Elephantine Island and the Temple of Isis in Philae. Hopefully, your cruise will stop at Kom Ombo (a temple of two Egyptian gods) and the city of Edfu (site of the famous Temple of Horus). At Luxor, the Karnak Temple Complex, Luxor Temple, Temple of Hatshepsut and Valley of the Kings are worth visiting.
Farafra is complicated. Among the cities you are visiting, Cairo is the nearest, but it is still a 545km drive (about 6hrs). So, you will have to set aside at least two days. You can either rent a four-wheel- drive SUV and a driver, or employ a travel operator–Memphis Tours (memphistours. com) has a decent itinerary.