More than just the pyramids...

The enduring image of Egypt ... the pyramids loom over the landscape.

One of the oldest vacation spots of the world, Egypt even today ranks near the top of a tourist's "must visit" places.

From the early Greeks and Romans to today's modern, inveterate globetrotters, tourists from every day and age have found something in the historic land to satisfy them.

Egypt is probably the world's oldest civilisation having emerged from the Nile Valley around 3,100 years ago.

But Egypt is much more than pyramids and monuments. It is also Red Sea scuba diving, hot night spots, luxury hotels and five star restaurants.

It is romantic cruises down the Nile on festive river boats, a night at the grand opera and a unique cultural experience.

Egypt is a land bustling with life, sound, visual beauty and excitement.

Today, Egypt welcomes more than 500,000 tourists a month and the government has given high priority to the development of the country's second most important source of foreign currency.

"Tourism figures prominently among the priorities of the Egyptian government, not only as the second most important source of foreign currency and a major job generating industry characterised by its multiplier effects on the various economic sectors, but also as a major tool for strengthening international understanding and consolidating peace among different peoples of the world," says Tourism Minister Dr Mamdouh El-Beltagui.

He said the country's lodging capacity was being constantly upgraded "in order to meet the increasing demand on Egypt as a tourist destination".

According to the latest official statistics, 504,000 people visited Egypt in April staying in average 7.4 nights each.

Total tourist nights reached 3.282 million in April, according to the statistics issued by Egypt's central bank.

A building boom is currently on in the country's latest resort destinations at Sharm El Sheikh in the picturesque Sinai area with every major international hotel group vying to install bigger and better facilities.

Sharm El Sheikh as well as Hurghada on the Red Sea have become major drawcards for water sports enthusiasts from Europe.

"Egypt could be said to have six different tourist super-sites. Each has its own flavour, and mostly each serves a different purpose," says the country's tourism authority.

"Surprisingly, or perhaps not, most of these tourist areas do not depend on ancient monuments to sustain them. In fact, only Luxor is completely dependent on this trade."

These super-sites, according to a tourism official are:

  • Alexandria and the immediate area around the city.

    "It could in fact be argued that this area extends to Marsa Matruh to the west on the coast. The area has a Mediterranean feel about it, and the attraction is the Mediterranean Sea, and to the people of Cairo, a somewhat cooler climate," said the official.

  • Cairo and the immediate area around the City.

    Cairo has everything. It has great hotels, entertainment, restaurants, all manner of monuments from throughout the history of Egypt and it is often the entry point for most people visiting Egypt. It even has bowling allies and several golf courses to choose from.

  • Luxor, and the surrounding area.

    Luxor is a living museum with vast numbers of ancient Egyptian monuments.

    "It is also highly oriented to tourists, and might be thought of in the same regard as a theme park, where the attractions just happen to be real monuments," said the official.

  • Aswan and the surrounding area.

    Aswan is probably the least well-known of the super-site tourist areas, but has great hotels, along with the huge Lake Nasser just to the south.

  • Hurghada and the surrounding area, particularly El Gouna.

    Not too far apart are El Gouna, Hurghada and Safaga, and these areas contain just about everything a tourist would like to have, with the exception of ancient monuments.

    They make up for that with every variety of water sports, several golf courses, casinos and more. The Red Sea area has less of an Egyptian feel, but it is not as European as the Sinai.

  • Sharm El Sheikh, and the surrounding area including Sharks Bay.

    This is the Sinai super-site, again with most everything any tourist might wish. There are even some wonderful Christian monuments nearby, and the water sports, as at Hurghada, are all inclusive.

    "For visitors who wish to get off the more popular tourist track, there is much more to see and experience, particularly on the Red Sea and in Sinai, and on Egypt's mainland interior, the oases," said the official.

  • Spacer