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June 12, 2016

Thirty amazing reasons to visit Egypt

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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1. The Three Great Pyramids and Sphinx: You can even go inside one of them for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

2. More pyramids: Did you know there are more than the iconic Big Three? In fact, there are hundreds of pyramids in many styles and sizes up and down the Nile Valley.

3. Ancient Egyptian artifacts: They include the astounding treasures of King Tut as well as lesser-known but intact 5000-year old mummies with original teeth and hair; fascinating -- and not so scary.

4. Luxor: Its ancient complex of temples forms the world’s greatest open-air museum.

5. Nile cruise, Luxor to Aswan: Float past hundreds of ancient villages and temples.

6. Nile cruise, Aswan to Abu Simbel: This trip includes crossing Lake Nasser, the world’s largest human-made body of water, ending at the giant statues of Ramses II.

7. 3000 kms of coastline: Egypt has three coastlines – on the Red Sea, the Mediterranean and the Sinai Peninsula – each roughly 1,000 kilometres long.

8. World-class scuba diving: Ras Muhammad on the Red Sea near Sharm El Sheikh, is one of the world’s top 10 diving sites; you can also enjoy snorkeling at many locations.

9. Desert trekking: Explore the mysteries of Egypt’s desert lands and wild life in 4 x 4 vehicles, or on the back of a camel – your choice. And visit the UNESCO designated Wadi Al-Hitan, the Whale Valley.

10. Mount Sinai: This is the holy site where God spoke to Moses, a place revered equally by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

11. The world’s oldest synagogues: They aren’t in Israel, but right here in Egypt.

12. The world’s oldest Christian churches: More than 10 million Egyptian Coptic Christians still worship in them.

13. Famous people of scripture: Egypt is where Abraham’s second wife Hagar was born; where Joseph was appointed the Pharaoh’s chief minister; where Moses was raised in the royal court; where Jesus and his mother escaped persecution; and where Muhammad’s wife Mariam was born.

14. Africa’s first mosque of Amr ibn Al-as (642 CE): Simple but elegant.

15. The world’s oldest continuously operating university: Students from all over the world have studied at Al-Azhar since 972 CE.

16. Ancient mystics’ tombs: Learn about the amazing lives of Jewish, Christian and Muslim mystics.

17. Wonders of Islamic architecture: Some of the most beautiful building styles on earth emerged from the Muslim world, among them the 1,000 mosques of Cairo.

18. The Suez Canal: An amazing and historic human engineering feat that separates Africa from Asia, joining the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

19. Alexandria: This city of majestic ancient Roman and Greek sites was the birthplace of Cleopatra. And visit the new Alexandria Library on the same spot as was the ancient one, the world's oldest and largest.

20. Family tombs of Prophet Muhammad: More members of the Prophet’s family lived, died, and were buried in Egypt than in any other single country.

21. Old Cairo: The ancient Islamic area of Cairo is a fascinating maze of 1000-year-old streets, historic palaces, artisan workshops, and busy open-air markets where you can still bargain for a good price.

22. Modern Cairo: With its 22 million people, this vast cosmopolitan city boasts more citizens than many entire countries; today it’s the largest urban centre in all of Africa and the Middle East.

23. Cairo Opera House: Don’t miss this world-class cultural gem where international and Arabic performances can be enjoyed at reasonable prices.

24. Historic oases: Egypt’s Western Desert contains some of the world’s oldest inhabited oases.

25. Christian monasteries: Egypt is home to some of the oldest operating monasteries, which accept qualified members from all over the world.

26. Comfortable climate: Egypt has the most annual sunny days in the world; and its hot temperatures are moderated by low humidity.

27. The mighty Nile: Its 1000 kilometres flow through millennia of history; explore why Egypt has been called “the gift of the Nile.”

28. Recreation for all: Pick a sport like horseback riding by the sea, camel-trekking in the desert, even golf with a view of the great pyramids.

29. The finest Middle East cuisine: Try some classic dishes such as Falafel, Fool (beans), Koshary (rice and chickpeas), or tasty desserts such as Om-Ali, a popular Egyptian pudding made with phyllo dough or puff pastry, milk and nuts.

30. One of the world’s most hospital societies: Egypt’s 90-million people are a dynamic blend of African, Asian and European cultures.

These are only the first 30 reasons to discover Egypt – you’ll find many more when you visit this timeless land of wonders! 

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Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, an Egyptian-born Canadian, is Professor Emeritus of Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo, dividing his time between Waterloo and Cairo. He can be reached at

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