Itineraries: Other Possibilities in Egypt

If you have more than two weeks in Egypt, you have more options to choose from and may wish to get a bit farther off the beaten path. If you base your trip on the 14-day “Best of Egypt” itinerary, you can expand it with various side trips from Cairo, Alexandria, and Aswan. You can also substitute areas that might be of more interest to you directly for some recommendation on the itinerary.

Alexandria

3 Days. If you arrive in Alex by midday, check into your hotel, and visit Fort Qayt Bay that sits out on the Eastern Harbor (on the site of the old Lighthouse of Alexandria), you can have a fish dinner in El Anfushi and return to Maydan Sa'd Zaghlul for pastries at Athineos or Trianon. The next day, take a tram or taxi out to the park at Pompey’s Pillar, site of the ancient Serapeum, and then walk a few hundred yards away to the catacombs of Kom al-Shoqafa. That afternoon, you can stroll along Sharia Nabi Danyal (in ancient times, a glittering marble-paved street) and visit the Cavafy Museum, once the home of Alexandria’s most famous modern poet. Stop in the historic Cecil Hotel, famous for its role in Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. The next day, tour the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, including its manuscript and antiquities exhibits, perhaps with a stop at the Greco-Roman Museum and the Roman excavations at Kom al-Dikka, near the train station before returning to Cairo or moving onward.

Rosetta

1 Day. Best known as the site where the famous Rosetta Stone was found by Napoleon’s soldiers, this pretty seaside town (known as Al-Rashid in Arabic) makes for a very easy half-day trip from Alexandria. It has a pleasant Corniche and plenty of fishing boats and greenery. Its greatest attraction, however, is its cluster of handsome Ottoman-era buildings, a group of redbrick homes with wooden mashrabiyya windows in Rosetta’s small downtown. From the Corniche, you can see the Nile—at the end of its long journey from Uganda and Ethiopia—merge into the Mediterranean. You can hire a long-distance taxi to take you the 64 km (40 miles) and back from Alex, or take a service taxi or minibus leaving from Midan al-Gomhurriya in Alexandria, across from the train station.

Port Said and Ismailiya

2 Days. Reminders of Egypt’s 19th-century heyday, these two cities on the Suez Canal make a great side trip from Cairo or Alexandria. Ismailiya, the smaller of the two, is about 2½ hours by bus from Cairo, and is home to plenty of 19th-century French-style buildings, as well as the home of canal builder Ferdinand de Lesseps, and the Ismailiya Museum with its impressive Roman mosaic. For a treat, stay at the Mercure Forsan Island Ismailiya or continue on to Port Said and watch the massive cargo ships make their way through the canal. Like Ismailiya, Port Said has a colonial-era feel to it. Take the free ferry across the canal to stroll around the equally European sister city of Port Fouad. It is three hours by bus back to Cairo.

Fayyum

2 Days. A little more than an hour away by car from the Giza Pyramids, visitors often overlook the green semioasis of Fayyum, although it’s a refreshing change of pace from Cairo. Join a tour from Cairo or hire a car with a driver—you will need a car to get around. Skip the fairly unattractive modern city of Medinet Fayyum and go right to the Birket Qarun, which is particularly beautiful around sunset. Visit ancient sites like Kom Aushim and the Al-Hawara and Al-Lahun pyramids, and stay in the scenic village of Tunis—now known as an artists’ colony and a haven for expats living in Cairo.

Lake Nasser Cruise

4 Days. Traveling across the man-made Lake Nasser, south of the High Dam, is an unforgettable experience and one that few visitors make: at this writing, only four cruise ships traverse the lake. Compared with the crowds and the swarms of cruise ships plying the Luxor–Aswan route, Lake Nasser is isolated and pristine. Cruises leave from a dock south of Aswan and stop at three sites where pharaonic temples that were rescued when the lake was created were grouped together: at New Kalabsha (just south of the High Dam), at Wadi al-Sebua, and at New Amada. You’ll also pass the site of Qasr Ibrim, a structure that once sat on a high cliff over the Nile, but which now sits above the much-closer waters of Lake Nasser. The sites are usually empty, the cruise ships are elegant, and the waters of the lake are a gorgeous azure color. The tour ends with Abu Simbel, approached dramatically from a distance. Arriving by boat, you can also appreciate Abu Simbel without facing the crowds that arrive with the daily convoy from Aswan. Cruises starting from Abu Simbel do the same journey in reverse in only three days. In either case, you can fly into or out of the small airport at Abu Simbel, with onward flights to Aswan or Cairo.

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