Top 10 places to visit in Egypt

This list is my personal top 10, so feel free to disagree with me.  I think I’ll do it as a countdown …

IMG_4517So, in at number 10.  The stepped pyramid at Sakkara (or Saqqara as it’s sometimes spelled).  Merry and Adam take a trip to see the stepped pyramid in Carter’s Conundrums.  It’s where Merry has a revelation about what Howard Carter’s mysterious message might mean.   I was last at Sakkara in 2008.

IMG_4625At number 9, the Temple of Edfu, probably the best preserved of all the ancient Egyptian temples.  It dates from the Graeco-Roman period, and is included on the Nile cruise itinerary’s.  It’s the location of a scene in Hatshepsut’s Hideaway.

Here I am outside the main pylon – March 2008.

IMG_4215At number 8, the Temple of Philae, near Aswan.  It’s a lovely temple, also dating from the Graeco-Roman period, and dedicated to the goddess Isis.  It was rescued by UNESCO as after the British dam was built in the early twentieth century it spent half the year under water.  UNESCO moved it piece by piece to the nearby island of Agilika.  Not yet used as a location in my books.  Here I am in January 2012.

IMG_4505Number 7 is the pyramid and sphinx (not sure if it’s cheating to put them together) on the Giza plateau in Cairo.  The pyramids tower over the surrounding suburbia.  Merry sits near the swimming pool in Le Meridien hotel, gazing in awe at the pyramids in Tutankhamun’s Triumph.

IMG_0825At number 6, I’ll go for the Temple of Medinet Habu, built by Ramses III and located on the West Bank at Luxor.  It’s not always included in the touring itineraries, but well worth an independent visit.  The original colours are beautifully preserved.

Not yet used as a location in my books.

scan0108At number 5, The Valley of the Kings.  A barren, desolate and rather forbidding place … once stuffed with enough gold to sink a battle ship, buried in the tombs of the dead pharaohs.  It’s forbidden to take photographs nowadays – so here’s one of me taken back in 2004.  The Valley of the Kings features prominently in Carter’s Conundrums.

scan0141Number 4, the wonderful Winter Palace hotel.  I was lucky enough to stay here for New Year in 2008-9; the best New Year’s Eve ever!  Frequented by both Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in the years leading up to the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun.  I used it as a location in Carter’s Conundrums, where Merry and Adam spend a romantic evening.

DSCN5281So, to my personal top 3.  At number 3 I think it has to be Hatshepsut’s Temple on the West Bank in Luxor.  It features prominently in all three books.  This is where Merry and Adam first meet (not counting the little encounter in the Luxor Museum).  Built in honour of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut, it rises on terraces to connect dramatically with the cliffs behind it.

IMG_2940At number 2, the complex of temples that make up Karnak.  The Hypostyle Hall takes my breath away every time I go there.  The temple is the largest religious structure ever built.  Words are inadequate to the task of describing it.  Merry and Adam go there to look at the obelisks in Carter’s Conundrums.

IMG_4482So, we’ve arrived at number 1.  Personally, for sheer egotistical magnificence, I don’t think you can beat the temples of Abu Simbel, built by Ramses II.  Yes, I’m cheating again.  There are actually two temples… one for Ramses himself, and a smaller one for his great royal wife Nefertari.  I walked around the latter with a lump in my throat – it’s exquisite.  They’re also a marvel of modern engineering, raised to higher ground by UNESCO to escape the rising waters of Lake Nasser.IMG_4480

So, there you have it.  My personal top 10.  I’ve not mentioned Luxor Temple, the Ramesseum, Denderah – all equally awe-inspiring.  There’s a major temple I’ve never visited, Abydos … great!  Another reason to go back !  I guess maybe I should have done a top 20!

A good time to visit Egypt as a tourist?

In view of the tragedy that unfolded in Paris yesterday, I thought it was a good time to brush the dust of this, one of my first posts about Egypt.  The Foreign Office is advising visitors to Paris to exercise extra care.  It just goes to show you can be anywhere in the world when terrorism or tragedy strikes.  Just look at the Boston marathon a couple of years back, the Mumbai and London bombings, etc.

Egypt is a nation that has experienced perhaps more than its fair share of upheaval – much of it political in recent years.  The Foreign Office still advises against all but essential travel to certain parts of the country (not including the prime tourist locations around the Red Sea and in Cairo and Luxor.  So, should tourists continue to stay away?

As someone who has visited Egypt almost every year for more than a decade, I would say GO.  The sites are quiet, the people welcoming and the weather fabulous !  Of course, be careful … but sadly that seems to be the case everywhere in the world.  Here in the UK the terror threat remains ‘severe’.  So… Egypt …

I first visited Egypt in 1983, a scant two years after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat.  We were there in October, staying near the Pyramids in the Jolie Ville hotel.  Shortly after we left it was razed to the ground in demonstrations.  I have to say I don’t remember why!  If anyone can enlighten me I’d be grateful.


Here I am – back in Egypt – this time in July 1996.  This picture was taken in the Valley of the Kings.  It was the year before the awful massacre of tourists at Hatshepsut’s temple.  I remember how shocked and horrified I was when I saw it on the News and thought how recently I’d been there.


I was back in 2002, just months after 9/11. Tourists were staying away.  Holiday prices were cheap.  The locals were as friendly and welcoming as ever – despite the usual call for baksheesh !


The next visit was 2004.  A fantastic trip.  One week on the Nile, cruising between Luxor and Aswan.  Then a week in Luxor, followed by a week at a Red Sea resort in El Quesir.  2004 was the year of the Sinai bombings, followed in 2005 with attacks in Sharm el Shiekh.  Yes, I was back in 2005 !  Just a short 1-week visit to Luxor.


In 2008 I cruised down Lake Nasser to the awe inspiring temples at Abu Simbel.  The trip also took in a few days in Cairo and a 1-week cruise down the Nile on the splendid SS Misr (used as a location in Hatshepsut’s Hideaway). Just two years previously in 2006 Egypt suffered the Dahab bombings.


Here I am with Ramses the camel at the Jolie Ville hotel in Luxor in 2009.  (Ramses features in both Carter’s Conundrums and Tutankhamun’s Triumph).  2009 saw the Khan el Khalili bombing in Cairo.


Back in 2011 – here I am at the Ramesseum on the West Bank in Luxor.  It was March, just a couple of weeks after the Revolution of the Arab Spring.  We had most of the tourist sites completely to ourselves.  It was an amazing experience.


My next trip was January 2012 – pictured here at the Avenue of Sphinxes at Luxor temple.  Demonstrations took place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in June following Mubarak’s trial.


IMG_2007Then April 2013.  President Morsi was running the show, but it was an uneasy kind of calm before the storm of the coup d’etat that removed him from office in early July.

IMG_4730My last visit was in July 2014, a quiet break to the Jolie Ville hotel in Luxor (a beautiful retreat set on its own island in the Nile).  Tragically, I was one of only 24 guests – tourism still reeling from the recent political events.

Reading this post, I guess you might conclude there’s never a good time to visit Egypt as a tourist.  I’d have to disagree.  I think it’s possible to be in the wrong place at the wrong time anywhere in the world.  I don’t court trouble, and I’d steer clear of the Sinai Peninsular at the moment – but Egypt’s been my favourite holiday destination for the last decade.  Modern Egypt is unsettled for sure.  But historical and archaeological Egypt is not to be missed.  And the sun always shines!

Fiona Deal – Jan 2015 (updated from blog originally posted Feb 2013)

Author of Meredith Pink’s Adventures in Egypt, available to download or in paperback on Amazon.