Egypt, a country linking northeast Africa with the Middle East, dates to the time of the pharaohs.
Millennia-old monuments sit along the fertile Nile River Valley, including Giza's colossal Pyramids and Great Sphinx as well as Luxor's hieroglyph-lined Karnak Temple and Valley of the Kings tombs. The capital, Cairo, is home to Ottoman landmarks like Muhammad Ali Mosque and the Egyptian Museum, a trove of antiquities.
12:30am-11:30pm : Luxor
10:00am-11:00am : ACE - Animal Care in Egypt
A UK based charity, ACE - Animal Care in Egypt provides free preventative care and veterinary treatment for the neglected and maltreated working animals. The clinic's clients include mostly carriage-pulling horses and donkeys, as well as stray dogs and cats. The clinic also organizes educational classes for local owners and children. After you finish touring the place, visit the shop and buy a souvenir--a T -shirt or a dog/cat collar--to help this noble cause.
11:30am-2:30pm : Temple of Karnak
Within a city of towering obelisks, sanctuaries, and squares, Temple of Karnak is part of World Heritage-listed ancient ruins, once probably one of the largest religious sites ever built. Designed to be the earthly home of local divinities, the temple complex was constructed over a period of 1,500 years and was dedicated to the Theban triad, three Egyptian gods most worshipped in the region. Though the colors on the carved artworks have long since faded and the squares are now populated by tourists from around the world, the complex still maintains that ageless charm. Its scale, in terms of the height of its towers and the way it spreads out across the land, remains gigantic by any standards--it's easy to understand why the locals believed their gods resided here.
3:00pm-6:00pm : Luxor Temple
Walk in the footsteps of ancient Egyptians at Luxor Temple, a World Heritage Site constructed some time around 1400 BCE. The large sandstone temples, granite monoliths, and giant colossi were designed to celebrate the idea of pharaohs as kings and gods, rather than any particular god or individual pharaoh. As you pass through the vast site, notice the different additions made by non-Egyptian civilizations--special highlights include Roman murals and a mosque.
10:30am-1:30pm : Medinet Habu
Stand in awe of the architecture and artistry of Medinet Habu, the well-preserved mortuary temple of Ramesses III and part of the Theban Necropolis World Heritage Site. As you walk through the temple, dedicated to the pharaoh and the local god Amun, notice the inscribed reliefs that celebrate Ramesses III defeating the Sea Peoples during his reign, and other remarkably well-intact hieroglyphs. The scale of the temple complex complements the surrounding mountainous scenery, and the relative lack of visitors to the site allows the imagination to run a little wilder than at various other Ancient Egyptian attractions.
2:00pm-5:00pm : Valley of the Kings
Journey back in time by visiting Valley of the Kings, one of the world's most significant archaeological sites, dating back to the Egyptian New Kingdom. The area contains about 63 tombs and chambers, final resting places of pharaohs and nobles. A handful of tombs, including that of Tutankhamen, have been opened to the public--with its artwork and layout, it remains indicative of ancient Egyptian ingenuity.
5:30pm-6:00pm : Deir el-Shelwit Temple
Hidden out in the desert on the west bank of the Nile, Deir el-Shelwit Temple is a well-preserved temple of Isis from the Roman period. Even though it was discovered in the 19th century, the temple is still off the tourist maps. Hence, there's a good chance you will have the whole place to yourself. On the ruined pylon outside the temple, you will see the cartouches of several Roman emperors. The inner-sanctum with painted wall reliefs depicting Egyptian gods is accessible from the well-maintained "Corridor of Mysteries." One of the smaller chambers has a staircase leading to the roof.
10:00am-1:00pm : The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities
Ancient history at its best, The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities boasts a collection notable for its standout pieces and, with a total of around 120,000 pieces, for its depth. First timers will want to see the Gold Mask of Tutankhamen, the young ruler's funerary mask, discovered in 1925 and perhaps the most iconic of the museum's artifacts. The ground floor displays a wealth of coins and papyrus fragments, while up on the first floor you'll find most of the findings from the Valley of the Kings.
1:30pm-5:30pm : Safaris
10:00am-10:30am : Oum El Dounia Gallery
Enter the world of colors and culture at Oum El Dounia Gallery. Offering carefully selected Egyptian handicrafts made by craftspeople from all over the country, the gallery is a great place to stock up on gifts and souvenirs from furniture to clothing to housewares. Check out the books section to discover a great choice of books on the Arab world, mainly in French.
11:00am-3:00pm : Pyramids of Giza
The last of the original Seven Wonders of the World, Pyramids of Giza include a complex of World Heritage-listed ancient monuments, including the Great Pyramid. Dating back to around 2560 BCE, the pyramids were built by thousands of workers under the command of successive pharaohs, with teams of men carving millions of stone blocks at nearby quarries, transporting them to the site, then lifting them into position. The pyramids were used as tombs for the pharaohs, with interior temples, chambers, and galleries filled with offerings. The three main pyramids testify to the power of the pharaohs and the ingenuity of the ancient Egyptians--they have also inspired countless artists, architects, and rulers since their construction.
4:00pm-5:30pm : Al-Azhar Park
Take in the history and scenery of Al-Azhar Park, a large public space that offers relaxing grounds and cultural intrigue right in the heart of the city. The result of a major redevelopment and archaeological project, the 30 hectare (74 acre) park opened in 2005 with a collection of landscaped gardens arranged in an array of different regional styles, plus renovated 12th-century walls and medieval mosques. Restaurants and cafes serve local delights next to the main water features, and the hills afford attractive views of the citadel.
10:00am-11:30am : Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre
12:30pm-5:00pm : Saqqara (Sakkara) Pyramids
A World Heritage Site, Saqqara (Sakkara) Pyramids once provided the final resting place for the pharaohs and nobles of Memphis. The ensemble of pyramids and mastabas (tombs made of mud bricks) covers a huge area of the desert--this site was used as a burial ground for around 3,000 years. The main structures include the Pyramid of Djoser, constructed by the royal architect Imhotep--it's possibly the oldest intact stone building in the world.
10:00am-10:30am : Mosque of Sultan Al-Ashraf Barsbay
Featured on the Egyptian one-pound note, Mosque of Sultan Al-Ashraf Barsbay is one of the most representative examples of late Egyptian Mamluk architecture. The entire funerary complex was built of stone in 1474. Admire marble mosaic floors, painted wooden ceilings, polychrome wall paneling, and wooden furniture of the richly decorated interior prayer hall. Adjacent to the mosque, you'll find the mausoleum chamber with the sultan's tomb and an alleged footprint of the Prophet Muhammad. A huge walled courtyard at the back features tombs of royal family members, while the brick minaret is a late Ottoman-period addition.
11:30am-1:00pm : Great Sphinx
Undeniably one of the most iconic structures of the ancient world, Great Sphinx, a monumental sculpture depicting the mythical creature with the body of a lion and a human head, continues to overlook the surrounding landscape with a discerning gaze. Carved out of the bedrock, also used for the building of the nearby pyramids, the structure is 73 m (238 ft) long and 20.21 m (66.3 ft) high, measurements that make it one of the largest statues in the world. Most modern scholars believe it was built around 2500 BCE, with the face modeled on the pharaoh Khafra, whose tomb, the second pyramid of Giza, lies close by on the plateau.