By Ron and Caryl Krannich, Ph.Ds
“You learn more about a place you are visiting when Impact is pointing the way.”
–The Washington Post
“Books in the series help travelers recognize quality and gain insight into local customs.”
It’s as old as it gets and has as splendid a history and folklore as you’ll find anywhere in the world. For most visitors, Egypt is all about encountering the storybook symbols of ancient history found along the Nile River, from the pyramids of Giza and the tombs of Luxor to the temples of Abu Simbel.
But there’s much more to Egypt than pyramids, tombs, temples, monuments, and museums that reflect ancient Egypt and its treasure-trove of fascinating antiquities and sites. Above all, there is a contemporary Egypt of more than 62 million people who are primarily concentrated along the Nile River, Mediterranean coast, and the southeast Sinai Peninsula.
From teeming Cairo and tourist-choked Luxor to delightful ocean- front Alexandria, laid-back Aswan, and the surprising desert resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, this is a fascinating country of friendly and gracious people who are eager to welcome visitors to their special land.
Taking travelers on a very unique journey that focuses less on ancient history and more on quality travel and shopping, The Treasures and Pleasures of Egypt: Best of the Best in Travel and Shopping brings to life Egypt’s many exotic bazaars and fine shops, restaurants, hotels, and entertainment venues.
Revealing the best travel and shopping in Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, and Sharm el-Sheikh, this unique guidebook includes everything from pre-trip planning to outlining essential shopping rules and identifying the top shops, restaurants, and hotels.
From visiting Cairo’s grand Khan el-Khalili market to exploring shopping centers, factories, and out-of-the-way shops, travelers discover what to buy, where to shop, and how to bargain for the best deals possible.
Encountering unique jewelry, carpets, handicrafts, clothes, textiles, brassware, antiques, ceramics, alabaster, and leather goods, readers learn about a whole new dimension of fascinating Egypt that often takes them off the well-worn tourist paths where hordes of tourists typically tread in their search for eternal Egypt.
Representing another volume in our highly acclaimed Impact Guides series, The Treasures and Pleasures of Egypt is essential reading for anyone interested in the best of the best in contemporary Egypt. 246 pages. ISBN: 1-57023-149-4. 2001.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1 – Welcome to Surprising Egypt
Part I: Smart Traveling and Shopping
Chapter 2 – Know Before You Go
Chapter 3 – The Shopping Treasures
Chapter 4 – Shopping By the Rules
Part II: Great Destinations (click on each destination to read an excerpt from the book)
Chapter 5 – Cairo
Chapter 6 – Alexandria
Chapter 7 – Luxor and Beyond
Chapter 8 – Aswan and Abu Simbel
Chapter 9 – Sharm el-Sheikh and the Sinai
EXCERPTS FROM The Treasures and Pleasures of Egypt
Colorful, crowded, congested and always a fascinating sensual experience, today’s Cairo throbs from early morning to late at night. It constantly unfolds with new, interesting, and diverse sights.
Get into its traffic, walk its streets, explore its narrow market lanes, take a peaceful ride in a felucca along the Nile, or experience the varied nightlife, and you will discover a fascinating city that offers numerous opportunities to sightsee, shop, dine, and meet friendly people.
Cairo is a great place to both begin and end an Egyptian travel adventure. While this city may occasionally frustrate you, its constant unfolding will most likely intrigue rather than disappoint you.
Flying into Cairo gives you a glimpse of what lies ahead. Rising like a huge oasis in the desert, Cairo embraces both the east and west banks of the Nile River.
The desert sands seem to lap at this sometimes windy and dusty palm-fringed city that runs several kilometers from north to south. High-rise commercial buildings and residential blocks rise like a phoenix from the banks of this fertile river delta that serves as the lifeblood of Egypt’s economy.
Viewed from the sky, there’s something about Cairo that looks unreal – as if it really doesn’t belong in the middle of a desert.
Once on the ground, however, it all seems to make good sense. Where else would one expect to find a city in the desert?
As you later venture to the outskirts of Cairo to visit its many monuments and ruins, the abrupt transition from city greenery to desert sands reminds you that this is indeed a fragile oasis that for centuries has been dependent on the waters of the Nile River for its survival.
For history buffs, Cairo is all about the ancient Egyptians, pharaohs, pyramids, Romans, Christians, Muslims, and 20th century revolution and its attendant political, social, and economic transformation. It is definitely a history not to be missed.
While its ancient history is well represented in the Egyptian Antiquities Museum and among the many pyramids that dot the southwestern outskirts of the city, make sure you don’t overlook Cairo’s other important histories: Islamic, Coptic, and modern.
Spend a day or two exploring Cairo’s pharaonic past, but be sure to leave enough time to discover its other, more contemporary history.
Explore its many churches, mosques, museums, and galleries to discover a fascinating city that pulsates with living history.
Visit the more than 1,000 shops and vendors that comprise the huge bazaar, Khan el-Khalili, and you’ll see business being done as usual in what is essentially a Muslim city and country.
In the end, you’ll find Cairo to be much more than just another big Third World city. Its people and places enthrall even the most jaded travelers, who find this city to be a truly unique experience.
Don’t visit Egypt without at least spending a day or two in legendary Alexandria, once the second largest city in the Roman Empire. Known as The Pearl of the Mediterranean and hosting nearly 2 million visitors a year, who are mainly Egyptians, Alexandria is an ideal destination for independent travelers who wish to absorb the pleasant ambience of this city without the attendant pressure from tour guides, sightseeing schedules, and street touts that characterize visits to many other parts of Egypt.
If you’re tired of visiting another hot, crowded, and tout-laced tomb, pyramid, monument, and light show and love ocean views and breezes as well as great seafood, outdoor cafes, and pleasant walks consider heading for Alexandria as soon as possible. It’s the Egypt many Cairo residents dream about.
Welcome to a living civilization perched on top of a buried ancient civilization. Founded in 322 BC by Alexander the Great, Alexandria today is a relatively clean, green, uncongested, and tout-free city where nice beaches, restaurants, casinos, discos, nightclubs, shopping, and Internet cafes are the order of the day!
Like a good wine, cosmopolitan Alexandria is best savored alone and on your own time. It’s one of Egypt’s, and the Middle East’s, best kept travel secrets.
Most important of all, Alexandria is a great escape from the hordes of tourists that occupy so many of Egypt’s popular historical sites south of Alexandria.
If you’re interested in a beach resort popular with locals, Alexandria has a lot to offer. However, it’s not the same as the more Western-oriented beach resorts in the Sinai Peninsula, especially the world-class diving center at Sharm el-Sheikh or even Hurghada, which offer a good range of water sports, restaurants, and entertainment.
Alexandria is essentially beach and seafood minus the many attractions that accompany major international resorts. For beach lovers, its main attraction is its convenience in relationship to Cairo: two hours up the highway and you’re facing the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Known as the Valley of the Kings, the Nile River at Luxor is where the myths and realities of legendary and powerful ancient Egypt remain enshrined in hundreds of inspiring temples, tombs, and statuary.
Referred to in antiquity as Thebes, Luxor is Egypt’s most impressive monumental city for discovering the great power and wealth of such ancient rulers as Ramses II, Nefertari, and Tutankhamun.
Given its wealth of history and well preserved monuments, which date back more than 4,000 years, Luxor also is one of the world’s top tourist destinations and its largest outdoor museum.
Rediscovered by Europeans at the end of the 18th century, when Napoleon’s survey team visited what was then a small and relatively unimportant provincial village, Luxor subsequently became a major center for explorers, archaeologists, and scholars who flocked to this area to uncover Luxor’s many buried treasures.
The graffiti etched on Luxor’s major monuments by French soldiers and adventuresome travelers testify to the presence of many visitors to Luxor in the early to mid-19th century. Indeed, Thomas Cook opened the area to tourists in the 19th century with the inauguration of tours to Upper Egypt.
A steady stream of tourists, explorers, archaeologists, and scholars have been coming here ever since to marvel at the wealth of Luxor’s treasures.
Today, Luxor is the most important tourist destination in Upper Egypt. It boasts an extensive tourist infrastructure – complete with cruise ships, tours, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, bars, shops, and public transportation – that services more than 5,000 visitors who descend on this unique city each day.
Located nearly 550 miles south of Cairo and 133 miles south of Luxor, Aswan is a Nubian city which also serves as the gateway to Africa, and especially to neighboring Sudan. Indeed, while the rest of lower Egypt appears to be very Middle Eastern, Aswan introduces visitors to the fact that Egypt is also an African country with a population and culture that are distinctly African.
Aswan is Egypt’s southernmost city, an attractive desert outpost for managing Egypt’s major water and power resource, the Aswan Dam, and for welcoming thousands of tourists who visit the city by river cruise boat in search of more Egyptian antiquities.
While they discover more temples and tombs in this southernmost outpost of ancient Egypt, they also get an interesting introduction to African Egypt.
Aswan is a popular destination because of the Aswan Dam and the resulting international effort to relocate major ancient monuments from the former Nile River valley which was inundated following the completion of the Aswan Dam.
As a result, many visitors spend a day or two in Aswan visiting a few local monuments, learning a little about the Nubian culture, and then visiting the famous monuments of Abu Simbel, especially the temples of Ramses II and Nefertari, which are located 175 miles south of Aswan along the banks of Lake Nassar.
For many visitors, a trip to Aswan and Abu Simbel is the highlight of their Egyptian adventure, a perfect ending to a fabulous journey into antiquity.
After the noise and chaos of Cairo and the crowds, touts, and hassles of Luxor, laid-back, sunny, and friendly Aswan comes as a pleasant surprise. The atmosphere here is more like a quiet resort surrounded with many interesting historical and cultural things to see and do, including shopping for unique items not found elsewhere in Egypt.
The Nubians, who are Egypt’s unique black African population with their own language and culture, have long dominated this area and played an important role in the development of ancient Egypt.
Largely displaced in recent years with the creation of the Aswan Dam which inundated their villages along the Nile River, today the Nubian influence is found everywhere in the Aswan area, from brightly colored villages and unique architectural styles to fascinating Nubian products found in the local bazaars.
In fact, this is one of the added bonuses of visiting Aswan – discovering the Nubian culture and the many unique products created by this interesting population. If you wish to shop for Nubian items, as well as products from neighboring Sudan, especially woven baskets, knives, jewelry, pots, bowls, and walking sticks, the shops in Aswan will not disappoint you.
After exploring Cairo, Alexandria, and the Nile Valley, Sharm el-Sheikh and the Sinai are unexpected surprises.
Located at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula and facing the Red Sea, Sharm el-Sheikh is one of Egypt’s most popular resort destinations for both Egyptians and foreigners who often refer to it as the center of the Red Sea Riviera, the area that runs the length of the east coast of the Sinai Peninsula, from Taba in the north to Sharm el-Sheikh in the south.
Indeed, Sharm el-Sheikh represents Egypt’s plunge into major international resort tourism, complete with well managed five-star resorts offering the best in sports, entertainment, dining, and shopping. Other areas that dot the Sinai Peninsula also offer some interesting surprises.
Each year thousands of Italians, Swiss, French, Spanish, Greek, British, Russian, Japanese, and American tourists come to Sharm el-Sheikh to enjoy the pleasant climate, beaches, water sports, skin diving, shopping, dining, and nightlife.
It’s an especially popular destination with the Italians, who are responsible for the resorts many nice open-air Italian restaurants that face Naama Bay. For most visitors, this is a relatively inexpensive resort destination with lots to see and do, from water and beach activities to day trips into the desert.
Although many new hotels and resorts are being built in Sharm el-Sheikh to accommodate the growing number of tourists, many properties are fully booked during the popular resort months of September to March. Be sure to make reservations well in advance during those months.
While the resort is especially popular for its spectacular diving opportunities – reputed to be the best in the world – it’s also one of the better places to shop in Egypt. There’s lots of shopping in the main resort area of Naama Bay. Shopping in Sharm can be both fun and rewarding despite its stereotyped resort character.
Numerous shops line the southern section of NaAma Bay which especially comes alive late in the evening. Indeed, most shops stay open until midnight because of the crowds that like to stay up late dining, drinking, and dancing until way beyond midnight – the streets finally quiet down after 3 AM!
Unlike the many tourist trinket shops, with their in-your-face retailers that line the streets of the Upper Nile, in Sharm el-Sheikh the merchants are very laid back and offer more quality merchandise than found in other Egyptian cities. In fact, shopping in Sharm may become one of the major highlights of visiting this resort community.
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