Despite a few really cold days every year, Egypt’s warm winter remains an eternal bliss. And so, Ahram Online decided it is time to explore various winter destinations and take those long walks we have been meaning to take. Let’s follow the sun, shall we?
We start, of course, with Upper Egypt. Luxor, Our Town, indeed. With one third of the world’s antiquities and many childhood memories affiliated with that classic school trip, Luxor is your kind of town.
The temples and tombs, the feluka (boat) ride at sunset, the classic hantour ride (horse carriage) on the Nile River’s bank. Tea in the terrace of the Winter Palace, the oldest hotel in Upper Egypt, and was once the destination of world royalties. Be sure to have a look inside and see where Howard Carter announced the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb.
For brave hearts, we highly recommend the hot air balloon ride. It is an enchanting experience where you get to literally follow the sunrise up close.
Before you leave the city, make sure you visit Karnak Temple at night and enjoy the really inspiring sound and light show.
Be sure to also visit Luxor’s oldest photography house, Gaddis, and get a taste of what the city looked like in 1907.
Qena is home of the folk Beni Helal epic, and according to folk beliefs, the place of Berket El-Teir, an enchanted lake where the mother of Abu Zeid, the epic’s hero, asked God to grant her a son as fierce as the black bird.
This is also the birthplace of Said El-Daw, one of the very few poets who recited the Beni Helal epic. El-Daw and Gaber Abu Hussien were the two main sources from which poet Abdel-Rahman El-Abnoudy was able to document the oral history of the epic in 15 books. Qena also houses its own museum of the Beni Helal epic, which was founded by the late poet.
Qena is a land of tradition. Being the shortest route between The Nile and the Red Sea, it was the route of trade as well as Muslim pilgrimage to mecca for centuries.
Relics of the Neqada civilisation are also traceable in Qena, in the village of Neqada, but also in the art motifs and artistic style that is still found in the pottery work of the village of Garagous.
Hegaza village is also a must see. This whole village works in wood art crafts. Their handmade wood works are quite remarkable. Hegaza is named after Al-Hijaz (Land of Islamic pilgrimage) because it was one of the main stops on the pilgrimage route to Mecca. The villagers have for long mastered handmade woodwork.
Such a variety of ornaments are quite impressive because each item is hand-carved from one wood log. The type of wood used is that of Al-Sersaw, which has all shades of brown in each log. The results are impressive.
Dandara Temple is one of the most enchanting experience you will find. It is dedicated to astronomy, with stars and zodiacs vividly decorating its Egyptian blue ceiling. It is quite a sight to behold.
The small harbour city of Quseir is one of the oldest cities in the area. The town was used by Pharaohs and Romans as a commercial port; for example, the ancient Egyptian queen Hatshepsut used the port as a base for launching trade journeys to the Land of Punt. Arabs used it for pilgrimage to Mecca.
During the French campaign in Egypt in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte realised the importance of this port and tried to occupy Quseir but failed to stay in the city for a long time.
Akhmim village in Sohag was the capital of the ninth sector in Ancient Egypt and was named after the god of fertility Mein. In Coptic Egypt, it was called Khamin, and in 1527 AD it was renamed Akhmim.
Since ancient times, Akhmim has been known for its marvellous textile, skilful needle work, and signature motifs that date back to ancient and Coptic Egypt. One of its specialties was the Kabaty (Coptic) textile — Egypt’s finest.
Minya has by far the most beautiful bank of the Nile. The blue water, greenery, and the yellow mountain are elements of the perfect picture.
One of the landmarks of Minya is the Jesuit and Brothers Association, right next to the 1886-year-old Jesuit monastery.
Arts and culture have helped many young students find their passion. This place is always flooded with art and development projects that uplift the soul.
There are many ancient Egyptian sites in Minya. We chose, the ancient city of Hermopolis in Malawi village.
The ancient city of Hermopolis and Tuna Al-Gabal — the burial site of Hermopolis — reflect the core of ancient Egyptian civilisation: the quest for knowledge and keen observation.
“The city of Hermes or Hermopolis is known today by its Arabic name Ashmunin, which is derived from the Coptic Shumnu, which comes from the ancient Egyptian Khmnu, meaning the city of eight or ogdoad.
“Mythologically, the ogdoad are made of four masculine deities and their feminine counterparts, who represent the primordial creative forces whose marriage enabled harmony to be born,” said founder of the village of New-Hermopolis, Dr. Mervat Abdel-Nasser in her latest book: The path to the New Hermopolis.
While in Malawi, make sure you visit the Medhat Fawzi centre for stick arts and see how the ancient Egyptian art of Tahteeb is still practiced and passed on from one generation to another.
Cairo is the city that truly conquers your heart and soul. It may seem too much to grasp, but it’s because the city literally beholds centuries of civilisations. To be able to unfold such cultural richness, we have to walk into the heart of Cairo.
We started off at what Tour guide Maissa Moustafa described as the “edge of the city”, where Cairo ends and many graveyards begin, situated in Al-Khalifa district in historic Cairo — one of Egypt’s 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
We took a walk from the Citadel to the House of Architecture which used to be the residence of renowned architectural icon Hassan Fathy and now serves as a museum of Egyptian architecture in all it’s eras.
On the other end of the road, we got to visit the house of 14 legends, which is also known as Gayer Anderson Museum.
We also explored the mausoleum of Imam Al-Shafii, the founder of the eponymous Shafii school of Islamic jurisprudence.
We also could not pass Al-Moez street tour and enjoyed the walk guided by Mohamed Khalil, head of administration of heritage awareness of the Gamalya district.
Khalil pointed out a church complex, a Jewish synagogue, and many mosques side by side in the heart of Fatimid Cairo.
Alexandria is also a true winter treat. We delved into the heart of the city and tracked down Sufi relics and architectural gems.
The Canal trio
The trio is often referred to as the Canal Towns, Port Said, Port Fouad, and Suez, each have an individual character of their own. Of course, Suez was on top of our list simply because it is one of the oldest towns on the Red Sea.