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Egyptian Sourcebook for Castle Falkenstein

Since the dawn of recorded history Egypt has been an important centre of civilisation, scholarship, sorcery and culture. Even in this modern age of steam, sitting at the crossroads of three continents (New Europa, Africka and Asia), it still has a major influence on trade; and recent discoveries by archaeologists have awakened interest by many of the Lodges of Sorcery in the magick and engine-magick of ancient Egypt.

Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian and traveller, once described Egypt as 'the gift of the Nile', and since long before the birth of Christ travellers have been drawn by images of pyramids, the Sphinx, ancient Luxor and the Nile river. The Pharaohs, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the French, the Ottoman Empire and the British have all ruled Egypt, and modern Egypt is an amalgam of these legacies and the influences of Islam.
Mud-hut villages stand beside Pharaonic ruins surrounded by modern buildings of brick, stone and glass. Bedouins live in goatskin tents and farmers till the earth with the simple tools of their ancestors. Some townsfolk dress in long flowing robes, others in the latest New Europan fashions, and steam automotives compete with donkey-drawn carts and wandering goats. Nowhere are these contrasts played out so colourfully as in Cairo, a massive city thronged with people and ringing with the bells of the new clockwork trams, traders haggling in the bazaar and muezzins summoning the faithful to prayer.

Map of Egypt - 1851
Map of Egypt - 1851
Resolution 1510x2119
Size 514k

Facts at a Glance

Country name:Egypt
Capital city:Cairo
Area:386,660 sq miles (1,001,449 sq km)
Population:3 millionHumans : > 97%
Dwarves : 2% (estimated)
Faerie : < 1% (mainly Djinn)
Dragons : none known
People:Berbers, Bedouins and Nubians
Languages:Arabic, French, English (in the later years of the century)
Religion:90% Islam, 7% Christian
Government:Protectorate of the British Empire
Ruler:Khedive Tewfiq Pasha

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Environment and Climate

Egypt is a desert country, stretching over more than a 380,000 square miles in the north-eastern Africka, and bisected by the River Nile. More than 90% of the land area is barren - the Libyan Desert to the west, the Sahara and Nubian Deserts to the south and the Arabian Desert to the east - with 99% of the population inhabiting just 3% of the total land area, the fertile Nile Valley and Delta. There are oases scattered across the desert wasteland and a swathe of land along the Suez Canal which is cultivated, but it is mainly the land fed by the River Nile - the Nile valley and the Nile Delta - that is both habitable and arable. The River Nile runs from South to North, splitting the deserts; and most of the cities and towns of Egypt nest along its banks. North of Cairo the Nile splits into a series of tributaries that flow through the swamps and marshes of the delta into the Mediterranean between Alexandria and Port Said. It is the Nile more than any other feature of the country, that characterizes Egypt. The Nile emanates from Nubia, flowing north through the country for 960 miles (1,545 kilometers), emptying into the Mediterranean Sea; and all along its course provides Egypt and her people with life and sustenance. Throughout history the Egyptian Nile Valley has been defined as two distinct regions -- Upper Egypt which extends south of Cairo to the Sudanese border, and Lower Egypt, which encompasses the Nile Delta which begins north of Cairo.
Egypt borders Libya in the west, Nubia in the south, the Mediterranean Sea in the north, and the Red Sea in the east. The eastern region, across the Suez Canal, is the Arabian peninsular. This region slopes up to the high mountains of Mt Catherine - Gebel Katherina at 8668 feet (2642 metres) is Egypt's highest point - and Mt Sinai.

Although the lotus and papyrus are symbols of Egypt, it is the date palm that dominates the landscape. The Nile Delta and the Nile River Valley have a rich variety of trees -- some indigenous, some imported -- including the tamarisk, acacia, eucalyptus, mimosa, jacaranda, cypress and sycamore as well as a wide variety of fruit trees from citrus to fig to mango.
Other fruits and vegetables flourish in the fertile land along the Nile, as well as a vivid array of flowers from the rose, poincianca, lotus (of course), jasmine, lily and bird of paradise. A multiplicity of grasses grow along the Nile too.

Most of the animals worshipped by the ancient Egyptians are now extinct in the country. Gone are the leopards, cheetahs, oryx and hyenas, and only two of the three varieties of gazelle still survive. Despite all this, the country is a naturalist's dream, with many of the indigenous species of wildlife still to be studied and classified by science.
Crocodiles and Hippopotami swim in the waters of the Nile, and are still a danger to those who make their living along the riverbanks. There are plenty of rodents and bats, but domesticated camels and donkeys are the most visible forms of Egyptian animal life. There are around 430 species of birds, some of which breed in Egypt, but most pass through on migration from New Europa to southern Africka. Up to two million birds are thought to pass over Egypt on annual migrations. There are also 34 varieties of snakes, the most well known of which is the cobra. Scorpions are common throughout the country, but being nocturnal, they are rarely seen. The Red Sea supports sharks, stingrays, turtles, dolphins, colourful corals, sponges, starfish and various molluscs.

Egypt's climate is hot and dry most of the year. During the winter months - December, January and February - average daily temperatures stay up around 68 degrees Fahrenheit on the Mediterranean coast and a pleasant 80 degrees Fahrenheit in Aswan. Maximum temperatures get to 88 degrees Fahrenheit and 122 degrees Fahrenheit respectively. Winter nights only get down to 47 degrees Fahrenheit. Alexandria receives the most rain with 7 1/2 inches each year, while Aswan is almost bone-dry with just 1/8 inch annually. Between March and April the Khamsin (a hot and bitter wind which brings blinding sand and dust storms and heralds the coming of summer) blows in from the Western Desert at up to 100 miles per hour.

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Egyptian history is inextricably tied up with the Nile. The river has been the source of economic, social, political and religious life since the area was first settled. While the river connected early communities, many fiercely held onto their own independence, and small kingdoms developed. Eventually these congealed into two separate states, one covering the valley as far as the Delta, and the other consisting of the Delta itself. Around 5000 years ago Upper and Lower Egypts were unified under the rule of Menes, giving rise to the first stable dynasty of kings. More than 50 Pharaohs, 30 dynasties and 2700 years followed before Alexander the Great swept in with a long unbroken period of foreign rule.
Many of the early Pharaohs like Menes had sorcerous talent, and the science of magick was studied by ancient Egyptian scholars who laid down the ground rules for much of our modern understanding on the subject. In those early centuries, the Unseelie took great interest in the Egyptian empire: appearing in the guise of gods and demons they gave power to the Pharaohs and other powerful families while terrorising the rest of the country. This state of affairs lasted until around 1350 BC when other nations began to grow in the fertile crescent and the Unseelie deserted their puppet Pharaohs in favour of these more agressive new empires.

Despite the mighty testaments to the times of the Pharaohs - the pyramids, temples, public works and art - not very much is known about the period: though over the last hundred years archaeologists have made great discoveries to further our knowledge. With their sorcerous talent, the Pharaohs were considered divine and they ruled over a highly stratified society. Aided by dwarven engineers, the first pyramid was built in the 27th century BC, and over the next 500 years as the Pharaohs became more powerful, their temples and pyramids got grander and bigger. Monarchical power was at its greatest during the 4th dynasty when Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus built the three Great Pyramids of Giza. Through the 6th and 7th dynasties (between around 2490 and 2330 BC) power was diffused and small principalities began to appear. A second capital at Heracleopolis (near present-day Beni Suef) was established, feudalism set in and Egypt plunged into civil war.

An independent kingdom was established at Thebes (present-day Luxor) and, under Metuhotep II, Egypt again came under control of a single Pharaoh. For the next 250 years Egypt prospered but then nobles and governors began squabbling again. The empire was weakened and Egypt was ripe for conquest by an outside power. The Hyksos invaders came from the north east and ruled Egypt for more than a century until they were expelled. For the next 400 years (1550 to 1150 BC) the New Kingdom blossomed once more under rulers such as Tuthmosis I, the first Pharaoh to be entombed in the Valley of the Kings; his daughter Hatshepsut, one of Egypt's few female rulers; and Tuthmosis III, Egypt's greatest conqueror, who expanded the empire into western Asia.

Thereafter, Egypt was ruled by generals: Ramses I, II and III, and Seti I. They built massive monuments and temples, but the empire began falling apart and it was in disarray when the Greek conqueror, Alexander the Great, arrived in 332 BC. Alexander established a new capital, which he named Alexandria. Under Ptolemy I, Alexandria became a great city. The Greeks ruled Egypt for 300 years, but their reign was plagued by great rivalries amongst the nobles and many people were exiled and assassinated.

Meanwhile the expanding Roman empire began taking an interest in Egypt. Between 51 and 48 BC, Egypt was jointly ruled by Ptolemy XIII and his older sister Cleopatra VIII. When Julius Caesar sent his rival, Pompei, from Rome to watch over them, Ptolemy XIII had Pompei killed and banished Cleopatra. Julius Caesar came to Egypt, threw Ptolemy into the Nile, appointed another of Cleopatra's brothers, Ptolemy XIV, as joint leader, and became Cleopatra's lover. In 47 BC Cleopatra gave birth to Caesar's son and two years later had her brother killed. Caesar was assassinated the following year. Marc Antony came from Rome and he and Cleopatra fell in love. They stayed together ten years until an unhappy Roman senate sent Octavian to deal with Marc Antony. Antony and Cleopatra pre-empted Roman intervention by committing suicide in 30 BC, after which Egypt became part of the Roman Empire.

As the Roman Empire fell apart in the 3rd and 4th centuries, invaders again arrived in Egypt: the Nubians came from the south and north Africkans came from the west. Later the Persians invaded. Despite these wars and a major famine, Byzantine Egypt was relatively stable until 640 AD when the Arabs arrived. The Arabs brought Islam to Egypt and established Fustat (on the site of present-day Cairo) as the seat of an unstable government. Ultimately it was the Fatimids who came to control Egypt, and under Al-Muizz a Greek called Gawar built the city of Al-Qahira (Cairo). Egypt prospered under the Fatimids and Cairo became a thriving metropolis.

New Europan Christians seized Palestine and much of the rest of the weakening Fatimid Empire in the Crusades of the 11th century. The Syrian-based Seljuks sent an army into Egypt and Salah ad-Din (Saladin) established the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt, fortifying Cairo and expelling the Crusaders from Jerusalem in 1187. Salah ad-Din sought to strengthen his grip on power and enlisted Mamluks (Turkish mercenaries) to help him. However, the Mamluks ended up overthrowing the Ayyubid dynasty and ruled for two and a half centuries before Egypt fell to the Turks in 1517. Since most of the Mamluks were of Turkish descent, the Turkish Ottoman sultans, based in Constantinople, largely left the governing of Egypt to the Mamluks and restricted themselves to collecting taxes. This continued until Napoleon invaded in 1798, only to be ousted by the British in 1801, who were in turn expelled by Mohammed Ali, a lieutenant in the Albanian contingent of the Ottoman army. When he died in 1848, his grandson Abbas succeeded him. Abbas was in turn succeeded by his son, Said Pasha, who started digging the Suez Canal. In 1869 the Suez Canal was opened by Ismail Pasha.

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The main language spoken in Egypt is Arabic, but many of the more educated people speak French since Napolean's occupation at the beginning of the century. In the end of the century (1880 onwards) under British rule, English is

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The Islamic (or Hjira) calender is a full 11 days shorter than the Gregorian (western) calender, so public holidays and festivals fall 11 days earlier each year. Ras as-Sana is the celebration of the new Islamic year, and Moulid an-Nabi celebrates the prophet Mohammed's birthday around July/August. These celebrations include parades in the city streets with lights, feasts, drummers and special sweets. Ramadan is celebrated during the ninth month of the Islamic calender (presently around January/February/March) and this is important in the Islamic year. During this month the Qur'an was revealed to Mohammed, and out of deference the faithful take neither food nor water until after sunset each day. At the end of Ramadan (Eid al-Fitr) the fasting breaks with much celebration and gaiety.

Eid al-Adhah is the time of the pilgrimage to Mecca, and each Muslim is expected to make the pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime. Streets are decorated with coloured lights and children play in their best clothes. The ritual of Mahmal is performed in each village as passing pilgrims are given carpets and shrouds to take on their journey. This all happens around April/May.

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In this modern, technological age, it is rarely remembered that Egypt was the birthplace of many scientific breakthroughs that are only now being rediscovered.
The steam engine was originally invented by Hero of Alexandria in the first century AD. Mathematician and inventor, Hero's origins are uncertain, although he wrote in Greek on the measurement of geometric figures. He is credited with inventing many contrivances operated by water, steam, or compressed air, including a fountain, a fire engine and self-opening doors. Unfortunately, his great work on Pneumatics is lost to modern science, so we can only wonder at the other marvels that might have been described therein.
Scholars at the Mouseion, the Great Library of Alexandria, Herophilus and Hippocrates wrote about the circulation of blood through the body many centuries before Harvey. Eristratos discovered the connection between nutrition and disorders of the bowels. Nor should we forget the anatomical studies of Galen, whose volumes rival those of Grey for their detail.

Nor is modern Egypt backward in its use of technology. Railway lines link Cairo to both Alexandria and Port Said, while the P&O line has established an aeroport at Heliopolis.
It is in the use of clockworks that Egypt is at the cutting edge of design. Public transport in Cairo and Alexandria includes clockwork-powered trams, and the bazaars and shops of the cities are filled with incredibly sophisticated clockwork toys and entertainments.

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Magick as we know it today has its roots in Egypt. It was the ancient sorcerers of Egypt who first codified magick into a science - studying how thaumic energies could be woven into spells and experimenting with harmonics - and created the first sorcerous automata nearly three thousand years before Leonardo da Vinci published his Codex Pacifica. It is believed by some that the Pharos lighthouse in Alexandria was powered by engine-magick: according to some records, it was capable of detecting enemy ships at a great distance, and even destroying them.
Little of that ancient lore remains today: most of the books were lost in the fire that consumed the great library at Alexandria in 47 BC. Yet it is almost certain that some copies have survived the centuries. It is known that the Order of the Golden Dawn possesses the Dark Libram of Necromancy, one of the three books of Set. Both the Order of the Golden Dawn and the League of Isis trace their histories back to the ancient temples of the goddess Isis. The Illuminated Brotherhood of Bayern and the Grand Order of the Freemasonic Lodge draw heavily on the mysticism of ancient Egypt, while the rituals of the Order of the Temple of Jerusalem are mostly derived from lore discovered in the Middle East during the Crusades - much of it, one imagines, from their time in Egypt. We can infer from this that some documents at least were rescued from the fire.
Over the last century, archaeologist and egyptologists have discovered fragments of papyri buried in tombs containing spells for the protection of the dead. Although these minor rituals are of little value (in themselves) to the sorcerous lodges, we can be sure that all orders of sorcery are taking a keen interest in whatever the archaeologists might uncover.

Several lodges have chapterhouses in Egypt
League of IsisAlexandria, Cairo and Philae
Sisterhood of SekhmetCairo
Temple of RaCairo
There are also lesser houses belonging to other orders in these cities, but their addresses are not commonly revealed to the general public. Sorcerers from other orders travelling in Egypt should contact their local lodge for details before travelling.

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The Faerie

The Unseelie, in the guise of dark gods, held Egypt in thrall from earliest times till about the middle of the fourteenth century BC, when their influence suddenly waned. At that time Sidhe of the Seelie court, with the aid of a few powerful mortals, broke their stranglehold over the empire. The Unseelie subsequently withdrew from Egypt, moving to support the growing Assyrian empire of Adadnirari I.
While few of the Faerie folk - either of the Seelie or Unseelie courts - now choose to dwell in Arabia, some few of the more independent-minded Sidhe have made it their home. These are the Djinn and the Ifrit; but I shall speak no more of them here, for their ways and history has been catalogued in detail by Philip Masters, Magister Artium Cantabrigiensis, in his article
'Concerning the Djinn...' published in Pyramid magazine.

Little has been recorded about the dwarven influence in Egypt, yet they were certainly involved in designing the engines used to build the pyramids, and in the construction of the original port at Alexandria in 1400 BC.

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Money & Costs

Currency: Egyptian Pound
Exchange rate: UKŁ1 = EŁ4

Be aware that pickpockets operate around the cities of Egypt, so avoid carrying money in your back pocket. A convenient and safe mode of carrying money is in the form of letters of credit, or circular notes, which are readily procurable at the principal banks. A larger sum than will suffice for the day's expenses should never be carried on the person, and gold and silver coins of a similar size should not be kept in the same pocket.

Bargaining is a part of life in Egypt and virtually everything is open to negotiation. This includes your room for the night, your lunchtime roadside snack and the felucca you ride down the Nile in. The few rules to observe in the bazars are these: never offer a price that you're not prepared to pay, get a feel for the real price before you begin haggling, take your time and enjoy the friendly sport of it (which might include a cup of tea from the vendor), and remember that you're never obliged to buy anything - you won't offend anyone.

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When to Go

When to go to Egypt will depend a lot on where you want to go. You will find that wandering around Upper Egypt and Luxor is uncomfortably hot in the summer months (June to August) and winter is definitely the best time to be in these areas. However, winter in Cairo can get pretty cool, so spring and autumn are the best times to be there. Ideally, mid-May to mid-April would be the best time to come to enjoy the warm days without the midday heat of high summer.

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How to Get There

Most visitors arriving in Egypt come by sea. There are major ports on the Mediterranean coast at Alexandria and Port Said, and on the Red Sea at Suez for those travellers coming from India and the Orient. The journey is about 17 days from London, with steamers plying the route several times a month: fares are 26 pounds and 10 shillings first class, 17 pounds second class and 12 pounds steerage. Coming from Bombay in British India, the journey takes 22 days, again with vessels leaving Bombay regularly: fares are 30 pounds, 22 pounds, and 17 pounds for first and second class and steerage respectively.
The P&O line runs one steamer each week between London, Port Said and Bombay; the British India Steam Navigation company three or four times monthly; and the Union Castle line once a month. Vessels of the Prince line sail from London to Alexandria once every three weeks. From Gibraltar to Alexandria and Port Said, the White Star Line has sailings every month.
With the opening of the Orient Express in 1883, travelling by train from Paris to Constantinople and then taking one of the weekly ferrys across the Mediterranean to Alexandria has also proven popular. All travel is first class: the fare for the Orient Express is 37 pounds from Paris to Constantinople, and two pounds for the Prince Line ferry to Alexandria.

For the more adventurous traveller, for whom cost is not a problem, the Peninsular and Oriental line opened an aeroship route between London, Egypt and Bombay in 1874 with the opening of the aeroport at Heliopolis. The journey to Alexandria takes just 34 hours from London and 58 hours from Bombay, with flights once a week. Fares are 60 pounds from London, and 75 pounds from Bombay. All accomodations on the journey are first class.

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The Customs House

Prior to British rule, customs duty was payable on tobacco (including cigars) originating from outside the Ottoman Empire, though up to 1 lb. was usually passed free of duty, if duly declared and not found concealed. At the start of British rule, the duty free allowance was reduced to 1/2 lb. The duty on amounts that exceed this is 2 shillings and sixpence per pound.
Under Islamic rule during the period when Egypt was governed by the Ottoman Empire, travellers were not permitted to bring spirits into the country. This restriction was relaxed under British rule, with up to 1/2 pint free of taxation. Duty must be paid on larger amounts at a rate of 10 shillings per gallon.
Permits are required for firearms and explosives.

During the period of Ottoman rule, passports were not necessary when travelling to Egypt. Following the British occupation of the country, passports are necessary for all visitors unless they are British or French citizens.
However, a passport is useful in procuring delivery of registered and poste restante letters.

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Getting Around

The trains network in Egypt is the easiest way to travel between the major cities. Cairo is the hub of the network, with major lines running to Alexandria, Port Said and following the Nile as far as Aswan. A further line runs along the side of the canal from Port Said to Suez. There are at least two trains every day along these major routes.
Smaller lines run less frequently between Cairo and Heliopolis (three times a week), and along the coast from Alexandria to Port Said by way of Rosetta and Damietta (twice a week). Under British rule, a line was also laid following the main road between Cairo and Suez (three times a week).

Steamers run daily through the Nile delta between Cairo and the port cities of Alexandria and Port Said.
Once a week a steamer also sails up the Nile from Cairo to Aswan, stopping at Luxor.

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Places to Visit


Cairo has been the heart of Egypt for more than 1000 years and it demonstrates the dichotomy of all things Egyptian. It's in Cairo where the medieval world and the contemporary western world come together in a confusion of earthen houses and modern buildings, of clockwork trams and donkey-drawn carts.

Islamic Cairo (no more Islamic than the rest of the city) is the old medieval quarter, and stepping into its neighbourhoods is like moving back five or six centuries. This is the most densely populated area of Egypt. Districts like Darb al-Ahmar are full of tiny alleyways, mud-brick houses, food hawkers, and goats, camels and donkeys. There are mosques and temples everywhere and the air is filled with the pungent smells of turmeric and cumin, and animals and squalor. Some of Islamic Cairo's highlights include the Ibn Tulun Mosque, dating from the 9th century and one of the largest mosques in the world; the Mausoleum of Imam ash-Shafi'i, the largest Islamic tomb in Egypt where one of Islam's greatest saints was buried; and the Citadel, which is an awesome medieval fortress that was the seat of Egyptian power for 700 years. The Citadel has three major mosques and several museums.
Coptic Cairo was originally built as a Roman fortress town. It pre-dates the founding of Islamic Cairo by several hundred years and was home to one of the world's first Christian communities. It is, however, a holy place for Jews and Muslims as well as the Coptic Christians who lived there. The one remaining part of the the Fortress of Babylon is a tower which was built in 98 AD and originally overlooked an important port on the Nile before the river changed course.

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Giza and the Pyramids

Giza is on the west bank of the Nile and takes in an 12-mile-wide swathe which includes the Great Pyramids. These pyramids are considered one of the seven wonders of the world, and they are truly overwhelming when you stand before them. They have survived the rise and fall of great dynasties and conquerors and they share the flat desert surrounds with the Sphinx and a number of smaller pyramids and temples.

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The River Nile and the Delta

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The Sinai Peninsular

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Saqqara and ancient Memphis

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Luxor, Karnak and Thebes

Luxor was built on the site of the ancient city of Thebes, and the magnificent monumental architecture and its excellent condition make Luxor one of Egypt's greatest tourist destinations. For many hundreds of years people have been visiting the temples of Luxor, Karnak, Hetsgepsut and Ramses II. The Nile has feluccas and old barges that shuffle between the luxury hotel ships of the Hilton and Sheraton that cruise between Cairo and Aswan. Luxor Temple was built by Pharaoh Amenophis III on the site of another Thebian temple and added to by Tutankhamun, Ramses II, Nectanebo, Alexander the Great and various Romans. Excavation work has been underway since 1885. The Temples of Karnak are a series of monuments that were the main place of worship in Thebian times, and they can be divided into the Amun Temple Enclosure, which is the largest; the Mut Temple Enclosure on the south side; and the Montu Temple Enclosure. The Amun and Montu enclosure were once connected by canals to the Nile providing passage for sacred boats during festivals. Luxor is accessible from Cairo by buses or trains which run every day.

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The mighty Macedonian, Alexander the Great, came to Egypt after conquering Greece and selected a small fishing village on the Mediterranean coast to establish his new capital, Alexandria. The city is oriented around Midan Saad Zaghoul, the large square that runs down to the waterfront. The legendary library at Alexandria reportedly contained more than 700,000 volumes, and at its peak the city was a great repository of science, philosophy and intellectual thought and learning.
Pompey's Pillar is a massive 25-metre high pink granite pillar that measures 9 metres around its girth. When the Christian Crusaders came to Egypt they credited this to Pompey, however the pillar is in fact all that remains of the very grand Serapeum. The pillar was erected in 297 AD in the centre of the Serapeum for Diocletian, and when the Crusaders came around 100 years later they destroyed the Serapeum and Cleopatra's library leaving only the pillar standing. The Catacombs of Kom ash-Shuqqafa are the largest known Roman burial site in Egypt, and they consist of three tiers of burial tombs, chambers and hallways. They were begun in the 2nd century AD and were later expanded to hold more than 300 corpses. There's a banquet hall where the grieving would pay their respects with a funeral feast.

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Port Said and the Suez Canal

Situated on the northern entrance to the Suez Canal on the Mediterranean coast, Port Said is a very new city. The city was founded in 1859 by ruler Said Pasha when the excavations began for the Suez Canal. It was built on land reclaimed from Lake Manzela and sits on an isthmus connected by causeways to the mainland. Ferries cross Lake Manzela to Al-Matariyya and across the canal to Port Fouad. The sight of the huge ships that enter the canal is something special. It is an unusual destination for Egypt with modern colonial architecture and gardens.

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Suez and the Red Sea

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Aswan, Egypt's southernmost city, has long been the country's gateway to Africka and a prosperous market city on the crossroads of the ancient caravan routes. It sits at the 'other' end of the Nile not far above the Tropic of Cancer. It was a garrison town known as Sunt in ancient times and it was also important to the early Coptic Christians. The Nile has Elephantine Island in its centre and this is where the main town and temple area of Sunt were located (the island was known then as Yebu, and later renamed by the Greeks). The temples and ruins here are not nearly as well preserved and impressive as those elsewhere in the country, but there are other good reasons to visit. The Nile is glorious here as it makes its way down the cataracts where the largest dam in the world is currently being constructed, and watching the feluccas glide by as the sun sets over the Nile is about as moving as any travel experience gets.

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Off the Beaten Track


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Dakhla Oasis

Centred around the towns of Mut and Al-Qasr, this oasis is nearly 200 km from Kharga Oasis and more than 250 km from Farafra Oasis. Mut is a labyrinth of old laneways and mud-brick houses which cling to the slopes of the hill. Atop the hill are the remains of an old citadel which once was the town proper. The views from this hill over the medieval town and the empty backdrop of cliffs, dunes and desert are quite fantastic. There's an old Islamic cemetery near the new town centre. There are also several hot sulphur springs around the town.
Nearby, Al-Qasr is an ancient little town with much of its traditional architecture still intact. The medieval atmosphere is accentuated by the narrow covered streets (built to provide shelter from the summer sun and from desert wind-storms) and the animals that roam through them. Many of the houses and buildings have lintels above their front doorways inscribed with the builder's name, the home-owner's name, the date and a passage of the Qu'ran - the earliest of these dates from 924 AD.

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Wadi Halfa

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Recommended Reading

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