Few destinations exert such a strong pull on the imagination as Egypt. About 13 million travellers take cheap flights to Egypt each year, many on package tours, to gaze the treasures of the pharaohs, cruise down the Nile, wonder at the temples of Luxor and Abu Simbel, try to catch a glimpse of Alexandria as Cleopatra would have known it, explore the Sinai Peninsula with Bedouin guides or remember the war dead at El Alamein.
It could be said that two men, in relatively recent times, have popularised travel to Egypt. One was Napoleon, whose campaign in Egypt in the 18th century helped to spark enthusiasm for all things Egyptian; the other was Howard Carter, the English archaeologist who discovered the treasures in the Valley of the Kings. The first guide book to Egypt was published in the 1840s and it has become more and more popular with every passing year.
Cairo may be home to King Tutankhamen’s bling, but it’s also the city of colourful and highly scented souks, and it’s a great base for the Giza Necropolis.
On the Red Sea coast, Sharm el Sheikh was once a sleepy diving spot. Now, it’s a hugely popular resort (particularly with British tourists). Hurghada, favoured by European tourists, lies across the clear, blue waters, and vies with Sharm as the Red Sea’s most popular destination.
Summer runs June through September and temperatures are extremely hot (up to 31 degrees on average along the coast and up to 50 degrees in Aswan). Winter (October to May) temperatures are warm.
The best time to take cheap flights to Egypt is between December and February. Most visit Upper Egypt (the south) between October and February. The El Alamein Military Museum is best visited in autumn (September-November) and spring (February-April). Ramadan takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
The best times to visit Sharm El Sheikh are the winter and spring months, when temperatures are in the low to mid 20s. From May onwards, temperatures start rocketing to the low 30s and, in July and August, the high 30s.
In general, mid-October to May is the high season in Egypt.
May until October is low season. This is when temperatures are highest, especially in Upper Egypt. If you can brave the heat, you will be able to enjoy the country in relative solitude. Cairo will be busy during the summer months as Middle Eastern tourists take their holidays then.
The Egyptian spring (March, April, May) and autumn (September, October, November) are great times to visit. The temperatures are moderate. The Khamsin wind blows in March and April, bringing sand and dust.
(prices quotes are from London)