10 Underrated Egyptian Cities Worth Visiting

Beyond incredible Cairo, attractive Alexandria, historic Luxor and Aswan, and seaside resort cities of Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt boasts a number of other cities worth visiting, here are 10 outstanding ones:

Ismailia

Founded by and named after Khedive Ismail, this unique city was built to house Egyptian and foreign workers in the Suez Canal Company until the canal was completed. It is typically known for its beautiful European 19th century style houses, streets and gardens in the down-town area, well preserved from the time when colonial residents made that part of the city their temporary home. Today it is a fully fledged city, continuously expanding to house its ongoing growing population.

Things to do

  • A visit to the Suez canal to get a first-hand experience of the waterway in action.
  • A down-town tour to picturesque neighbourhood “Al Hay Al Gharby” or “Hay Al Afrang” as it is locally called, to the main square “Midan Al Gomhoriya” and the promenade along the canal known as ” Salah Salem street”.
  • Swimming in salty Lake Temsah (no crocodiles here, it just a name!) which can be accessed through public beaches or private gated ones owned by clubs.
  • A good seafood lunch in historical “George’s restaurant” and an ice cream stop in “Halawani Teeba” both in Thawra street.

2014-10-30_0025Photo by Emad Rauf

Port Said

This busy port city with its interesting history, iconic architecture and never ending urban stories should not be missed. Its twin suburban extension, Port Fouad, with its slower pace and more quietness somehow complements it and balances it out. Together they form the only metropolitan area after Istanbul that exists in both Africa and Asia.

Things to do

  • For architecture enthusiasts, get a close up view of the Lighthouse of Port Said (the oldest still standing building in the city) and the beautifully designed building of the Suez Canal Authority.
  • Take the enjoyable ferry ride to Port Fouad and discover this charming suburb on foot.
  • Visit the Port Said National Museum and the Military Museum to get a visual display of the city’s history.
  • Go fishing in various famous spots such as Al Gameel Bridge and Al Tafree’a.
  • Take an evening stroll along the magnificently lit Corniche enjoying the view of the Canal and the passing ships.

 2014-10-30_0016Port Fouad from Ahram Weekly

 

Domiyat also known as Damietta

A port city, an important fishing centre and a base for a distinguished furniture industry, Dumyat has one of the most thriving economies across Egypt.

Things to do

  • A visit to Amr Ibn El-Aas mosque, the 2nd mosque to be built in Egypt, destroyed and restored several times across the years.
  • World famous for furniture industry, hence furniture shopping and wood works. Or for larger pieces of furniture you can get your own custom designs.
  • Food lovers will enjoy the distinctive white Domyati cheese and famous “sticky” dessert Meshabek.
  • A swim at nearby beach resorts such as Ras Al Bar and Gamasa, which although are not as modernized as other beach resorts in other parts of Egypt, they are one of oldest summer getaways and are still a favourite for many.

420996668_f94ac929e1_oMosque of Aboul Ma3aty by Notre Dame Architecture

Al-Fayoum

This Oasis city and its surrounds are becoming an increasingly popular destinations for Egyptians as well as foreign tourists. Its exceptional sightseeing spots and close proximity to Cairo makes it a great place for day trips.

Things to do

  • Take some artistic pictures of the many antiquated waterwheels spread across the city.
  • Go pre-historic and stopover at the site of the petrified forests (the largest in the world) in Gabal Qatrani north of Lake Qarun and at another site Wadi Al Hitan, containing fossilized remains of whales, sharks, crocodiles and other sea creatures.
  • Pay a visit to the natural waterway of Lake Qarun or the waterfalls at Wadi Al Rayan and enjoy their relaxing sight or take a dip in the Magic Lake set behind a set of sand dunes.
  • Go sand boarding across the Samuel Sand dunes in the middle of the desert.

4558861454_2183bf1afb_z (1) Photo by Ramy Alaa

 

Sohag

 One of the biggest cities in Upper Egypt, Sohag is famous for its mix of Coptic and Pharonic monuments, but with a much less tourist nature compared to its fellow Upper Egyptian cities Luxor and Aswan. It’s an interesting stop if you are exploring this part of Egypt along with other cities.

Things to do

  • Explore the Coptic side of the place by visiting the ancient White and Red Monasteries (the names reflecting their actual colours).
  • A visit to the impressive temple of Seti I in the close town of Baylana and the humongous statue of MeretAmun in Akhmim will take you back to the Pharonic era.
  • Take home some textile goodies from your visit to Akhmim , famous for its silk and cotton garments.

 8259204936_4a499654d4_zRed Monastery by Rob

Al Minya

Or Minya for short, is the capital city of Minya governorate which is known for its centric location being relatively close to Cairo on one side and the southern Upper Egyptian cities on the other side. Dubbed “Aroos El Saeed”, Minya is known for its beauty and many interesting historical sites in and around it in nearby towns.

Things to do

  • A tour inside the Tombs of Beni Hassan which are one of the best maintained Pharonic tombs in Egypt.
  • A visit to the Virgin Mary Monastery which served as one of the stops during the Holy Family Journey through Egypt featuring a church carved out of stone.
  • A stop by Zawyet Al Amwat, an eccentric huge cemetery with white clay domes over each grave making it an interesting spot for photography.
  • A stroll across the riverside Corniche enjoying the lush greenery for which the city is famous for.

 3071408233_3bf711d6ef_z

Beni Hassan tombs by Stefan Geens

Al Mansoura

Meaning the victorious, the city was named after the victory against French King Louis IX who tried to capture it. It is a flourishing industrial and agricultural city with major large scale factories but is also an interesting place to visit with various sightseeing spots.

Things to do

  • Check out the house of Ibrahim Ben Lokman, historically known to be the prison place for King Louis when capturedand which is now a museum.
  • Get inside Al Shinnawi palace, an impressive Italian architecture building.
  • Wander around Touryel area, an up-scale neighbourhood featuring a series of extravagant villas.
  • Do some shopping in Al Khawagat market, a marketplace initially set up by foreigners who lived in the city in the old days and which today displays various interesting items. 

4958348805_3be53ac84c_zTrain bridge at night in Mansoura by Ahmed Al Badawy

Tanta

Is one of the most populated cities in Egypt and acts as a transportation hub for the Delta region. It is also a centre for the cotton and textile industry, but it is most famous for being an important centre for Sufism.

Things to do

  • If there is one place to be visited in Tanta, it would be the Sayed al-Badawi mosque. An intricately designed mosque built and named after the founder of one of the most popular Sufism tracks in Egypt.
  • Attend the Ahmed el-Bedawi Moulid, a week long birthday celebration where millions of people from surrounding cities and countries flock to Tanta in mid October of each year. And don’t forget to grab a handful of the special sweets known as Hubb Al Aziz. (but bear in mind that the celebration is extremely intense and is packed with people so it is not for the faint hearted!).

 2014-10-30_0124Mouled El-Sayed El-Badawy from almasryalyoum

 

Marsa Matrouh

With turquoise blue waters , white sand beaches, moderate weather, and several hotel options, this seaside city is a perfect summer getaway.

Things to do

  • If you are staying for a few days then you might want to try out its various sandy beaches some of which having scenic caves as well. Most popular beaches include Ageebah Beach, Al-Obayed (the white) Beach, Cleopatra beach and Almaza bay (a newly developed resort complex).
  • The military museum which once was a cave, also known as Rommel’s Hideout is an exciting spot to visit.
  • With its proximity to Siwa Oasis, you will find many Siwan products that you can buy such as herbs, spices and olives sold in different markets such as Souq Libya.

3881506240_74c23ec94a_zNorth Coast by Mohamed Saeed

 

Al Arish

Unfortunately at the time of writing this article, this city along with most parts of Northern Sinai are almost completely closed off for security reasons. Still Al Arish has a one of a kind nature, making it a city that cannot be ignored and is worth keeping on your “to see” list (until it is safe to visit again hopefully sometime soon).

Things to do

  • Enjoy its unique long sandy beaches across the Mediterranean lined with palm trees all the way.
  • For nature seekers, the Zerenike Protectorate/ National park with its many bird species including flamingoes. It is a 15-20 minute drive from Arish.
  • Home to the best Bedouin handicrafts, this is where you can get good quality garments and decorative items to take back home.

images (6)View of Al-Arish Beaches by touregypt

(sorry couldn’t find a high resolution photo showcasing the same stunning view)

Our Readers Comments

  1. Wow! This article is amazing. I have been to Cairo and Alex but I feel I have to come to visit some of these cities. Egypt is defo one of the best countries I have ever been to!

    • Message from the writer Sally Mansour: “So happy to hear that you liked it . Egypt is indeed full of places to see….Hope you can come for another visit soon :))”

  2. Interesting !

  3. As an Egyptian, Iam so proud.
    I visited alot of them but I will try to visit the other like Souhag and Fayoum

  4. As an Egyptian, I visited most of these towns but the way you focused on certain places made me want to visit them again … Thank you…I wish all Tourist Agencies would put them on their programs…

  5. I am a proud Egyptian who loves to promote Egypt to all my American friends.
    Let us spread the word and also help officials make it easier for people who want to visit.

  6. Wow! I am teaching at AUC and will share this with one of my student groups who are doing a campaign to encourage internal tourism.

  7. the national museum in port said doesn’t exist any more , they demolished it about 6 years ago or more and i don’t think they intend to rebuild it soon.

  8. If you like Egypt, so you must come and visit Siwa at Western desert. Its haven on earth.

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