The Australian website ‘Traveller has monitored the return of tourists to Egypt after their absence in the last seven years due to economic turmoil and security crises. For seven long years، the Great Pyramids of Giza stood forsaken، the pharaohs' tombs silent and the historic hotels abandoned after Cairo's 2011 Arab Spring، as political turmoil and security crises drove travellers from this land of antiquities.
But it is no longer Death on the Nile. As the life-giving river streams in from the Ethiopian highlands and the Great African Lakes، so the visitors are flooding back to this crucible of civilisation whose ancient world is still a model for Western culture. To understand ourselves، we must understand Egypt.
Some return with trepidation، for Egypt is still not quite itself، but the country that holds arguably the world's richest treasure trove is irresistible. The magnitude of the visitor desertion was traumatic، for Egypt relies on tourism. At its 2010 peak، the industry employed 12 per cent of Egypt's workers، servicing about 14.7 million visitors. Numbers dropped to 4.8 million in 2016، but almost doubled by the end of 2017 when Egypt again became one of the world's fastest growing tourist destinations.
The truth is، people cannot stay away، for this enigmatic country of more than 100 million people is not a static footnote in history. The Sahara's mercurial gilded sands، the satin slide of the Nile، the limestone and granite mountains and fertile river valley still hide treasures beyond imagining.
Egyptologists believe about 70 per cent of antiquities still lie hidden. Improvements in satellite imagery mean new discoveries occur regularly. A 3500-year-old tomb near Luxor's Valley of the Kings recently unearthed a cornucopia of sarcophagi، mummies and jewellery.
Egypt has long been a lodestone to invading Nubians، Assyrians، Persians، Greeks، Romans، Arabs، Ottoman Turks and the great march of French and British archaeologists، tomb raiders and elite voyagers for whom an expedition into Egypt was a mandatory part of the European Grand Tour.
Its glorious past had fallen into mystery but was rediscovered in the 18th and 19th centuries، influencing our understanding of the world.
The 1820s discovery of the Rosetta Stone، which bore the same text in three languages، allowed the deciphering of hieroglyphics narrating richly symbolic stories of life، death and renewal. The ancient Egyptian scripts alongside ancient Greek provided the key to a sophisticated world where life was celebrated with vigour.
Egypt's priceless artefacts controversially grace the museums and grand squares of many cities، including London، Paris، Istanbul، Berlin، New York and The Vatican. Despite the treasures it has lost (including the Rosetta Stone to the British Museum، Nefertiti's Bust to Berlin's Neues Museum، the Dendera Zodiac to the Louvre and a precious array of obelisks)، Egypt still remains the richest of living museums.
This ancient era began in about 3100 BC with the first dynasty and ended in 30 BC with the end of the 30th dynasty and the suicide of Cleopatra VII، whom our guide likes to refer to as "Elizabeth Taylor".