Eyewitness Guide Egypt
I'll admit it, I love the DK books. They are the first
"pictorial travel guides", and well worth
the oftentimes steep price. They're gorgeous -- each
region of the country is displayed with color illustrations
and photographs accompanied by vivid descriptions
and just enough history to make them very readable.
The actual travel information is a bit less useful,
but the major parts of Cairo are displayed as finely-drawn
3D maps with walking tours outlined for each area.
Details of the major sites are brilliantly illustrated
and I got a very good idea of what sites (especially
the many many mosques in Cairo) that I wanted to see
Eyewitness Guides seem to focus on the major cities,
and Egypt is no exception. Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, and
Alexandria are covered in depth. The outlying tombs
and temples are also profusely illustrated -- the
drawings of temples "as they were" are an
interesting counterpoint to the other guidebooks which
have, at best, floor plans or turn-of-the-century engravings.
This is also the first book with profuse illustrations
of architecture. And food.
Ok, you're thinking that having pictures of food is
not the most useful thing in the world, but from someone
who was served battered minnows once, I can attest
to the fact that it's nice to get an idea of what
things are supposed to look like. Ordering in a restaurant
can be an interesting proposition when you don't speak
Arabic and they don't speak much English, and I don't
want to order eyeballs or anything by accident. Big
worry for me.
The country is broken out into regions including the
delta area, Cairo, the nile valley, Red Sea Coat,
and Western Desert. In each region, the cities are
covered by area (Coptic Cairo, Islamic Cairo, east
Harbor Alexandra, etc) and a suggested itinerary (usually
a leisurely walking tour) is provided for each one.
I think if you tried each one, you'd be traveling
for months, but they're a great starting point for
exploration of the cities.
Historic timelines and cultural information are interspersed
with functional travel information. Hotels and restaurants
are only briefly covered and you'd be better served
by finding a comprehensive reference like Lonely Planet,
Rough Guide, or Footprint, to make plans. Use this
guide (and the similar Insight Guides) to get a visual
idea of what to do. I wish that the 3D maps were reproducible
without hauling the whole book along with me. I'm
working on that.