Footprint Guide: Egypt
Most people figure that I must take three crates of books with me on vacation, given that I buy dozens. I actually don't. Usually I take one "guidebook" that lists hotels or restaurants and the major sights, and one reference book with information about the stuff that we're going to see. For Scotland, that was a castles reference book. For Egypt, a book on hieroglyphs.
Which creates a dilemma. Which one of the dozens of books do I take? Many people swear by Lonely Planet (LP), others by Rough Guides, or the old standbys Fodor or Frommer. I used to be in the Rough Guide camp, until I found a guidebook by Footprint Handbooks. Absolutely the best book that I've come across. Concise, comprehensive, and well-organized. I was impressed enough by the Egypt guide that I bought others (in preparation for Future Trips!), including going back to replace my ratty Scotland Tourist Guide with a new Footprint Handbook.
Most other books (notably LP) assume that you are a budget traveler, and offer little in the way of information on the more out-of-the-way or expensive journeys. While Rough Guide is a pleasure for its down-to-earth style and tidbits of local interest (for example, "for the best captain, ask for X"), they are sometimes a bit thin on detailed site information. Frommer's and Fodor's are standard tourist guides, with short blurbs you would expect from a bus-tour guide, and they don't stray far from the international hotel chains and western restaurants.
Footprint guides have detailed information about nearly every town and site that you might visit, with recommendations for lodging and food. Most of the tombs and temples have detailed descriptions and floor plans, and the sidebars offer interesting cultural and historical information. The logistical information (train schedules, air, costs, and maps) are superb.
Each section is headlined with brief notes about transportation, lodging suggestions, and restaurant suggestions in a gazetteer format. All the major tourist sights are clearly described, and many not-so-major ones are covered as well. I personally like visiting the places that most tourists never get to, and having information at my fingertips about the "road less traveled" is a big selling point for me.
The layout of the book is very intuitive -- chapters are grouped by general region, and each town or major site has a section devoted to it. Section titles and headers are off to the side of the text, making it easy to scan the page edges for just the information you are looking for. My only complaint about the book is that the abundance of typefaces and styles used in the layout can be a bit distracting. This seems to be consistent between the guidebooks for different areas, so at least it's predictable.
Online updates and information are available from Footprinthandbooks.com.
Footprint Handbook: Egypt is the best overall book that I've found and I will wholeheartedly recommend it. This one gets packed.