Egypt has the oldest railway network in Africa, dating back more than one and a half centuries and now covering over 5000 kilometers. Generally efficient, safe and reliable, rail is one of the most enjoyable ways of covering the large distances between places of interest in Egypt. Starting out from the capital, you can travel south to reach the great sights of Upper Egypt, or take a quick trip north to the sophistication of Egypt’s second city. Here’s what to expect:
Cairo to Luxor or Aswan. The glories of dynastic Egypt await at the end of a comfortable train journey. It’s worth giving up a day to travel time to take the daylight journey which takes you through the Nile Valley. With the river in plain sight for much of the trip you can enjoy a view of feluccas and other vessels as well as the stately palm trees and lush fields which line the shore (and remember you can always come back –at least part of the way – on the Nile). If time is short, take a deluxe private overnight train, which leaves Cairo at 8 pm to arrive in the (very) early morning at Luxor, or a civilized 9 am in Aswan.
Cairo to Alexandria. The fast air-conditioned rail service is the standard option for traveling between Egypt’s largest and second-largest cities. Prices are generally very cheap in comparison to European and North American railways, so a first class ticket should be within reach of even the budget traveler. Although the journey is only about two and a half hours, you’ll get good views of the Nile Delta before you arrive in Egypt’s great Mediterranean port city.