Egypt’s natural and cultural landmarks — the Nile River, the Great Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings — present a layered narrative of its civilization. While the modern reality of the country encompasses legacies from thousands of years of history — from its native dynasties to its eras of Greek, Roman, Persian, Byzantine, Arab, Ottoman, French and British control — it also includes the complexities of 21st-century Middle East politics. All tours of Egypt begin in chaotic Cairo, but with a knowledgeable guide, the Medieval city is utterly fascinating. Of course, the most popular attractions are the pyramids and the Sphinx. However, you should not miss the vast necropolis of ancient Memphis/Saqqara, set on the edge of the desert 15 miles outside the city. In addition to the iconic destinations of the Nile Valley such as Luxor (Thebes) and Aswan, there are many less-well-known sites that demand attention, including Abydos, Dendera, Kom Ombo, Edfu and Abu Simbel.