Getting there: Several airlines offer service from U.S. gateways to Egypt's biggest city, Cairo.
Getting in: U.S. nationals need a passport and a visa to enter Egypt. You can apply for a visa in advance through an Egyptian consulate or via your tour company. Easier, though, is to get one once you've arrived; you're directed to a window at the airport to buy a single-entry 30-day tourist visa for $15 U.S. in cash. (Credit cards aren't accepted.)
Tour and Nile cruise: My 11-day tour, "Highlights of Egypt," was run by a Chicago-based outfitter, Abercrombie & Kent (1-800-554-7016; www. abercrombiekent.com). The itinerary included sightseeing in Cairo and a four-night Nile cruise aboard the company's luxury riverboat, the Sun Boat IV. Internal charter flights and excursions were also included, along with most meals, wine and an excellent guide who stayed with us throughout the trip. Prices for the several remaining 2008 tours range from $4,615 to $6,160 per person, double occupancy. For 2009, tours start at $4,895. Prices do not include international flights.
Cairo: The city may be hectic, but there's much to explore, including Islamic Cairo, shopping (and bargaining) at Khan El Khalili Bazaar and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, with its treasures of Tutankhamen (open 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. daily). There's also nearby Memphis, Sakkara and the Giza Plateau, site of pyramids and the Sphinx. The Great Pyramid of Khufu, 478 feet tall, is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence.
Cairo and the rest of Egypt tend to be cooler October through March. But during my May trip, crowds were smaller and the dry heat was at times almost calming. Cairo is a safe city and the number of tourists in Egypt is at an all-time high. Tourism is the country's biggest industry and the Egyptian government posts police and scanners at all tourist sites and hotels. Locals tend to be friendly, especially if they're hawking something. Most appreciate it if you dress conservatively (as they do).
Nile Valley: A Nile cruise is a royal road to visiting the temples and tombs of Luxor and the Valley of the Kings (which includes the tomb of King Tut). Though not the most famous, the Temple of Karnak is the largest in Egypt and the size of its columns alone makes you feel like you're in the Land of the Giants. Abu Simbel is equally startling with its four massive statues of Ramses II looming out of the dry, red rock.
Tourist information: The Egyptian Tourist Authority has an office in New York City (1-212-332-2570 ). Also check www.egypt.travel .