Have you ever dreamt of seeing the pyramids or the tombs of the kings and queens of ancient Egypt? This is why you need to travel to Egypt today. Now is the time to go, because the country is at the beginning of a renaissance and more uniquely amazing sites are becoming open to visitors. Plus, the dollar and euro are strong right now so your money goes far, especially now while tourists are still somewhat scarce and you can explore the sites without the crowds. Here is my Egypt travel guide showing you where to go, what to do, and what to see.
Egypt Travel Guide
What’s more, today’s Egypt is perhaps not what you’d expect…in a good way! Cairo is a major metropolis that never sleeps and the traffic is insane, but there’s still lots of history and so many interesting old and new stories around every corner if you take the time to look.
Of course, there are the Giza pyramids and those are obviously a must-see, but there are other older pyramids that are just as fascinating, if not more so. Definitely check out the Bent Pyramid which was recently opened up for visitors to go inside, as well as the Red Pyramid and the uniquely shaped pyramid at Meidum.
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Coptic Cairo is also well worth exploring, along with the modern neighborhoods of Zamalek and Maadi. And visiting some of the world’s most beautiful mosques is also a good idea, even if you aren’t even the slightest bit religious. In 2020, the new Egyptian museum will be opening, but the current Egyptian museum is still a treasure trove of artifacts, including the iconic pieces from King Tut’s tomb. Manial palace (a beautiful private home that is now open to the public) and its gardens and the Cairo citadel are definitely also worth a stop.
Luxor is the city of royal palaces and it’s where we got the word “luxury” from, so it’s only natural that any stylish woman would want to visit. It’s also the home of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, Karnak temple, and much more. Must-sees in Luxor include the tomb of Queen Nefertari and the tomb of King Seti, which are considered to be the best tombs in the world according to UNESCO.
There are also a ton of archaeological digs in and around Luxor, so you can see the people who are uncovering new discoveries at work. It’s estimated that there are thousands more tombs, temples, and other things to be found in Egypt and new spots are revealed on a regular basis, so we’ve only scratched the surface of what this ancient civilization has to offer.
Karnak and its collection of temples (don’t skip the temple of Sekhmet which is about 35 meters away from the main site) and Luxor temple (where Naomi Campbell got married) are worth spending a lot of time at as well. When you’re in the Valley of the Queens or Kings, or the Valley of the Workers or the Valley of the Nobles, you should stop to see the Colossi of Memnon and Habu temple and its iconic statue of the god Ptah.
While you’re in Luxor, you should also take a mini road trip and see the temples of Dendera (the only temple where you can climb to the second floor and home to the only existing images of Cleopatra and Caesar) and Abydos, which is dedicated to Osiris and has a dreamlike energy that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Aswan is the southern jewel of the Nile, and it is where Nubian and Arabic culture meet. This part of the Nile river is so clear and clean, making it perfect to swim in and sail on. Make sure you take a felucca ride at least once. Aswan the ideal base to explore southern or Upper Egypt.
When you’re in Aswan, you should definitely visit a Nubian village or two along with trying the local food – Nubian food is similar to Middle Eastern fare, but with rich flavors and spices that you can only find in that part of the world. This city is also a great base for visiting Abu Simbel and the temples of Kom Ombo (dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek) and Edfu (the home of Horus, the falcon god). And you shouldn’t miss any of these sites when you’re in Egypt. In Aswan itself you can see the unfinished obelisk and get an idea of how the ancient Egyptian people built some of these amazing structures, and you should take a motor boat to Philae temple, the home of Isis (and a lot of cats).
Note that Cairo and Alexandria and the north or top of Egypt are considered lower Egypt, and Luxor, Aswan and neighboring cities are upper Egypt. This is because the Nile is one of the few rivers in the world that flows south to north.
Shopping In Egypt
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the shopping! Besides the standard souvenirs like papyrus and statues of various gods, there are a lot of beautiful options that don’t look like cheesy tourist trap items. Splurge on a rug, get a gorgeous lamp or lantern, or something made of real alabaster that you could only get in Luxor. Note: hold an alabaster piece up to the light and if its somewhat transparent and you can see the light through it, it’s the real deal.
Or go for a handmade Egyptian cotton tunic or scarf with beautiful embroidery. There are modern cuts that look great with skinny jeans or leggings once you get home, but why not go for the full-on Talitha Getty caftan look while you can?
And then there is the jewelry. Gold, silver and precious or semi-precious gems are fairly inexpensive and most pieces are priced by weight. Egypt is also where a lot of your favorite fragrances are most likely made, so buying perfumes and essential oils at the source can be cost-effective. Plus it is incredibly interesting to learn about the scents that the pharaohs loved.
If you are planning a trip to Egypt or even just thinking about it, go sooner rather than later! Keep in mind that while the country is still in recovery mode after the 2011 revolution, it’s perfectly safe to go now and it is very affordable.
Food-wise, if you like Middle Eastern or Mediterranean flavors you’re in luck. Egyptian cuisine is delicious, filling, and pretty healthy in general (if a bit heavy on the carbs). We’re fans of the Silk Road, YuShanFang, and Sofra in Luxor, Abu Tarek in Cairo, and the Oriental and Al Dokka in Aswan in particular.
While you’re in Egypt, you should definitely try koshari (a mix of pasta, rice, lentils, fried onions and more that you top with chili oil, garlic and tomato sauce), ful medames (mashed fava beans, similar to hummus), and tami’ya (falafel). Dates, figs and other local fruits and vegetables are basically “tree to table” and everything is ridiculously fresh. The local flat bread or baadi is great straight out of the oven and you’ll want to dip it into all kinds of things, including baba ganoush, hummus, besara, muhammara, molokhia and more.
Charcoal grilled meat like shish tawook or kofta is also excellent and easy to find. You should definitely have some authentic shawarma while you are in Egypt too. Feteer, a flaky pastry that can be sweet or savory, is available at nearly every meal too. Egyptians love their sweets as well, so the desserts are varied and delicious – stop by a local bakery and pick out everything that looks tasty and you won’t go wrong. And wash everything down with Karkade, or hibiscus tea/juice.
Travel Clothes for Egypt
What should you wear in Egypt? Keep in mind that it’s sandy and dusty, hot all year round and it rarely rains, so light linen or cotton in neutral colors is the perfect choice. A pair of sneakers that you don’t mind getting dirty and other athletic or performance gear is useful as well.
Egypt is a Muslim country and while you don’t always need to cover your hair (hats are definitely important for sun protection though), being somewhat modest is recommended, especially when you visit mosques or churches. Good sunscreen and a couple pairs of sunglasses are a definite must-pack, along with a scarf that you can cover your hair and upper body with if necessary.
Travel To Egypt With A Tour Guide
We suggest getting a professional guide in order to get the most out of your trip. Osiris tours is highly recommended and the group that this writer went with. (Ask for Essam/Sam as your guide because he’s awesome!) Egypt is highly rewarding but also highly complicated. Having an expert on hand who can handle the logistics of getting you from place to place and inform you about the background of everything that you’re seeing will make your trip to Egypt go from great to downright magical.
If you’ve always dreamed of visiting Egypt and discovering the country’s rich history, now is definitely the time. Go before it gets crowded again and tell us all about it!
You may also like to read Travel To The Mystical And Magical Peru and Traveling Without Fear: A Western Woman In A Muslim Country.
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