Many people ask me which is my favorite country I’ve been to. I instantly fire away the answer: Egypt.
After my first trip to Egypt, back in 2003, I visited Egypt almost ten more times. I really love this country, it has so much to offer. Somehow, I divided this country into three parts: Pharaonic Egypt, then Egypt of excellent Islamic architecture, and Egypt of nature with the Nile, deserts, oases, and the Red Sea.
In my opinion, each of these parts would deserve a separate journey to Egypt and exploration of that part. That’s how rich they are! I do, however, combine all of them on each of my trips to Egypt.
Flight to Cairo
Egypt is very well connected with the whole world, and more or less all major airlines fly to Cairo, but many also fly to Hurghada. It is less common to fly directly from Europe to Alexandria, Sharm el Sheikh, Luxor and Aswan, but these airports are easily reached by transfer in Cairo via Egyptair.
All the airports in Egypt are really good and world-class, and the entire service is great. Namely, Egypt is a very tourist-oriented country, and Egyptians are used to foreigners.
Visa to Egypt – price and where to buy
Everyone needs a visa to enter Egypt. It is not a matter of immigration, but an important revenue for the state budget. It costs $ 25 and you can buy it upon arrival at the airport, but you can also order it online.
I always land in Cairo because I love Cairo very much. There are pyramids as well as the inevitable Egyptian museum. So this time too, I landed in Cairo. I flew with Lufthansa via Frankfurt. You see the pyramids on the first day, from the plane!
Haggling in Egypt
I always get to the city center by taxi. Be sure to agree on the price with the taxi driver in advance. Haggling is a way of life in Egypt, so you will reduce the price of a taxi ride as well. But by no means should you pay over 100 Egyptian pounds. We’ll talk about haggling later. For starters, change a little money already at the airport. The old rule is that the exchange rate at airports is the most unfavorable. That is the case here, too. However, change some 50 dollars or euros for the first hand, so that you have money for your taxi and other things you need until you change bigger amounts of money in Cairo.
Egyptian pounds are used in Egypt.
Cairo is such a big city that even the official authorities do not know exactly how many inhabitants there are. Let’s say about twenty million, but with doubt. Migrations from rural areas to the capital are very intense.
Congestion, lack of space, air pollution and the like have led to the quality of life of the local population being low. That is why the Egyptian authorities launched a pharaonic project: the construction of a new capital. Here right now in 2021 the relocation is underway. With this new big capital of Egypt, the intention is to reduce the pressure on Cairo. The name of the new capital? There is still no name (I am writing this in April 2021).
How many days should you stay in Cairo?
You need at least two days to visit Cairo, that is, if you are going to visit only the most basic places. In that case, you dedicate one day to Gizeh and the pyramids, and the other to the Egyptian Museum. In addition, in those two days, you visit the Citadel, the Khan al Khalili market, and take a walk downtown.
In my opinion, it would be optimal to stay 4 days. With these two additional days, you can visit the pyramids in Saqqara and Dahshur. Then you should visit medieval Cairo with fabulous tenth-century Islamic architecture, visit the area between the Al Azhar complex and the Citadel, and Coptic Cairo.
Cairo will absolutely delight you, especially if you go outside the Khan al Khalili market to visit this impressive Islamic architecture of medieval Cairo. When you’re here, be sure to come in to visit some of these structures, whether it’s a mosque, a madrasa, a maristan, or the homes of wealthy medieval merchants.
When you fly into Cairo, more often than not, you come late at night, so you can’t visit anything that day. Me personally, my planes always come late. I can only make it to the dinner, if that, and go to sleep. This time it was like that as well. I spent the night at the Ramses Hilton Hotel, right in the center, along the banks of the Nile.
Cairo is on the Nile River. If you are not staying at this hotel, I recommend that you come here and go to the bar at the top of the Ramses Hilton hotel: Skybar. The views of Cairo are great, the atmosphere too. Pure pleasure to drink beer.
Beer and alcohol in Cairo?
When we talk about beer and alcohol, keep in mind that this is a Muslim country. This means that Egyptians do not drink alcohol, but it will not be a problem if you drink it. However, this also means that in many places in Egypt, restaurants, and cafes do not offer alcohol at all. Your hotel will almost always have alcohol. I say “almost” because there are hotels that do not have alcohol. However, it’s just a few of them.
In the morning, the first stop, without exception, for anyone who comes to Cairo are the Pyramids of Gizeh. You will very soon learn that a taxi is the most convenient and practical means of transportation for you in Cairo. Taxis are simply all around you. You don’t even need to call them, they call you! Even if you call a taxi on the street, you will always have an advantage over the locals. The taxi driver knows that he will earn more by driving a foreigner than a local resident.
Pyramids of Gizeh
No documentary or learning about the pyramids can prepare you for your encounter with them. When you come to the plateau of Gizeh you will be left speechless. First of all, because you thought the pyramids were in the desert. They are always shown that way. They really are in the desert but at the very end of the desert. They are on the very limit of the city of Cairo. The sheer size of the pyramid leaves you breathless.
T<You can enter the pyramids, but beware! It is extremely cramped and stuffy, claustrophobicists must never enter the pyramids. You have to buy a separate ticket to enter pyramids. 100 people can enter in the morning and 100 people in the afternoon the Pyramid of Cheops. So secure your ticket as soon as you get to the plateau.
Camels are an unavoidable decor on the Gizeh plateau but don’t worry, you’ll see camels throughout your stay in Egypt. You will have many opportunities to ride camels. I have to admit it is a very exciting experience. When you sit on a camel and the camel gets up, you think you will fall. Likewise when a camel sits down, you think you will fall again. It’s just that camels get up and down in a very funny and awkward way. All in all, it is a great experience.
Here on the Gizeh plateau, there are quite difficult people who deal with camels, even if you only take a picture of their camel, they will already run towards you to pay them for it. I must admit, however, that it is rather a nice souvenir to have a picture of where you are riding a camel, and behind you are pyramids and deserts.
Lookout – the perfect opportunity to photograph the pyramids
Be sure to go to the lookout from which you can see all three pyramids. You will see that there are really 9 pyramids here, not just three. The three main ones are the largest: of Cheops, Kefren, and Mikerinos. But around them, there are several smaller pyramids of queens and princes. I mention this lookout because many who travel to Egypt on their own do not know about it. And the best photos you get of the pyramids are from that vantage point.
The Sphinx that stands at the foot of the pyramids is a story unto itself, and truly forms a legendary stage for a picture, with the pyramid behind it. Such an authentic picture from Egypt! However, for such a picture, where you want to see both the sphinx and the pyramid behind, you will have to move away from the sphinx, and quite a bit too. However, even when you are on the sphinx you will have beautiful pictures. Try the one where you kiss with a sphinx, that image is also legendary.
The sound and light show on the Giza plateau will be called kitsch by some, but then it is kitsch that I really like. Ever since I saw that Sound and Light show in the James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me,” and where Jaws has a clash with James Bond during that show program, Sound and Light Show has been in my heart. But don’t forget to bring jackets with you. It will be very cold in the evening! Assuming it’s not summer. Because fall, winter, and spring are during the day for short sleeves, but in the evening you freeze.
Already on the first day with taxis that call you instead that you call them, you will have to get used to being constantly approached on the street by all sort of people who are somehow connected to a business that could profit from a tourist. In Luxor and Aswan, this will only becomes more pronounced. You like it at first, and you even want to chat with them a little bit. But in a day or two, you will have them over your head.
These are people who offer you all sorts of things and services because you are a tourist: from souvenirs, from restaurants, from excursions, to I don’t know what. You have to learn to be patient with them because they won’t stop. Learn to say “No, thank you” in Arabic “La, shukran”. The Egyptian government is aware of how much such these hawkers bother tourists, but unfortunately there is nothing they can do.
Mena house hotel is a must experience. It is a hotel right next to the Gizeh plateau, in a typical Arabic style, very elegant and reminiscent of some bygone times of the British mandate. When you enter the hotel area, it is as if you have entered a paradise garden. The vegetation and horticulture of this hotel are so beautiful. Come at least for coffee or tea, with the view of the pyramids! It will be difficult for you to choose whether to have your drink in the paradise gardens of this hotel or to go inside of it and immerse yourself in the past centuries of mystical Arabia.
Water is not drinkable in Egypt. Always have large bottles of water with you. You can buy water all over Egypt,a t every corner! The prices are very low. Note, however, if you are going to buy water at some small makeshift stall on the street, that the bottle is original and really factory sealed. “Entrepreneurs” in Egypt set up such small water stalls, but they pour water into bottles and just close them. To the naked eye this is not often visible, but on these small makeshift stalls on the street pay attention to it. Make sure the bottle clicks when you open it.
We could already see that there are not only three pyramids on the Gizeh plateau, but nine. Now, it’s good to know that there are really ninety-nine pyramids in Egypt, and they’re all in this same area. I suggest you set aside one whole day for the pyramids. In the morning you go to the Gizeh plateau to visit the most famous pyramids and sphinx. Then you have lunch at a nearby restaurant, and in the afternoon you go to Saqqara to visit the first pyramid: the stepped pyramid. Then continue to Dahshur, to visit the “red pyramid”, and finally the “sunken pyramid”. All these pyramids are just huge and very interesting to see.
All this time you are in impressive desert landscapes, and along the edge of the desert, there are always oases rich in date trees. A very authentic picture of Egypt. In addition, along the way you can visit Memphis, the former capital of Upper Egypt, but unfortunately there is nothing left but some stones and an impressive statue of Ramses II.
Start the next day with the legendary Egyptian Museum. In April 2021, it finally moved into an impressive new building in Gizeh. Until then, this museum was an icon in the center of Egypt, a true institution. I admit that the day had to come for the Egyptian Museum to move into a decent building, but this museum in this building and in this ambiance is deeply etched in my heart. True, very chaotic, very irregularly exhibited artifacts, no explanations next to the artifacts, the royal mummies were almost embarrassingly exhibited, a few hundred thousand (!!) objects were collecting dust in the basement because there was no space for them to be exhibited at all! Yet, this museum was an indispensable stop for all tourists in Egypt.
Egyptian museum is now in Gizeh, in a decent ambience and in a decent building. In early April, all the world’s news agencies broadcasted a solemn procession when 22 mummies of Egyptian pharaohs and queens moved into the new museum. I have not been to the new museum, it has just opened. But I can’t wait for my first next trip to Egypt to visit it.
You will see all kinds of treasures in the Egyptian Museum, but the most impressive to me is the treasure discovered in the tomb of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun. The treasure of Tuya and Yuya is also very impressive to me, as is the tiny figurine of Pharaoh Cheops, the only thing found of his reign. There are also impressive busts of Queen Hatshepsut as well as reliefs from her temple in Thebes, including the famous expedition to the land of Punt. It is also interesting to see the objects, and especially the statues of King Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti, to see how Egyptian art changed during his short reign. Lots of mummies, sarcophagi, Egyptian gods, you will see it all in this museum. Can at least half a day for Egyptian museum.
In the afternoon, go to Khan Al Khalili market. This is an unavoidable place in Cairo for all tourists, but also for the locals. At this huge market, you will find all the souvenirs in one place. Egypt is a country where you have to bring souvenirs from, although I don’t normally buy them. You are so attracted to small statues of Egyptian gods, cats, papyri, pashmina, perfumes, alabasters, whether you like it or not, you buy souvenirs in Egypt.
The quality is very poor, but so are the prices, especially considering that you will be haggling. The price they offer you, you will lower to 30, 40% of that, so you will find 50, 60% percent of the originally requested price. I appeal to all of us to be responsible tourists and not to peel the skin of traders by asking them to reduce the price by 90%. They earn extremely little, and a couple of dollars go a long way in Egypt. Organized groups go to the institutes of perfumes, alabaster, papyrus, carpets, and before you buy, they also present the method of production. In institutes, everything costs more, but the quality is much higher.
When you’re at this market, have a coffee at the legendary Al Fishawi Café. This cafe is an institution unto itself. Many intellectuals used to come here to discuss many topics, and even today this is an important café for many Cairo residents. It is unavoidable for tourists. That is why many hawkers will come to you offering their goods. In addition to Al Fishwai Café, you also have many restaurants that are mostly for tourists, and are therefore safe.
I mention this because you need to pay attention to health in Egypt. Egypt is not a risky country for health, so there will be no special problems. Except for diarrhea. The golden rule in Egypt is to eat only what is cooked or peeled. So, a banana yes, because you peel it, but an apple with peel is a big no. To comfort you, more or less all tourists in Egypt get diarrhea, but it is generally mild, you don’t even feel it, and it goes away the same day. However, it can also be more intense, and it can take two or more days. You don’t want to lose two days in bed while you’re in Egypt because you got diarrhea. So when you are preparing for a trip to Egypt, buy black coal on the one hand, which stops your diarrhea, and on the other hand, a probiotic to strengthen your digestion. Start with the probiotic even before going to Egypt.
I don’t stay in the market for a long time. Not only because I got to know it well: I always like to come here and feel the atmosphere. I don’t linger because I’m incredibly attracted to medieval Cairo which is right behind the market. Along the entire street are opulent buildings of rich and impressive Islamic architecture from the ninth to the fifteenth century. If you also go to visit that Cairo, you will be delighted.
The street is called Sharia el Muiz li Din. All along this street you will find mosques, madrasas (schools), maristans (hospitals), sabil kutab (fountain and quran school), houses of rich merchants such as the house of beit Suheimi (visit it!), wikalas (resting places for travelers and their horses) ), and the city gates. The street also ends with the impressive city gate of Bab el Fatuh. Go down a little lower and enter through the other city gates of Bab el Nasr, and go straight again, all the way to the beginning of Khan Al Khalili. And along this entire street you will have great Islamic architecture of the Middle Ages.
Aside from the architecture, you will be absolutely impressed by the sounds, the smells, the colors, the people. Generally the atmosphere you will see in these streets is impressive. All the time you will feel like in an Aladdin, Scheherazade or Sinbad movie.
At the beginning of Khan Al Khalili is the Al Azhar complex, a mosque, and a university. Very beautiful architecture, strikingly beautiful actually. And just a little lower is the Ghuri complex. Come here in the evening. Namely, the city administration organizes a free show program with whirling dervishes. It’s just amazing to see them spinning non-stop.
The citadel should also be an indispensable stop when you are in Cairo. Here you have the only mosque in Cairo that non-Muslims can enter. So you will see what a mosque looks like from the inside. Still, what draws me a lot more to the Citadel is the view that shoots at Cairo. You will see that there is no end to this city. You can see the pyramids. You will also see how polluted the air in Cairo is: there is often so much smog that you can see the outlines quite clearly, and how thick a layer of smog is over Cairo!
In the evening, head to the Falfela restaurant which has been a favorite restaurant of foreigners living in Cairo for decades. It is located in the downtown, next to Talat Haarb Street. Once there, right before Falfela you have the Riche Café, also a Cairo institution of the former European bourgeoisie. The café proudly displays portraits and paintings from those times, of the 1930s and 1940s.
If you have a little more yet time in Cairo, I recommend that you go visit the Ibn Tulum Mosque. In addition, next to the mosque is the Gayer-Anderson Museum. It is the house of a British officer who remodeled the house in a beautiful oriental style. Apart from the fact that the house as a house is very attractive to visit, it was even more interesting to me because I am a big James Bond fan, and “The Spy Who Loved Me” was filmed in this house-museum.
You should also take a walk through downtown Cairo. In the center is Tahrir Square, and the few streets that branch off from it actually make up the very heart of the city. There are no sights here, but to experience the atmosphere of these streets, and especially in the evening when the streets are full of life, is unforgettable! In addition, on the other side of Tahrir Square is the Nile River with a promenade, and it is very nice to walk along this landscaped promenade. You know you are in Cairo, and you are on the Nile.
How to dress in Egypt?
The climate is always great in Egypt, just always nice weather especially in the south of the country, Luxor and Aswan. Even in the middle of winter, the heat will be high. So make sure you have light and breathable clothes, best made of cotton, not synthetics. You need a hat, that is, a hat that covers you a lot, as well as sunglasses. Keep your shoes comfortable, but don’t be in sandals because pebbles will constantly enter your open shoes. After all, all temples, pyramids, and so on, are in nature. Sunscreen is also very important to you. Egypt is a Muslim country, and while it is okay to walk around poorly dressed in Hurghada or similar places, it is inappropriate to go in Cairo poorly dressed.
We are leaving Cairo
I always start my travels in Egypt in Cairo. After Cairo, I always go to Luskor or Aswan, sometimes by train and sometimes by plane. If you are going by plane, within an hour and a half you are either in Luxor or in Aswan. The plane flies quite a few times a day to both cities, and there are several airlines that fly. I flew with Egyptair and with Air Nile.
The train is a story unto itself. Something as romantic as a night train ride can be experienced in just a few other countries in the world. If you buy a ticket to Aswan, buy a sleeper car, although you can also buy just a second-class seat, as well as first-class seats. I went with all three options.
If you don’t really look at every penny, I suggest you buy a sleeping wagon ticket, so that you can feel rested in the morning. There is also a restaurant wagon on the train, so you won’t stay hungry. At the end of each wagon there is a toilet, but no showers! In the morning when you wake up and see the glitter of the pastel colors of the desert, it’s waking up to be remembered! You came to Nubia, it is the real Africa in the south of Egypt, with its own culture. Plus, you’re really riding through the Sahara. You will arrive in Aswan just before noon.
As soon as you get off the train, a whole army of various hawkers jump on you, from taxi drivers, to hotels, to excursions, to restaurants “agents”. It will be really difficult to break through them. You’ve already learned “La, shukran,” and here it’s important to take a stance as if you know where you’re going.
Aswan is different from other parts of Egypt. You are here in Nubia, and the Nubians are dark-skinned. This is the first obvious difference from the rest of the country. But the climate here is different. It is extremely hot, but you can handle it without any problems because it is dry. Aswan is just a paradise for asthmatics. Back in the days of the British protectorate, Europeans came here to spend the winter.
Souk (the market) is a story unto itself in Aswan. Be sure to try to come in the evening to the market. That’s when it is the liveliest. The main street in Aswan is souk, colorful colors, sounds, smells, but the entire ambience will knock you off your feet. Of course, you have everything to buy from souvenirs that you have already seen on the Cairo souk Khan Al Khalili, and that you will continue to see throughout your stay in Egypt.
The old cataract hotel is a hotel symbol of Aswan and the past. Here Agatha Christie wrote her novel Death on the Nile.
Aswan has not as many ancient Egyptian monuments as Luxor. However, you could stay without any problems for a week here, just for views of the desert and the Nile with feluccas! As for egyptian heritage in Aswan, there is unfished obelisk, the Egpytian museum and the Philea temple. Felucca are typical boats that glide on the calm waters of the Nile. The contours of these boats, the Nile, the desert, will be etched deep in your memory. You must rent one felucca and sail the Nile.
This experience throws you back to the past so much, that it is difficult for you to return to reality after the end of the trip. You sail to the cataract, or rapids, you can go to the Nubian village, you can go to Kitchener Island which is actually a botanical garden, and so on.
You can rent a felucca where a Nubian will play typical Nubian music. You will have some of the most beautiful pictures from Egypt right here in Aswan. Yes, there are crocodiles in the Nile!
As I said, there are not as many monuments of ancient Egypt in Aswan as in Luxor. But just before entering Aswan there is a quarry that was used in the time of the pharaohs. There is an unfinished obelisk here. Queen Hatshepsut had an obelisk built that was supposed to be the largest in the whole world, however, when they had already carved the contours of the obelisk, they noticed a crack and abandonded it. In this park, you will see this entire obelisk lying unfinished and it truly is an attraction! Note, however, that the visit is quite strenuous because, first of all, the circle for the visit is much longer than it seems. Then there is a lot of uphill, awkward terrain, and extreme heat. I am writing this only to prepare you for a little trouble, no way to avoid it. You will be glad to see him!
Also next to Aswan is a large dam on Lake Naser. Tourists come here because the Egyptians are very proud of this feat, and for tourists, nature is unforgettable. So much blue in Lake Nasser, and what a strong contrast to the yellow-brown color of the desert that surrounds it! You are very close to the equator, so even in the middle of winter, it is extremly hot. But here, too, there is a snack bar where you can buy water, and everything else you need for refreshment.
You should definitely go to visit the Philea Temple. It is one of the so-called “saved” temples. When the Aswan Dam was being built to get Lake Nasser, many villages were flooded. With them the Egyptian temples that were located there were to be flooded too. UNESCO, however, had taken great action to save these temples, and stone by stone they have transferred these temples to higher levels. The most famous of the saved temples is Abu Simbel.
If you go to the temple of Philea alone, be prepared for extremely strenuous boatowners who transport you to the temple with their boats. Boats are the only way to get to the temple of Philea, because the temple is on a lake. When you have paid for the ride, then you will still be asked for a tip. We already know that we need a lot of patience in Egypt.
The Temple of Philea is one of the so-called Greco-Egyptian temples, that is, from the time when the Ptolemies took power in Egypt. The Ptolomies were Greek. The most famous ruler of Egypt from the Ptolemy line is the famous Cleopatra!
The temple is very well preserved. After the fall of Egypt in the 1st century BC, the temples were abandoned. Christians then took over temples to glorify God. They tried to erase the figures of the Egyptian gods from the walls of the temples. We will see this often in Egypt. Yet we can absolutely experience the atmosphere of the Philea Temple, and the experience we have walking through the dark halls and corridors of the temple is remarkable.
There is one of my favorite cafes here, because of the ambiance! In the greenery, on the Nile, in front of you is a magnificent Egyptian temple! Take the opportunity to enjoy such an ambiance! Plus, it’s terribly hot, and you’re in deep shade in this Philea Temple cafe. You will see that you will want to stay for hours in an ambiance like this!
This is a fantastic trip to go while in Aswan. You ride boats on the Nile, with traditional Nubian music. You cross to the other side where camels are waiting for you. The camels go through the desert to one of the Nubian villages. You walk through the village, and go to visit one of the Nubian houses. Everything is bursting with bright colors in the Nubian village.
All organised group tours to Egypt include visits to the Aswan Dam and the unfinished obelisk, and very often to the Temple of Philea.
You can start cruising the Nile in either Luxor or Aswan. You can buy it either in advance while you are home, or once you come here. All the boats on the Nile cruise are five stars. In most boats, you can feel the need for a renovation, but also the magical flair of some bygone times. I’ve been on a Nile cruise quite a few times, and this is my firm opinion.
All cabins on the boat are external. But if you are on the first level then your window is at water level and cannot be opened. Everyone would like a second and third level because the windows are large and can be opened. Many boats also have balconies. It is important for many people not to be on the first level because of the smaller window, despite the fact that they use cabin actually very little.
I personally like to take advantage of the cabin atmosphere, especially when we are in Aswan, to enjoy watching the unrealistically beautiful scenery in Aswan. One day is dedicated entirely to sailing, that day I also like to use my cabin, lying in bed and looking at the scenery. However, I also like to be on the terrace of the boat, because the atmosphere is really calm, and the scenes of the banks of the Nile, with clay houses along the coast, palm trees, a few cows and the locals are really like from biblical movies.
In addition, the interiors of these boats are very pleasantly decorated, they all have shops, mostly souvenir shops, and other facilities, such as a gym. However, everything is extremely modest in size. These are small river boats after all. All have beautifully decorated lobbies, cafes and lounges for you to enjoy them. Here, I suggest you take Agatha Christie’s book with you, and read her novel “Death on the Nile” in this ambiance on a Nile cruise.
However, wi-fi is not exactly present on the boat as we are used to. You will have to buy daily access to wi-fi for about ten dollars. In general, when it comes to mobile and internet, in Egypt it will all work without any difficulty, wi-fi is everywhere! Without wi-fi, phone and internet tariffs are really high.
The voltage is 220V.
The days on the cruise will fly by so quickly. In one direction the cruise lasts 3 nights and 4 days, and in the other 4 nights and 5 days. No matter which direction you take, you will definitely see the temples of Kom Ombo and Edfu, and you will pass the Esna barrage. If you are so fascinated by this cruise, and it is easily possible, you can buy two cruises right away. For example from Luxor to Aswan and back on that same ship. Or Aswan – Luxor, then back to Aswan in that ship. Then you have a week-long cruise. True, you will see the same temples, but I have no words to describe enough the beauty of the scenery on the Nile and the ambiance of the boats themselves on the cruise! Consider this option!
One of the most impressive images of Egypt is certainly the temple of Abu Simbel, that is, the temple of Pharaoh Ramses II. There is also a temple of his queen Nefertari, so there are two temples here. They are visited on the day the boats leave Aswan. The cruises start around 2pm, and this is arranged precisely so that tourists could go to visit these two temples. It starts at dawn and travels in convoys, which means all the tourists who go to Abu Simbel that day, all go together. The surrreal scenery of the Sahara pass by, and honestly the whole experience is surreal.
The temples themselves in Abu Simbel are surreal. These two temples were moved stone by stone to a higher position, when a large Aswan dam was being built.
The temples to visit are Kom Ombo and Edfu. Kom Ombo is characterized by the fact that it is a temple intended for two Egyptian gods, and very often you come here very late, precisely for sunset. The sunset in Kom Ombo is magnificent, the sun sets behind the temple and the palm trees, unreal.
I really like Edfu because it is one of the best preserved Egyptian temples, if not the best preserved. But what I especially like about this temple is that you have to take a carriage, the so-called caleche, to get from the boat to the temple. As soon as the boats arrive, the caleches are waiting for you. Here, too, prepare for haggling for the price of the carriage, and be sure to arrange an exact return. Arrange exactly how many hours you want to be in the temple. In one hour everything could be seen, with two hours you are much more comfortable, and three hours is somehow ideal.
Besides, what I especially like about Edfu is that with the caleche you pass through a real Egyptian city that is not for tourists, so all you see is just the real, authentic life of the Egyptians. You go through their market, the streets, and so on. Very, very interesting!
Esna is a barrage and it is very interesting to see how the boat enters the barrage and the level rises or falls, depending on which direction you go. Thus the boat comes to a higher or lower level of the Nile. Here you will find vendors selling their merchandise from their small boats, most often so-called galabias. Galabiyyas are Egyptian dresses that you also see on men all over Egypt. It will come in handy on the Nile cruise because one evening you have the Galabiyya party. It will be funny on the one hand how these boat traders throw their galabiyyas high into the air, yell at you and try to make some money. On the other hand, one feels the bitterness of such scenes, when one realizes how difficult the lives of those people who are trying to earn something in such a difficult and unpleasant way are. Especially considering that some sales only happen sometimes or never.
The Galabiya party will be one of two themed evenings organized by riverboats for their guests. At the Galabiya party, we all dress in galabiya, and we look like Egyptians. And then the musicians come to the main lounge, mostly Nubians, and we dance to the sounds of Nubian music and drum beats. The second evening will be a party with a belly dancer and a dervish. Seeing both a belly dancer live and a dervish whirling will be very impressive for all tourists. Of course, they all always expect to be tipped.
You can’t help but feel carried away and relaxed at these two parties, but still pay attention that if you drink cocktails, and put ice in you, that ice is water! Most boats really make sure it’s factory ice, meaning clean, but why risk it. In my opinion, it is better not to take any risks, right on the boat, at a party, with an ice cube in a cocktail, my sister went through two rough days of stomach problems.
Luxor and Thebes form one whole, and as such represent the largest open-air museum in the world. This is Pharaoh’s Egypt in its strongest and the most remarkable edition! This is where the impressive complex of Karnak temples is, here is the magnificent Luxor temple with the widely known sphinx alley. Here is the Valley of Kings, but also the Valley of Queens and the Valley of Nobles! Here is the temple of the great Egyptian queen Hatchepsut. In addition, here you will see those two statues, the well-known sight of Egypt, the Colossi of Memnon. One of the best-preserved Egyptian temples is located here: Medinet Habu, but also the temple of Rameseum is located here, as well as the temple of Pharaoh Seti I. There is no end to the attractions in Luxor! It takes you at least two days to visit this part of Egypt, but I suggest you do it in four days. There really is a lot to see!
Thebes was once the capital of Egypt. Pharaohs ruled from here. You come from Luxor by boats that are public city transport between the two banks of the Nile. Or you can rent your own boat to transport you, and you can also take a taxi from Luxor because a big bridge was built south of the city. If you want to avoid taxis, you can use vans on the other side of the coast that are public city transport. The price of both the van and the boat are really ridiculously cheap.
I suggest you go on public boats and do everything on foot! In this way, not only did you save money but you experienced exceptional ambiences, you got quite close to the Egyptians. So take a public boat from Luxor, and when you get to the other side take a walk! First, you will get to the colossi of Memnon, that legendary depiction of Egypt. We’ve all seen that photo somewhere. It is about everything that is left of the magnificent temple of Amenhotep III.
You can go down and walk around the statues. Everywhere you will have places where you can freshen up, buy water, juice, coffee, sandwiches. There are also restaurants if you want to dine in. Follow the main road towards the Valley of the Kings, and let the Valley of the Kings be your next destination. You feel like you are on the moon walking towards the Valley of the Kings, such is the terrain here, no vegetation. When you buy a ticket for the Valley of the Kings, you can visit three tombs. If you want to visit the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, you will need an additional ticket.
Note that it is forbidden to film in tombs, but you can take photos. In general, you will take a lot of photos and videos in Egypt, but keep in mind that it is strictly forbidden to take photos and videos of military and police facilities and personnel, as well as sensitive areas such as borders. In addition, people also don’t like it if you take pictures of them directly, but they will be very happy to pose for you if you ask them.
Many pharaohs are buried right here, which is why this valley is called the Valley of the Kings. You have the opportunity to get acquainted in detail with the art of ancient Egypt because the pinnacle of the art of ancient Egypt is located right here in the tombs of the pharaohs. The walls of the tombs are so beautifully decorated, and the colors are almost incredibly well preserved. You can’t stop staring at those walls, you remain enchanted by the hieroglyphs as well as the depictions of the Egyptian gods and pharaohs.
In each tomb the main scenes depicted on the walls are scenes where the pharaoh in the company of the Egyptian gods offers sacrifices, gives gifts and the like, all in order to cross the world of the dead back into the world of the living. These scenes, which are written in several lines, are called Amduat, the so-called “book of the dead”, all over the walls.
Of the hundred or so tombs in the Valley of the Kings, few are actually open to the public, perhaps a dozen. And of those dozen or so tombs that are open to the public, you can visit three. If you buy another ticket, then you can visit three more tombs. But trust me, three tombs are more than enough. Because no matter how impressive they really are, they will start to confuse you and eventually they won’t know what you visited at all.
There is a large tourist souk (market) here, as in every tourist place in Egypt. There is also a nice cafe with lots of shade to relax and refresh, as well as a toilet.
One of the most beautiful experiences I have had in Egypt, but which are no longer allowed, was crossing the hill that separates the Valley of the Kings from the temple of Queen Hatchepsut. I was lucky to be able to do it and it remained very etched in my memory. The path is actually very simple, and the trails are quite trodden. After all, this area has been used for thousands of years! From the top of the hill shoots a remarkable view of the Nile River, and down to the temple of Queen Hatchepsut.
Queen Hatchepsut Temple
This temple seems to be the setting for a movie from Hollywood, the temple looks unrealistically modern from a distance, and it is completely different from all other Egyptian temples. This temple is an unavoidable stop for all tourists in Egypt. When you buy a ticket, you take a small train to the temple, and back. I love hiking and enjoying this unusual nature for me. The train ticket is a penny, and you have to buy it, but you don’t have to use the train.
The temple is dedicated to the goddess Hathor, the goddess of love. Every Egyptian god also has his own animal image. The animal figure of the goddess Hathor is a cow. In this temple, you will see pillars with upper endings in the shape of the head of the goddess Hathor. Also very impressive are the outer majestic pillars depicting Queen Hatchepsut. This queen was the only Egyptian queen to proclaim herself pharaoh. One of the main marks of the pharaoh was an elongated beard. For this reason, you will see Queen Hatchepsut depicted with a beard.
The heat is just unbearable, no matter what time of year you come. In addition, there will be very large crowds, but you try to enjoy it all by taking a little more time, and taking a walk around the temple.
The advantage when traveling alone is that you are freer and can visit what others do not visit. For example, you can visit two great temples that few people visit and that is why the atmosphere there is really impressive. These are the temples of Pharaoh Sethi the First and Ramses the Second. The only problem is that you will be annoyed by the temple guards, they will want to explain the temples to you, of course, for a tip. You have already learned “la, shukran”, if you do not want their services.
In the temple of Ramses II, the so-called Rameseum, a James Bond scene was filmed. Jaws clashed with James Bond and a Russian secret agent. The most impressive part is the entrance to the temple with huge statues of Ramses II.
After visiting the temples of Ramses II, Sethi I, Queen Hatchepsut, and the Valley of the Kings head to the port. But don’t go back to Luxor yet. Before turning for the harbor, continue straight on, and you will come to one of the best-preserved temples of ancient Egypt, with exquisitely preserved colors: Medinet Habu.
In addition, in this direction is the Queen’s Valley, which is visited by very few visitors. Many Egyptian queens as well as princes and princesses were buried here. The best-decorated tomb, simply incredibly rich, is the tomb of Queen Nefertari. She was the wife of one of the greatest Egyptian pharaohs, Ramses the second. The number of visitors who can enter this tomb is limited to one hundred per day. Namely, the space is not large, and in order to preserve the colors from the moisture that people bring with them by breathing, the authorities have limited the number of people allowed to enter. However, there are other tombes very worth your visit.
Also, in this area you can visit an entire settlement of ancient Egypt.Workers and artists who worked on tombs and temples lived here. Not much of the structures remained, but it is still very interesting to visit this settlement.
Another valley of tombs is located here, and that is the Valley of the Nobles. Here are the tombs of the richest and highest class of Egyptian society at the time of the pharaohs, and accordingly the tombs are magnificently decorated. Definitely worth a visit to a few tombs!
When you add to all these monuments that you need to rest, refresh yourself, eat, and it is nice to visit some alabaster institutes to buy quality souvenirs, you already see that you need quite a few days for Luxor! When you add to that that you have yet to see the temple complex in Karnak, and the temple in Luxor, it is clear to you why I recommended you to stay here for four days.
The temple in Luxor is very well preserved and it is really magical to walk through it and discover its dark chambers. The statues we have here are one of the largest and best-preserved in all of Egypt, and here is the famous alley of sphinxes that once went all the way to the temple complex of Karnak, located a few miles away. In addition, in front of the temple in Luxor, there is one of the few Egyptian obelisks left actually in Egypt. Most were taken to Europe, and today they adorn the squares of Rome, Paris, and so on.
The atmosphere is especially exciting in the evening, so try to visit the temple in Luxor in the evening. This temple is open until 10 pm, precisely because there are many monuments to visit in the area, so you can get to visit this temple as well. It is extremely well lit.
You can rent a caleche and take a ride through the center of Luxor, and the souk. This is a great experience. The coachmen are lurking for you everywhere and are calling you. Needless to say, agree in advance on the price and duration of your ride.
Luxor also has a great souk, and if you haven’t bought everything you need of souvenirs, buy it here. In Luxor you can feel the real Egypt, the one of today, and the one it was a few thousand years ago. The city is just bustling with life. Take the streets, take a walk, go to typical restaurants. When I say a typical restaurant, I mean more of a typical Egyptian ambiance than of food itself. Surprisingly, Egypt doesn’t actually have any really typical food!
Still, what you can try in Egypt is fuul. Fuul is ubiquitous in Egypt, chopped beans, seasoned in various ways, and as a spread it is placed on aish (bread in the form of a small pie). Koshari is also found everywhere – rice and thin noodles as for soup, again, with a variety of spices and toppings (surprisingly tasty). Falafel, chickpea dumplings with toppings. Shwarma, meat, most often lamb, which in Greece is called gyros and in Turkey kebab, but very tasty in any case. The famous grill in Egypt – kofta, resembles thin meatballs, only they are bigger and – on a skewer. And babaganush is an eggplant spread, again with various toppings, which are almost always served as appetizers.
Luxor is home to the famous Winter Palace Hotel, a legendary hotel from the time of the British mandate. It is a good idea to come here for a drink or coffee, and to enjoy the finely decorated interior, or outside in the hotel gardens.
Karnak is the largest complex of ancient Egypt to visit. This was the religious center of Egypt, and every pharaoh who came to power wanted to build something in Karnak. That’s why Karnak looks a bit confusing, without any order. That is why today we have the largest complex of ancient Egyptian monuments here. Some would think it is Gizeh, but no. It’s Karnak.
From Luxor you can rent a caleche to get here. Be sure to agree in advance both the price and how long you would stay in Karnak. You can visit Karnak in one hour, but it really pays to get lost in Karnak for a few hours! Karnak used to be connected to Luxor by the Sphinx Alley. That alley still exists in part today, and goes from the temple in Luxor.
This planned resort is a four-hour bus ride from Luxor. I suggest you end your stay in Egypt in Hurghada. Namely, you have already seen a lot of things, you are full of emotions and experiences, and now you want to relax in a good hotel in Hurghada. Hurghada is full of top-notch hotels as it is a favorite summer resort of many Europeans. That’s why it also has its own airport. Everything in Hurghada is subordinated to tourism, so you will have the opportunity to buy a service, a tour, or a souvenir at every step.
Perhaps it is best to lie on the beaches of the Red Sea for a few days, it also has its charms. But if you go on a trip to a Bedouin village in the desert, it will be an unforgettable experience for you. Bedouins will host you in their tents, make your lunch, most often grilled chicken and vegetables, and you will have the opportunity to see a mirage! Yes, the mirage really exists and it is very interesting to see it live.
Speaking of the Red Sea and resorts on the Red Sea, I can’t help but mention that I personally prefer Sharm El Sheik. Primarily because of its geographical location in Sinai. Such a terrain offers you a handful of beautiful excursions, and there are also interesting historical places, such as the Moses spring or, for example, the monastery of St. Catherine. The coral reefs are superb, so you can watch the colorful fish with a mask and snorkel.
If you have extra days in Egypt, I recommend a visit to Alexandria or the Siwa oasis. Alexandria is the second-largest city in Egypt, it has an exceptional promenade by the sea, and a modern library, which should represent the ancient Alexandrian library. The famous lighthouse is no more, as well as traces of ancient Egyptian civilization, and Cleopatra, which is associated with Alexandria. But that’s why you have a real Arab-Mediterranean atmosphere in Alexandria and a lot of fish restaurants!
The Siwa oasis on the other hand is very difficult to access, but it is absolutely worth it. Calculate, however, that it will take you a whole day to get to it, and a whole day to get back. So count on an overnight stay in Siwa. The culture of Siwa is different from the rest of Egypt, and the nature is just unforgettable! You also have the ruins of an old settlement, and a walk through the city itself is something unforgettable, everything is in very strong colors. Siwa is known for that.
In fact, there are five oases in Egypt, and Siwa is one of them. And you can also do a tour of all five oases in Jeeps. You have to arrange tours like this in advance. You will need a minimum of one week for this.
It’s quite an experience to see the Suez Canal as well, so come from Cairo for a day. It’s convenient, the buses go non-stop. Sit in a cafe along the promenade and have a coffee and watch the ships from all over the world pass through the Suez Canal. If, for example, you go, as I once did, by bus from Cairo to the border town of Sinai, Taba, then you will not see the Suez Canal. The road goes through a tunnel below the canal itself.
I can’t wait to go back to Egypt!