Egypt is one of the most famous travel destinations in Africa. It’s also one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the world according to UN studies! It’s not hard to understand why when you’re standing in front of ancient pyramids, riding a camel through the vast deserts or sailing the mighty Nile. Not to mention the long list of mesmerizing monuments.
Egypt should definitely be on your Bucket List (it’s number 11 on ours!), but we know it can be hard to tick off all there is to see in a short amount of time. So we’ve collated 9 experiences to consider when you find your way to Egypt for your next vacation. Egypt has a few unexpected aces up its mystical sleeve…
First things first, let’s talk about ancient sites and monuments. Sure, you know about the pyramids and the Sphinx. But there is nothing that quite prepares you for coming face to face with something that has been around since 2504 BC. It has a way of putting life in perspective. Plus, history is just fascinating. Especially when you travel with a local guide. These experts can give you the inside scoop on all the weird and wonderful aspects of its construction and turbulent history.
Next up – the modern art scene. Hieroglyphics are far from the most exciting thing happening on the walls in Cairo. Think photography exhibitions celebrating the work of Egyptian women; short film festivals; contemporary art shows and more! We can highly recommend that you try to squeeze in a few modern art experiences on your trip to Cairo.
This is timeless glamour at its best. Step back in time and experience the riverside attractions of Egypt from a traditional felucca. A felucca is a wooden sailboat that has been used in the Mediterranean region for years. Onboard there is plenty of shade and mattresses on which to recline while you are steered down the scenic river. It’s one of the best ways to get into the frame of mind of Egypt’s elite classes of late.
Ah, the Red Sea! If you think this famous body is impressive from the shore, wait until you get beneath the surface to scuba or snorkelling. This is when the true magic of its underwater world comes to light. Plus, it’s a great way to keep cool when the temperatures soar in summer.
The sheer vastness of the Egyptian desert comes into proper focus when you view it from above. Sure, you could go up in a helicopter to size it up. But there is something so romantic about slowly drifting in a hot air balloon over the West Bank of Luxor at dawn. Imagine watching the sunrise over the curvature of the earth while you drink in the beauty of the stark landscape bathed in delicate hues of primrose and gold.
Egypt is renowned for its perfume trading houses. In fact, ancient Egyptians associated their perfumes with the gods. They believed fragrances were the sweat of the sun god, Ra. Given the influences of ancient Egypt on the Roman and Greek civilizations, the use of scents spread from Egypt throughout the world. A visit to one of the modern-day trading houses is a wonderful way to learn more about the history of perfume in Egypt. Definitely stock up on a few lovely fragrances and perhaps even tailor your own.
Foodies, assemble! There is no better way to really get under the skin of culture than breaking bread with some hospitable locals. In Cairo, visitors have the opportunity to sit down to an honest-to-goodness Nubian dinner. The food is prepared and served in the age-old tradition – this is farm-to-table cuisine at its best! Egypt’s Nubians are experts in pairing nature with taste. In the past, their farms along the narrow strip of the Nile valley provided them with all the food they needed. Today the traditional cuisine honours these roots. Think delicate, stone-fired bread from ancient grains, richly spiced vegetable dishes, fragrant fish parcels and (there has to be something a little weird…) marinaded camel’s liver. Indulging in these delicacies in the home of a local provides a rare glimpse into the everyday lives of these warm and inviting people.
Haggling, bustling, a riot of colour, a cacophony of sound – Cairo’s market. This is the city’s personality distilled. Aside from being the very best place to pick up souvenirs and keepsakes, it also provides unbeatable opportunities for people-watching. While it can be tempting to rush from one famous attraction to the next, one of the most rewarding things you can actually do is to find a spot where the locals are doing what the locals normally do. Grab a richly-brewed coffee, find a spot to settle down and watch these colourful people as they revel in their various crafts and interact with one another.
If you like your travels punctuated with a few strange and unusual attractions, you’re in luck – Egypt has plenty to spare. Like the twin colossi sculptures depicting Pharaoh Amenhotep III that used to sing a song at dawn (for real – go read up!), or the stone relief at the Hathor Temple that is said to depict an electrical light. There are many offbeat attractions to enjoy in between the temples and markets that typify an Egyptian tour.
So, what do you say? Ready to venture to the land of the Nile and see what all the fuss is about? Check out our Egypt tours here.