As a travel enthusiast, being a history buff was always part of the thrill. I take my time to learn about the origins and existence of various civilizations, the royal lineage and the wars being fought among nations and the subsequent triumph, phew! Egypt, is a land with tons of history, here I unravel my experience in and around the land of the Pharaohs.
Egypt plays host to some of the World’s most famous sights and to be honest it’s more of a holiday destination than a backpackers’ hub. That being said, you can travel Egypt on a budget, you can ride camels to your heart’s content, eat falafel’s till your eyeballs explode and still pay entry fees to the sights all for less than $30 a day. Here I point out a few interesting points during my visit to Cairo, Luxor and Alexandria.
Surprisingly, Cairo (and Egypt generally) is pretty cheap. If you avoid the Western enclaves of Sharm El-Sheik, Hurghada and Dahab with their cheese-burgers, Starbucks and tour buses you can easily budget for $20 USD per day and get to experience the real Egypt as you wander around this awesome country. I knew a friend in Cairo, Mohammed, we met way back in Dubai, and he’s a part time tour guide. Apparently, tour guides in Egypt need to earn a degree that qualifies them to be called as ‘Egyptologists’.
Let’s have a look at a few great places to see during your stay in Cairo.
Pyramids of Giza
Predictably at number one are the Pyramids. Located within the city, on the border of the Sahara desert and the Nile valley you’ll find one of the wonders of the world. You’ve seen it on TV and read about it a countless times but these things will still blow your mind when you see them for real. 4500 years old and still as impressive as the day they were complete.
At the entrance to the Pyramids is the stone-carved Sphynx – a pyramid of half man/half lion which acts as the guardian of the ‘Sun Temple’. Camel rides are the order of the day. Over-priced? Yes. Cliched? Yes. Will you succumb to exactly the same thing? Very probably (I certainly did and I don’t regret it). You can also enjoy a light and sound show in the pyramid area in the evenings which is basically a narration of the ancient history. It takes about 30 minutes by car to reach this spot from Cairo – a taxi normally costs around 180 EGP.
The Egyptian Museum
This one is definitely worth the visit. Head to Midan Tahrir, the city centre of Cairo, and you’ll find this famous Egyptian museum. This museum has a treasure of ancient architecture, artifacts and Egyptian relics. There is a huge collection in the museum to keep you occupied for days, the gold mask belonging to ‘King Tutankhamen’, Pharaoh’s coffin, with a 110 kg heavy lid made of solid gold, mummies and many more valuables lie on display. The museum exhibits over 100, 000 valuables and has 107 galleries and rooms. If you want to rewind yourself to the olden days, visit the Egyptian Museum or at the very least you can finally enjoy a museum without feeling like you had to pretend to enjoy it! Also, cameras are forbidden inside the Mummy room, for obvious reasons!
Citadel and Mosque of Ali Pasha
Walking distance from the Egyptian museum, the Citadel is a 21st Century fortress. It was built in the‘Ottoman-style with the Mohamed Ali Pasha mosque built entirely from marble. From the top of Mount Mokattam, the Citadel offers awesome magnificent scenery around the fort. Remember guys – visitors must be appropriately dressed so no knees or shoulders on show.
Khan El Khalili
You can’t come to the African door to Arabia without visiting a ‘souk’. The Khan el Khalili market is the most famous and busy bazaar in all of Cairo, selling everything under the sun. If you are passionate about ethnic wears, you can buy colorful veils shisha, silver jewelry, brass lamps, box of herbs tea and more.
Sights in Luxor-
Temples of Karnak
The sheer size of the architecture here can’t fail to impress you and that alone is worth a visit. Rows and rows of sphinxes guide you to the entrance of this temple, a worthy introduction to a great sight.
TIP: go early (before 10am) or late (after 4pm) to avoid both the flocks of tour buses and the midday heat.
The signature landmark handstand isn’t too far behind!
The Luxor temple
Personally I think the true beauty of this masterpiece lies in its location – slap, bang in the middle of the city, sitting on the banks of the Nile. Very special indeed, not so special is the McDonalds which stares straight at Luxor Temple and all its wonder day in, day out. You may as well put it to good use and escape the heat with their ice-cream cones for 2 Egyptian pounds (just don’t tell anyone you came all the way to Luxor and ate at McDonalds :P)
Valley of the kings
World famous and rightly so. This is, in essence, the most impressive cemetery in the world. A valley full of 60 odd intricate tombs for a host of kings from the Egyptian dynasties. Your ticket allows you to enter 3 tombs (Ramses 3, 4 and 9 are the most impressive). Disappointingly, all the hieroglyphics within the tombs are behind thick Perspex glass. Oh, and no photos allowed unfortunately.
Colossi of Memnon:
You’ll notice these 2 massive Colossi on the way to the city and what a greeting they give. 20 metres tall, these 2 guys give you over 2000 tonnes of a welcome, sitting regally all day watching the endless streams of tourists ascend and descend in their hot-air balloons, must try them. Awesome backdrop.
Temple of Hatshepsut
A vast temple built into the rocks in the mountain. This 3-terraced temple is a cracking sight to behold and should definitely be included in your itinerary.
This port city is best visited during your last few days in Egypt. The nightlife here is phenomenal, a good break from the other historical sites. The great stretch by the port has some amazing restaurants. Easy entry to Cyprus from here via the Mediterranean sea.
This concludes my trip to one of the oldest nations in the world, a true marvel. Loved every bit of it and the Egyptians are warm and friendly. Street food is great and cheap, shawarmas and falafels are the go-to food here. Truly a wonder of the world.