After a wonderful month and a half in Egypt, I thought it would be nice to reflect on some of the highlights of my time here and compile a list of things to do for anyone who is planning on coming for a week-long vacay, for those who will be working here for a stint of time, and for those who will get stuck in this amazing country like I did ;)
I was initially planning on staying only for a few weeks, but quickly made the decision to extend my stay. I can't stress it enough how much I have enjoyed my time here: the beautiful sights, the culture, the history, the delicious food, and most importantly the amazing people.
So, here it is: Anna's top five list of places to go in Egypt.
Often compared to Goa, India, Dahab is a laid-back town on the Red Sea which offers pretty much any type of activity you could ever ask for:
- scuba diving at some of the worlds best diving sites (check out www.adventurespot-dahab.com)
- wind surfing
- kite surfing
- ATV rides in the desert
- horseback along the beach
- camel rides to a Bedouin camp...
...and the list goes on ;)
There are tons of restaurants, cafés and hotels lining the boardwalk that runs along the Red Sea. You can lay back and enjoy the sun, smoke shisha in front of your very own fire pit in one of the restaurants (tip: most will give you free appetizers and shisha if you play your cards right), or haggle with the store owners for the best price on the souvenirs: silver lamps, spices, or my personal fav, Dahab pants ;)
2. Sharm el Sheik
Ah, the charm of Sharm!
There are definitely a LOT of Russian tourists here, but they have clearly caught-on to the right idea: if you're looking for a clean place to lay back and relax for a week or two, Sharm is the way to go.
It boasts multiple five-star hotels at reasonable prices, and has a great boardwalk with most of the same souvenirs that you will find in Dahab along with every type of restaurant that you could ever hope for.
Personally, I only stayed for one night. It was a bit too sterile and resort-y for me, but who doesn't love a few days lazing by the pool at a gorgeous hotel for a bargain, amiright?!
I'm kind of cheating with this one: Cairo is like a huge umbrella of awesome places to go, in my opinion. After the laid-back atmosphere of southern Sinai, Cairo is a bit of a shock to the system - lots of people, crazy traffic, noise, and smells.
It is an epicentre of awesome sights and things to do. Here are some of my personal faves:
Pyramids of Giza: Who goes to Egypt and doesn't see the pyramids?!
Answer: no one. Okay fine, maybe there are people who sneak in and out without seeing these magnificent triangular structures, but don't be that person. Just do it.
And kiss a sphinx while you're at it.
Felucca on the Nile River: Who wouldn't love hanging out on the Nile river on a boat, drinking Sakara beer and soaking in the sights?!
My question exactly.
Pyramids of Imhotep in Saqqara: Personally, I found that there was a lot more energy to the pyramids in Saqqara. It is the first step pyramid ever built in Egypt, and although it is not 'the pyramids' that everyone thinks of, I think it is still worth a visit.
It's extra fun when an ATV ride is thrown in the mix ;)
Khan al Khalili Market: If you're looking for any type of souvenir, be it a silver lamp, a camel leather bag, a rug, jewelry, clothes, alabaster, gold, you name it, you can find it at Khan al Khalili Market. It is an experience in itself to walk down the alleyways and see the different stalls, to go to one of the restaurants in the square. It is way more relaxed than I expected, and I felt safe the whole time I was there.
Garbage City & Cave Church: Not for the faint of heart, but if you are looking for an intense cultural experience (trying to avoid recommending something along the lines of slum tourism that you find in East Africa...) I would definitely recommend making a stop at the APE market in Garbage City to see the amazing handmade carpet and jewelry from recycled materials, and to see the Coptic cave church that is carved into the side of a mountain.
Cairo Museum: I wasn't able to make it to the museum, but there are great exhibits on the pyramids and mummification if Egyptian history turns your crank.
Ain el Sukhna: Only an hour and a half drive from Cairo (again, I'm totally cheating by adding this to the Cairo section - forgive me?) Ain el Sukhna is a fav weekend getaway spot for Cairo-dwellers. It's easy to get to, it's on the Red Sea (*ahem* can someone say 'beach time'?!), the hotels are super affordable, and there are great golf courses.
What more could you ask for?
I was unfortunately not able to get to Alexandria during my time in Egypt, but I have heard so many amazing things about the city that I feel like it needs to be included on this list ;)
Roman Ruins: There are Roman ruins right in the middle of the city. Such a cool contrast - historical and modern all at the same time!
You can also check out some of the artifacts in the museum - a lot has been unearthed from beneath the sea!
Fish Dinner: Fish for dinner, fish for lunch, or fish for dinner. I have been told that Alexandria is da bomb-diggity for fish in Egypt. That almost warrants a trip here in itself ;)
Mediterranean Sea: The sea-side views in Alexandria are breath-taking. The water is a bit chilly during the summertime, so I've been told by my diving friends, but it heats up in the summer fo sho. There's supposedly also some really interesting underwater ruins - something to add to the bucketlist!
5. Upper Egypt - Aswan and Luxor
I was also unable to make it to Upper Egypt - counter intuitively located in the south of the country - but it is definitely on my list of things to do on my next trip!
[Surprise Momster, I'm coming back for more ;)]
How to Get There: Most people get a cheap return flight from Cairo to Luxor since the drive would be pretty gruelling even without all of the checkpoints. I also heard that the overnight train from Cairo is a good way to go - it is a cheaper and comfortable way to go. You go to sleep, wake up and have some breakfast and then you have arrived!
Valley of the Kings: A must-see for any history buffs or those seeking a spiritual connection. Many gurus from different spiritual beliefs have come here for the amazing energy it holds. Something to experience first-hand!
Abu Simbel: One of the amazing temples in the area, most people visit it in the morning to beat the heat. If you want to avoid the crowds, try going at night when the heat has calmed down and most of the guided tours are wrapping up ;)
Hot Air Balloon: I have been told that this was the most magical thing to do in Egypt - to take a hot air balloon ride at sunrise overlooking the pyramids, corn fields and desert.
Cruise on the Nile River: My parents did this before I got to Egypt, and they recommended it for anyone who is a mega history buff and wants to see as many pyramids and temples as possible. It involves quite a few early mornings, but it's totally worth it for the amazing places you get to see! And without the glaring sun beating down on you ;)