Egypt was on our bucket list to see eventually in life. We did not even expect that it would happen so soon! Funny that this was the first place we were able to visit since our move abroad.
COVID has changed the world in so many ways, as you all know. This past Spring when limited travel opened, we literally wanted to go anywhere we could. There were so many rules and regulations, which constantly changed, that it felt impossible at the time. We were determined to say the least. With no family abroad to spend Easter with, we decided travel for the long holiday weekend. We needed to go to a country that was not Catholic affiliated and a place that only required PCR tests to enter and return. Egypt surprisingly checked all those boxes.
Egypt was seriously super cool. Just being able to see all the things you've learned so much about in history books throughout your childhood, felt like you finally came full circle. Hearing some of the tales of the Kings and Pharaohs in a new light. Seeing these incredible structures really was jaw dropping. They are truly massive, so intricate and somehow remain to this day. You will really be in awe that this civilization was so advanced for the times. That their architectural marvels paved the way for so many other cultures.
Again, unfortunately we only had a long weekend to explore Egypt. We weren't able to see everything we wish we could have. Friends of ours have gone as well and were able to do more. We are sad that we did not have enough time to travel the Nile River to Aswan. Or visit Alexandra and enjoy the Red Sea.
I will say, we were fortunate enough to see Egypt in a way that many people could only dream of. During COVID times, it was empty. I mean empty. We were the only travelers at The Pyramids of Giza! Like whatttt??!! It was like the park opened only for us. That is something we would never be able to experience in that manner again. Sadly, I don't think I would have liked Egypt as much, if it was a more typical atmosphere. Our guide was explaining to us what it is normally like. Busses full of tourists with time allotments to see the sites. The parking lots looked like that of sporting events. I don't know about you, but lots of people in my bubble is not my cup of tea.
Egypt is a place that I would suggest booking through some sort of agency. You can still do private tours for everything if you do not want to be in a big group environment. We decided on the private tours, because I'm personally not much of a big group kinda gal for these kind of places. I want to be able to ask questions and make sure that the guide is showing us things we are truly interested in, not just what the topic on the docket. Honestly, it was very reasonable in price and our guide awesome. Remember, Egypt is a third world country. Touristy areas are pretty safe, but I would not venture off the beaten path. Getting lost in Cairo wouldn't be the best idea. Your agency will arrange everything for you, including transportation. As anywhere, just be smart. Zip your crossbody purses/backpacks securely and men, have your wallet in your front pocket. Don't leave anything unattended. You will go through many metal detectors and bomb sniffing dogs may guard your resort. Just a fair warning so you aren't concerned.
As expected, people in Egypt speak Arabic. Those who work in tourism will be fluent in English as well. You will pass a crazy amount of people trying to sell you things. They will know a few words in English to try to get you to buy. Don't engage.
The currency in Egypt is the Egyptian Pound. Things are very cheap in Egypt, but you will want to have a good bit of cash with you. The only places you can use your credit card would be at your hotel/resort, booking tours prior and large souvenir shops. Everything else is cash only. You are also expected to do quite a bit of tipping; drivers, tour guides, tour managers, bathroom attendants etc.
Please please please dress appropriately when visiting the temples and pyramids. You can still look cute while being considerate of the culture. Be a traveler! Ladies, your shoulders/upper arms and cleavage must be covered. Tight clothing is frowned upon. If you choose to wear a skirt/dress, it must hit below the knee. Maxi's are the way to go. If you intend to do a camel ride at the pyramids, make sure you wear pants! You will also be doing lots of walking through sand, dirt and gravel. Wear comfy sneakers. Remember, it's hot and the sun is extremely strong. Make sure to wear breathable fabrics like linen, cotton or tencel, that you can use as a layer to block some sun. Also, sunhats, sunglasses and sunscreen are a must at all times. Men, you have it easier. T-shirts are acceptable as well as shorts that hit at/below the knee. They still prefer men to wear pants if possible. No sleeveless clothing is allowed.
What I felt was most annoying about Egypt, was all the people hawking you to buy things. Our guide warned us, but it is seriously like a swarm of bees on honey. Do not make eye contact or even say anything to them. This includes 'No thank you.' Otherwise you will be hounded the entire way to the sites or until you buy something. Our guide told us to wear our sunglasses to hide our eyes haha. It's no joke. We've been a lot of places with street markets and pushy sales people, but this is a whole different level. If you do want to buy something, don't take the first price they pitch you. It is a bargaining game. Another kind of annoying thing is that your tours will take you to different shops/artisans that they have relationships with along the way to the sites. It's like clockwork. There will be a whole show-and-tell presentation of the skills used to create the goods with some nice hospitality. They say there is no pressure to buy, but you do feel pressured. Just another fair warning.
You will be flying into Cairo, which is the capital of Egypt. Make sure to have your travel to your hotel pre-arranged with pickup signs outside of the baggage claim. Do not accept taxi rides from people walking up to you. Be smart! There is Uber, but we did not the safest experience, so I would not recommend.
Cairo is a very large city with an economy on both ends of the spectrum. You have what they call 'new city' with high end hotels and nice shopping districts in one area and then very sad impoverished areas surrounding. Look around you as you drive. Take a moment and reflect on what you are seeing. Remember how fortunate you are to have four walls with a roof over your head and the opportunity to explore the world. Many people do not have any of those luxuries.
I would not spend too long in Cairo. 2 days is plenty before heading to your next location. The real reason you are there is to see the sites, not the city. The pyramids are truly a site to behold. They are just massive in person and photos do not do them justice. Again, your guide will take you all over the Giza Necropolis. They will deal with all the entrance fees so you do not need to worry about anything. You will see all the sites that are housed within. You will also learn the history and ideation around the creation of the pyramids. Spend as much or as little time as you want exploring. The day is yours and the guide will modify as needed! On your own time, you can visit the Egyptian Museum if you would like as well as markets nearby. Work with your hotel to manage a taxi for the trip into the city, if you so choose.
VISIT THE GIZA NECROPOLIS SITES
Make sure you discuss with your guide, that you want to be at the entrance gate right before opening time. You will want to beat all the lines of people and the heat. The tour starts at The Great Pyramid. Holy cow. It looks big in pictures, but really it is massive. Fun fact... it is make of enough blocks to be able to wrap around the entire country of France. Crazy. What I also didn't realize is that it is entirely filled with blocks except for the tomb at the top. You are able to pay a small extra fee to actually go inside The Great Pyramid. You should do it for sure. It is steep, slippery and enclosed so be prepared. You will also be able to visit the surrounding pyramids. You'll then go to some other temples, as well as see The Great Sphinx. Grab lunch at a local restaurant and then visit the Step Pyramid and Memphis sites.
ARRANGE A DESERT CAMEL RIDE
This was the first time I've ever done a camel ride. Remember to wear pants! It was fun to explore around and kind of do whatever you want. Make sure you take the camel ride that goes behind the pyramids, so you can see the 6 together. They are all different sizes and structural shapes with their own stories. Our camel guide was a really cool guy around our age. Again, no one was there. He let us try to race the camels through the desert haha. He was also a sneaky photographer and took some amazing pictures of us. He taught us all about where the camels stay and how much it costs to feed and take care of them. How lack of tourism has impacted everything. We also just chatted about his life and his family. It was great to converse naturally. Please remember to tip your camel guide. Your ride payment is mainly going to the camel owner not the guide.
CHOOSE A HOTEL WITH PYRAMID VIEWS
Make sure you splurge a little bit for a pyramid view at your hotel. It is incredible to wake up to The Great Pyramid's magnificence. Also, at night, it is lit up, which is awesome. There is a light show over by The Great Sphinx that you may be able to see depending on your angle. You'll also want to make sure your hotel has a pool. There is nothing more refreshing than hopping in the water after a hot day in the desert.
From Cairo, you can take a quick flight to Luxor. It is less than an hour and the next stop in Egypt. Luxor
is a beautiful area filled with small villages and farmland as well as larger towns. The Nile River runs right through Luxor and is the driver of this much more lush ecosystem. It is truly a totally different vibe than Cairo.
Make sure you choose a hotel with a pool that is right on the River. It is beautiful to see the Felucca Boats cruise by and you will have very pretty sunsets. You'll also see the mountains of The Valley of the Kings in the distance. Also, Luxor is a pretty safe area, so feel free to walk around town. You'll find shops and restaurant and there is a walking path that follows the river as well.
One thing that we coulda/shoulda done is the Hot Air Balloon Ride over The Valley of the Kings. It's my fault, I couldn't muster up the bravery to do it. The fear of having a heights panic attack, high up in the sky with a large group of strangers, wasn't something I wanted to risk haha. We met a family that did it and they showed us some of their pictures. It looked incredible. One dayyyy...
This is unfortunately where our travels ended. If we had more time, we would have taken the River Cruise from Luxor to Aswan and continued on from there.
TOUR KARNAK AND LUXOR TEMPLES
These temples are truly incredible. The intricate details of each and every stone carving, the stories depicted through symbols and imagery, the massive granite slabs. It really is mind-blowing. These are places you need to see in person to truly appreciate. Your guide will tell you background of the temples and how they were constructed. How stone was transferred from quarries across Egypt to create these marvels. The stories and tales from throughout history. How different civilizations conquered Egypt and defaced these sites. How different artifacts and monuments were stolen or destroyed, just because they could. Connecting the dots of the obelisks from Ramses II, in which one lives in Paris and the other remains at Luxor. Again, it is very cool to see things come full circle.
VISIT THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS
The Valley of the Kings is something you should make sure is on your list. To go deep into the tombs of ancient rulers was surreal. Imagine becoming king and then immediately begin planning own death. To make your tomb the most immaculate that there ever was. Even if you didn't do much as a ruler, such as King Tut, your tomb, casket and offered possessions had to be more extravagant than the last. Being there truly felt like you were on an archeological dig, channeling your inner Indiana Jones. We actually witnessed a dig progressing right near one of the tombs. They say it is unknown how many more tombs exist. There are still many tombs of famous Pharaohs and Goddesses, that are undiscovered to this day. The underground tombs themselves are very large. Room for the king as well as his family and most important possessions. The walls have intricate carvings that were then painted with extraordinary detail. Even today, the colors are still very vibrant.
CRUISE THE NILE RIVER
ON A FELUCCA
We enjoyed ending our trip with a nice private cruise on The Nile River. It was very relaxing to be on the traditional Egyptian sailboat enjoying the ambiance. You'll see so many things on the other side of the shore that are very different from town. Beautiful homes and farmland that are truly peaceful. You may stop at Banana Island and sample organic fruits. Your Felucca driver will also tell you a little history as you go and point out a lot of the things you pass by. Sadly, we learned that there was no chance we'd be seeing a Nile Crocodiles in the river. They were sadly captured and killed long ago.