Egypt: Land of Mystery
Egypt is a country that is on the bucket list for places to visit for many people all over the world. Some people have a connection to the pyramids, the sphinx, the temples (and let’s not forget the Mummies) that has been with them since childhood. Others hear the spiritual calling of Ancient Egypt and are drawn back to reconnect with their spiritual roots.
Egypt holds mystique for all. Egypt is a country where you not only explore the sites, but because of the way the ancients built the temples, tombs, and pyramids, you truly “experience” the energy of Egypt and for many who visit, something occurs within them – something that can be very subtle or a tidal wave of experience that envelops them and changes their thinking forever.
The best part of Egypt though is her people and their generosity of spirit. The question I have been asked the most in this past year is of course “Is it safe to travel to Egypt?” The answer is a resounding Yes! Many media outlets have been guilty of sensationalising the news that comes out of Egypt.
Most tours of Egypt begin in Cairo which is a very large city of 83 square miles (and expanding rapidly) with 21 million inhabitants. It is actually made up of several satellite cities. It is not a picturesque city for tourists but instead it is noisy, dusty, crowded, and very chaotic but with a magic and charm that has been handed down through the millennia.
But it is also a modern city with a reasonably good road system and many beautiful buildings even if they are covered in dust from the surrounding desert. Most people head straight to Giza to see the pyramids and the mighty Sphinx and most tours include the famous Cairo Museum, the home of Tutankhamun’s treasures, which is located near Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo.
There are some marvellous mosques and exquisite Coptic churches in Cairo that are worth seeing. Certainly you should not leave Cairo without doing a tour of Old Cairo but you will need a local guide, because it isn’t hard to get lost in these areas and not a lot of English is spoken.
The markets such as the Khan El-Khalili bazaar are interesting experiences too. You can shop for spices, perfumes, jewellery, brass, copperware, ceramics, fabrics including Egyptian cotton and many more souvenir items including replicas of ancient Egyptian treasures. Be prepared to hop around and bargain though.
Egyptians are hard sellers and will put on the pressure to buy, so don’t be intimidated, because they respect someone who matches them at the bargaining table. So be warned, that the Egyptian markets are not relaxed places to shop, but they can be a lot of fun.
Parts of downtown Cairo are undergoing a huge facelift with many very old buildings being restored. Downtown is a buzz with many fabulous restaurants, outdoor cafes, and cultural centres where you can experience the music and dancing of Egypt and mingle with the local people.
At night thousands of lights turn this dusty city into a sparkling jewel and like New York, the city never seems to sleep. Many people visit Egypt for just one day as part of a Mediterranean Cruise. If you just want to tick the pyramids and sphinx off your bucket list, this is fine but if you want to experience Egypt, I suggest you take a longer tour through Egypt.
The minimum time to visit Egypt is ideally 10 days if you want to see the pyramids, the sphinx, museum and take a 3 – 4 day Nile River cruise to see the temples and tombs, but it is very rushed. If you want to see the majestic temples at Abu Simbel and explore the lesser known sites that are in and around Luxor, you really need 12 – 14 days.
Most tour itineraries include seeing the pyramids and the mighty Sphinx and maybe a Nile Cruise visiting the temples and tombs in the South of Egypt and along the Nile River. But there is so much more to see and do in Egypt.
If you go with a tour company with the right connections in Egypt, you can really get to know the real Egypt and her people beyond the tourist sites. You need to plan your Egypt adventure well and in advance and you are advised to go with a tour company that specialises in Egypt travel to truly get the most out of your holiday of a lifetime.
There are tours of Egypt to suit all budgets and interests. Perhaps a 5-star luxury tour visiting sites from one end of Egypt to the other with an extended Nile cruises on a privately owned luxurious dhahabaya that is your own small floating luxury hotel complete with chef and staff to take care of you.
Perhaps you want to visit a remote oasis in the desert or go diving and snorkelling on the beautiful coral reefs in the Red Sea or laze by the pool doing nothing at a luxurious Red Sea Resort. Perhaps you want to ride a camel or feel the wind in your hair riding an Arabian Stallion through the desert. Perhaps you would like to sail the Nile River on a cruise boat from Cairo all the way to Aswan. The choice is endless.
The best time to go to Egypt is between October and May when the weather is cooler. Dress for comfort and for ladies, while it is not required, I suggest you dress conservatively and cover your arms and legs particularly in Cairo. Currency is the Egyptian Pound and exchange rates are actually better in Egypt than here in Australia.
Mobile phone and internet coverage is good but I would suggest obtaining a local data sim card on arrival. Your tour guide can usually assist you with obtaining one. If going to Egypt has always been a dream of yours, or, if you have been to Egypt before and you would like to return, now is exactly the right time to go. While the tourists have been gone, they have been building new hotels and revitalising many of the sites as well as opening new sites ready for the return of the tourists to this magical land.