Egypt? I couldn’t wait to go! Northern Africa seems more like the Middle East, but Africa! For me, the name conjures up images of pyramids, souks, hieroglyphics, exotic foods and yes, even romance! Raise your hand if you ever wanted to be Cleopatra lounging on that chaise, sipping wine, with buri fans waving nearby to keep you cool! After traveling all over Europe, Egypt was going to be a bit different, of that I was sure. I had questions, so many questions.
Some of the questions I had was: Was it safe to travel to Egypt? How much money will it cost? Where should we go? Should we take a group tour or plan it all on my own? You know me, we did it all on our own, and we really had a great trip to Egypt!
“Walk like an Egyptian,” Jim’s sister, Aisha, is demonstrating the correct way to carry a pallet of bread.Egyptian bread, somewhat like a pita, is flat and easy to stack on pallets such as this to carry around the city. I’ve seen families buying whole racks of bread to feed their family for the day. The flatbread is delicious, especially warm.[toc]
Every morning while we were in Cairo, we’d walk the streets of the city early in the morning or in the late evening. That is when everyone is out either hurrying to or from work, shopping, visiting family, or just going about their daily business. Right outside of our hotel, this woman tries to keep warm in the early morning, before the sun has warmed the sidewalks, while she hawks her bread and newspapers to passersby.
Is it Safe to Travel in Egypt?
Nowadays, it seems that it can be dangerous to go places such as Egypt in the Middle East, or northern Africa. Modern day Egypt is…chaotic, hectic, frenetic, noisy, and downright overwhelming, but boy, is it worth it. Many people explore this exotic country by taking either a Nile cruise or at least a ride on a felluca, often captained by a local who knows the river and area well. Others take group, guided tours letting the tour guide do the hard work, not worrying about which hotels to book, where to go, and how to get there. This is a fantastic option for those that are worried or a little frightened about traveling in this area of the world.
It’s true that there has been terrorist activity there, but it’s hard to find a destination where there hasn’t been. Do read the news beforehand, check the U.S. Government Travel Advisory, and make a good choice for you and your family, but overall, I didn’t feel any less safe there than many other places I’ve traveled. If you are anything like me, you won’t want to miss out on this fantastic country where we found the people friendly and hospitable, even those trying to sell you something.
How to Get to and Around Egypt
If you are flying from the States, it’s not a cheap flight over the Atlantic, but there are plenty of options. Before you go, make sure to purchase your visa online. It will cost you $25 for a single entry up to 30 days or $60 for a multiple entry.
Most people fly into Cairo, where you immediately feel you are smack dab in the middle of an exotic, chaotic place. As you file through customs, claim your bags, and fight off everyone trying to have you hire them to carry your luggage, you will get a good taste of what you will be experiencing during your vacation. From the airport I suggest you have a driver from your hotel or privately hired to pick you up. Navigating to your accommodations after a long flight will not put you in the best of moods. However you can traverse the 22 km by bus if you want, and you can set up your pick up with the Cairo International Airport Shuttle.
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Getting Around Cairo was always one of the most difficult things when you had to make sure to get a taxi driver that would use the meter. However, now there are plenty of services like Uber, or hiring a car and driver from your hotel. It makes the payment so much easier.
We also can recommend traveling by train to the other cities. We traveled to Aswan by overnight train. The four of us were quite comfortable in our own compartment. We didn’t purchase any tickets before we were in the country, but the first day we were in Cairo we went down to the train station to get them with no issues at all. You can also fly to many of the cities, and in-country flights are rather reasonable.
Our Two-Week Egypt Itinerary
We were traveling over our Christmas Break, so we only had two weeks in Egypt. We weren’t able to see and do everything on our list, but we did quite a bit and definitely hit the highlights. If we had more time, we would have gone to Alexandria, the White Desert, and a trip over to the Sinai. We also did not opt to take the Nile Cruise, which many of my friends have done and loved. There are plenty of amazing sights and activities to do in Egypt, so I would try and go for at least three weeks if you can.
- Cairo – 4 days, including Giza and the pyramids
- Jim’s sister’s city, El Mahalla- 3 days over Christmas
- Aswan – 3 days, including a full day guided tour to Abu Simbel, a camel ride out to St. Simeon Monastery, Philae Temple
- Luxor – 3 days, including a guided tour to the Valley of the Kings, Luxor Temple, a couple hours ride on a felluca, wandering through a Nubian Village
In Cairo, we visited the Egyptian Museum loving the King Tut exhibit as well as all the information on mummification. We also loved the neighborhood around Khan El Khalili. The market is just what you expect, with fantastic souvenirs and food stuffs. Of course visiting Giza and the pyramids were high on our list, so we put that on our itinerary for our very first full day that we had. We explored Cheops pyramid, rode horses, and gawked at the Sphinx.
There are lots of boating and cruise opportunities in Egypt from the Red Sea to the Nile. The Nile really is the center of all commerce and existence. I love how it cuts through the desert of brown in stripes of blue and green. The very first day we were outside of Cairo, we went straight down to the edge of the river to see the papyrus growing along its banks. I almost expected a hippo to come rushing out of the water like in Botswana.
In the city of Luxor, we hired a felluca to take us on a short ride. Who can resist? That wintery day, the winds were so strong that our skipper had a difficult time keeping the boat going in the right direction. He finally called it quits and dropped us off in a Nubian town north of Aswan. We had to take a taxi back to town, but like much of travel, it was an adventure and we got to see something not on our itinerary.
Getting out of Cairo gave us plenty of opportunities to see some great cities, temples, and archaeological sites. Even though Luxor had the most impressive tourist sites, like Luxor Temple and the Valley of the Kings, we loved Aswan and our excursion to Abu Simbel much more. From there we rode camels out in the desert, witnessed Eid, and overall really just enjoyed the vibe of the city.
More Photos of Egypt
Aisha taught us how to make an Egyptian warm cereal that they like to eat in winter, hot Bulgar wheat. We loved it.
Have you ever wanted to visit this amazing country?