When I first thought of planning an itinerary for Egypt, all I could think of was the Pyramids of Giza, however, Egypt is so much more than just the pyramids.
One of the most underrated travel destinations, Egypt had been on the bucket list for a while. The country and each of its destinations are engulfed in enigma and grandeur, drawing tourists from different parts of the world to explore, unravel and learn about its enigmatic past.
Egypt has both history and leisure destinations to offer. Its history can be wrapped up in 3 major cities, Cairo, the buzzing modern day capital, with Giza and the museums being the major tourist spots, Aswan, home to Philae temple and the Aswan Dam, and the closest city to access the Abu Simbel and finally Luxor, a gold mine for history buffs, homing quite a few temples and tombs. Talking of leisure, Egypt has two major destinations with pristine beaches and affordable stays- Hurghada and Sharm-el-Sheikh. Hurghada is a four hour drive from Luxor city.
Cairo has direct flights from most major cities. Once in Cairo, both Aswan and Luxor have direct flights from the capital, however, there are no direct flights between Aswan and Luxor. Yet another option is a 3/4 night River-Cruise, from Aswan to Luxor, or vice versa. These mid-size cruise liners stop at various temples on their way, while offering a breathtaking view of the Nile. For those not too keen on spending too much time on the cruise, there are overnight cruise options as well, starting from Aswan to Luxor.
When in Cairo, an Uber is the simplest, cheapest and best way to get around. Guided tours and trusted guide partners must be picked wisely when in Luxor, Aswan or other cities. Language is a barrier outside Cairo and a pre-planned guided tour is always a better choice. While groups tours covering most sites are common, private tours with English speaking guides are available at good prices as well. Pre-book your tours in Aswan and Luxor as language is indeed a barrier here.
The Pyramids of Giza are indeed a wonder, with the largest being that of Khufu, the Fourth dynasty Pharaoh, followed by Khafre, son of Khufu, and the third largest pyramid being that of Menkaure, Khufu’s grandson.
Where/What to shop:
Khan-el-Khalili, the famous Egyptian souq or market, is another major tourist attraction for shopping trinkets and souvenirs and some authentic Egyptian spices and dried hibiscus. Haggling is usual in most market places, especially when it comes to shopping for trinkets and momentos. Expect to pay less than half the price quoted.
When in Aswan…
Home to some significant archeological sites, the Aswan Dam, picturesque Nile views and a gateway to the “Nubian Monuments”, the Abu Simbel temples, a magnanimous saga of the 19th century Pharaoh, Ramses II, a two night stay in Aswan is worth when in visiting Egypt. The temple of Abu Simbel, a Nubian village on the border of Sudan, is a magnanimous monument. The four colossal statues adorning its entrance, all belonging to Ramses II speaks volumes about his narcissism.
When in Luxor…
The more recent dynasties of Egypt display a deep influence of the Greco Roman Architecture with the Karnak Temple being one such site, with its Great Hypostyle Hall. The ancient city of Thebes, known as Luxor on present day, is an open-air museum for the tourist and history lovers, home to some ancient temples and excavation sites.
These include the Karnak temple, Luxor Temple, the Temple of Hatshepsut-the Queen who kept a false beard, and the intriguing site of Valley of the Kings, where tombs of Pharaohs have been unearthed and the excavation work is still in progress.
A good Egyptologist/guide
Picking a good and experienced guide can immensely influence your travel experience in Egypt. Most guides are extremely knowledgeable and share cultural and architectural details of various sites.
An extremely critical part of your trip planning should be to choose a good Egyptologist/guide. Egypt is also about history, culture, heritage, museums and the mysterious tales of the pharaohs and queens. A good Egyptologist tends to put life to all the historical and sites and associated facts.
Cruise vs road trips
The three major cities of Egypt- Cairo, Luxor and Aswan are all located at a distance of 6-7 hours of road journey. There’s a variety of cruise liners ranging from one to three nights. They start from Aswan and end in Luxor or the other way round and stop at all major sites- including Kom Ombo and Abu Simbel. Beyond two nights, the cruise can get a little monotonous, being a river cruise. But it’s definitely a better choice, considering road travel may not be the best choice, and could be more exhausting.
Museums in Egypt-A not to miss experience
The museums of Egypt are home to some of the most awe-inspiring and intriguing Pharaonic antiquities of the world. Artefacts from various dynasties, mummies and various other objects of interest from the Greco-Roman era are well preserved here. The Egyptian Museum, located in the heart of Cairo, is worth a day spend.