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6 must-do things in Egypt

Published August 21st, 2015

Egypt. A country famed for its ancient civilisations; preserved by its pyramids, mummies and other mind-bogglingly-in-tact relics; and immortalised in adventurous tales of books and the silver screen. From surveying these ancient wonders to uncovering modern Egyptian life – fear not of missing out with our 6 must-dos for your Egyptian holiday

Jumping at the pyramids

1. Join a pyramid scheme (just this once)

Before Lara Croft and Indiana Jones, there were Tutankhamen, Cleopatra and Rameses II. Delve into the world of ancient Egypt courtesy of its many ancient sites and monuments, starting with its most famous pyramids. The Great Pyramid of Giza, not far from Cairo, is a 3,000 year-old masterpiece that ticks all of the architectural, mysterious and colossal ‘wow’ factor boxes. One of 3 Pyramids of Giza, explore the intricate and elaborate complexes and don’t forget to stop by the half-human, half-lion statue of the Great Sphinx (FYI don’t be dismayed by tourists kissing the air – they’re in pursuit of one of those clever-but-done photos…).

Medinet Habu Temple, Luxor

2. Explore the Ancient

It’s nearly impossible to see all of the remnants of Ancient Egypt, but don’t restrict your history tour to pyramids alone. A trip up mighty Mount Sinai means you can stop at St Catherine’s Monastery and see where it is believed Moses received the Ten Commandments. Stepping foot in the ancient cities of Alexandria, the death place of Anthony and Cleopatra (and a great place for seafood), and Luxor, the former Ancient Egypt capital aka the world’s largest open-air museum (and nearby Valley of the Kings), will transcend any movie-history book-documentary experience you’ve ever had.

Dive the Red Sea

3. Dive with spectacular marine life

Egypt diving is paramount on a global scale. You can thank the amazing visibility, warm waters and abundant marine life of the Red Sea for that. There are also a few cool WW1 wrecks that make for great underwater exploration in between the remarkable coral formations and schools of brightly coloured tropical fish! Three of the best places to embark on your underwater discovery of Egypt are the Sinai resort towns of Sharm el Sheikh, Dahab and Hurghada. All boast world-class reef systems not far from the beach as well as a myriad of other activities from windsurfing to glass bottom boat tours and desert day trips.

Cairo streetfood: nom on falafel

4. Walk like an urban Egyptian

There’s a lot of fun to be had in Egypt’s hot, loud and teeming capital. Located at the mouth of the Nile River Delta, Cairo has many layers in part owing to its colourful and often turbulent past. Peel them back and explore everything from Islamic and Coptic Cairo (Cairo Citadel and Mohamed Ali Mosque are must-sees) to places made popular in movies like Bond’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Don’t forget to go to the Egyptian Museum to see THE funeral mask of Tutankhamun.

Short on time? Discover Cairo from the comfort of a hired taxi and guide. Negotiate a good day rate and you will not only see Cairo’s star attractions, but likely try some of the best falafels-kosharis in town as well as frequent the latest emerging hip locales. Don’t miss Khan el-Khalili, one of the world’s oldest and greatest markets with everything from top-notch spices and hookahs to rip-off sunnies and jeans or a stop at a downtown baladi (traditional bars) for night time beers, shishas and belly dancers. For a taste of modern Egypt nightlife, go upmarket at suave clubs in places like Manhattan-esque Zamalek.

5. Get your everlasting deserts

Does an Egyptian camel have one hump or two? Find out as you leap into the world of camel riding or quad biking to take in the vast desert landscapes, mighty sunsets and uninterrupted starry nights of Egypt’s older-than-pyramids deserts. While day trips are possible, with a little extra time you can go on a desert safari, camp under the stars and enjoy the hospitality of locals in mud huts, desert markets and ruins of ancient oases mostly found in Western Desert and the Sinai.

Egypt’s Western Desert covers about two-thirds of Egypt from the Mediterranean Sea to Sudan and the Nile River Valley to Libya. Here you will find alluring rock formations and giant dunes (it’s not called the Great Sand Sea for nothing) and alluring oases where palm plantations provide shade; springs, refreshment; and rural Egyptian life, an interesting and relaxing break from your travels.

Cruise the Nile in style

6. Cruise the River Nile

Cruising along the Nile River is a majestic experience, enjoyed by travellers throughout the centuries. At 6,650 kilometres long and meandering across 10 countries, the Nile River is the world’s longest river with about half of Egypt’s population residing in the Nile Delta region today. The Nile’s importance for Egypt dates back to ancient times, which is why so many of Ancient Egypt’s historic sites including the cities of Cairo and Luxor meet its banks. This is why a Nile River Cruise is a great way to explore many parts of Egypt.

Full of breathtaking sights, one corner you’re waving to families going about their daily grind from mud huts on the riverbanks and the next you’re disembarking your luxury liner in pursuit of reconnoitring some of Egypt’s most famous ancient sites.

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Jolee Wakefield

A seasoned backpacker and travel writer, Jolee has spent the past decade wandering the globe in pursuit of good vibes, unusual conversations and unforgettable adventures like cave diving in Mexico, mountain climbing in Borneo and learning (failing at) local dances in the Pacific nation of Kiribati.