Tagged as the land that gave birth to civilization, the scope of Egypt is magnificent – from the pyramids, the minarets to the river Nile, a vacation to Egypt will provide unforgettable memories. The country demonstrates many outstanding contrasts, particularly in its scenery and in the ancient Christian and Islamic aspect of its heritage. There are both signs of modernization and tradition merged together in strange combinations but more commonly, the new is adapted to blend harmoniously with the old. It is united by the great river which flows down its entire length and which indeed is the center of its civilization.
Egypt is not Egypt without the Nile River. It's a treat and a "must-see" on any vacation tour or adventure to Egypt. Along its banks is where the majority of the people live and tend the land just like their ancestors did thousands of years ago. The two branches of Nile, one rising in the highlands of Ethiopia, and the other in Lake Vectoria, connect together at Khartoum. North of Aswan, the river flows to the orange sandstone hills in Nubia.
Another legacy of Egypt is the marvelous Pyramids of Giza (a bucket list item for most avid travelers) in its capital city, Cairo. Tourists are surprised to learn that those renowned pyramids are only the tip of the archeological iceberg.
The ancient Greeks, Romans, Arab and Christian dynasties have all contributed their part in weaving Egypt’s wonderful architectural wealth.
The hustle and bustle of Cairo has remain unchanged since the founding days of Islam while Thebes possesses a labyrinth of lavish burial chambers and boasts some of the most formidable monuments of ancient times. Moving further south at Aswan, more impressive temples are attestation to the power of archaic gods and supreme pharaohs. It is here where the river Nile is best explored by ancient Egyptian sailing boats called felucca at the hands of reigning currents and winds.
On the west section, Egypt’s immense waves of sand stretch to the Sahara, coupled with oases feeding solitary islands of green. Medieval fortresses are also located here, adorned with sparkling springs and some eccentric rock formations. Also, the crystalline waters of the Red Sea display a dazzling variety of corals surrounded by superb aquatic life.
In the heart of Sinai’s deserts, adventure travelers can trek to the mount where Moses had the Stone Tablet and spend their remaining days in heavenly bliss at Dahab’s backpacker Shangri-La.
When to Travel
The best time to vaction Egypt, like many places, depends on the region where you want to visit. Historically tourism has shown that from December to February is peak season and summer which is from June to August is the low season.
Summer season is really unbearable almost anywhere in Cairo, especially around Aswan and Luxor. Daytime temperature gets to 105°F and the combination of dust, heat and noise makes walking the city streets really tough.
On the other hand, a blazing sun is what’s sought after on the beaches of Southern Sinai, the Alexandrian coast or the Red Sea. Just be ready to compete with a large crowd of locals on their summer Egypt holidays.
When visiting somewhere near Luxor, winter will be the best time to travel. Cairo isn’t quite as pleasant with its chilly evenings and up in the Mediterranean coast, Alexandria will have frequent downpours resulting to flooded, muddy streets.
The best compromise for an all-Egypt tour is to visit during March to May (spring season) or September to November (autumn season). Most of Egypt’s religious and state holidays last only a day or two the most so it is unlikely that it will disrupt any travel plans.
Buses will be fully booked around the two Islamic feasts and Ramadan which is the Muslim month of fasting is likely to interrupt any plans to travel. Restaurants and cafés are mostly closed even during daylight hours and bars completely cease to operate for the whole duration. Office hours are also reduced and operation is done randomly.
Cuisine and Drink
Egypt vacations will provide a fantastic time to try a distinct variety of food: not too spicy and well-flavored with herbs. A recommended place to try a great selection of Egyptian cuisine is the Felfela chain of restaurants in Cairo.
Like many coastal countries, Egypt boasts its fish restaurants and markets – so fish and seafood dishes are a must-eat. Fish markets are more often seen with food stalls nearby where you can just pick a specific kind of fish and it will be cooked for you.
Classic Egyptian dishes include the most common Ful Medames which is made of fava beans, either partially or entirely mashed and is cooked slowly in a copper pot. Olive oil is also an ingredient and garlic is sometimes added too. This dish is usually served with Egyptian baladi (bread) or shami (Levantine pita).
Another must-try dish is Falafel (known as Ta’miya). This is also fava beans made into balls and deep fried. Believed to be invented by Egyptian Bedouins, the dish is served as a fast food or snack.
One famous cuisine is koshary which is a mixture of macaroni, rice, lentils, chickpeas and tomato sauce. This is very popular among the locals, thus a popular dish for adventure travelers.
The Egyptian cuisine has some similarities to cuisine of the Arabic-speaking countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. Shawarma-sandwiches are common in the region as well.
Widely available in Egyptian market are various exotic fruits. Fresh grown guavas, watermelons, mangoes and small melons are displayed in fruit stalls especially in non-tourist marketplaces.
On the other hand, as a Muslim nation, alcoholic drinks are forbidden for strictly observant Muslims. But Egyptians adopted a practical view towards alcohol for non-Muslims and foreigners. Bottled and alcoholic drinks are available throughout the country especially in larger towns and cities as well as centers for tourists. Stella is a common beer in Egypt although local brands with higher alcohol variant are also available.
Highlights of any vacation to Egypt include famous archeological sites from both North and South Egypt. The most famous are:
The Pyramids of Giza – situated high on the desert plateau to the west of the Urban district of Cairo, the Pyramids of Giza symbolizes the exemplary pyramid structures of ancient Egyptian civilization. Together with the Sphinx at the base of the Giza plateau, they both are the iconic image of Egypt.
Midan Tahrir – meaning the “Liberation Square”, commonly known as Tahrir Square is located at the epicenter of modern Cairo. It is also considered the city district to the streets and institutions nearby. The Egyptian Museum and the Arab League are some of the institutions found here.
Temples of Luxor and the West Bank – the East Bank of Luxor refers to core part of Luxor township and is centered in the twin foci of the Temple of Karnak and the temple of Luxor. Unlike the West Bank which is a place for mortuary temples and cemeteries, the East bank represented the main settlement of the living - a position that has hardly changed. Also, majority of hotels and tourist facilities are to be found in the East Bank.
Valley of the Kings – also known as the “gates of the kings” is an archeological site located behind the west bank of Luxor. This site is where most of the pharaohs of Egypt of the New Kingdom were buried making it one of the most significant archeological destination not just in Egypt but in the world.
Abu Simbel – this locality has been rescued from the rising waters of Lake Nasser behind the Aswan Dam by a massive archeological rescue plan sponsored by UNESCO. The multifaceted temples in Abu Simbel dedicated to the Pharaoh Ramsis II “the Great” remain a suggestive and remarkable destination of Egypt.
The official currency used in the country is Egyptian pound (E£) known as guinay in Arabic. One pound is equivalent to 100 piastres (pt). Denominations include 5pt, 10pt and 25pt but these are rarely used. The common ones are 50pt, E£1, E£5, E£10, E£20, E£50 and E£100 notes. Seldom can you also see a E£200. Coins in the market exchange are for denominations of 10pt, 20pt, 25pt, 50pt, and E£1 but they are sometimes considered as collector’s items. Prices of commodities can either be written in pounds or piastres. However, sellers tend to round up the prices especially if you are a tourist.
One thing you might encounter in Egyptian markets is the shortage of small changes. Some staffs in restaurants and other business institutions need to go out to the streets to get a change when you use bigger denominations in paying your bill. Another practice that Egyptians observe is the giving of baksheesh or tipping. You are expected to tip almost everyone who does a favor for you, so while on vacation, or an adventure, keeping a stack of small handy bills will be practical.
Getting around the country is cheap although some private taxis in convoys between Egypt tourist destinations can get pricey. Taxes of up to 25% are also added to your bills in most restaurants and hotel accommodations.
It is also possible to travel around Egypt by relying solely to ATM cards since cash dispensers had been widespread in the country especially among tourist destination localities and capital. Majority of these ATM machines are compatible with MasterCard, Visa, Cirrus or Plus Cards. Credit cards like Visa, Amex, MasterCard and Diners Club are also handy to use in foreign-friendly hotels and restaurants. In addition, international transfers are already possible with Western Union operating jointly with Egypt’s Misr America International Bank and other IBA business centers.
Traveling with a "Trusted" Source
An Egypt adventure vacation truly can be a "trip of a lifetime." When choosing a vacation to Egypt it's important to know and trust an adventure tour company. Trusted Adventures, through our members, offer many adventures to Egypt. Feel free to contact us or inquire about vacations to Egypt at any time.