Egypt is an extraordinary country. I fell in love with Cairo 28 years ago and so was very excited about the opportunity to go back and visit again. The people, the food, the warmness of the welcome and the amazing history make it a fantastic destination.
Egypt has been through some turbulent times of late and people are a little nervous to visit. They shouldn’t be. The Egyptian people, government and tourist industry all work in unison to make it a wonderful experience that not only is safe but very special.
Arriving in Cairo, a city of 30 million people, is an eye opener. You fly over desert for hours and then suddenly there is a huge city underneath you, a desert coloured city. We travelled straight from the airport to the pyramids. The pyramids are as impressive as you would expect, for 4000 years people have been visiting and being wowed by the design, size and sheer impossibility of their creation. There are many other great experiences in Cairo including the Cairo Museum, stuffed full of sarcophagi, mummies and endless treasures and the Khan al Khalili a huge souk full of modern treasures to barter over and bring home. There are countless things to do in Cairo, you could easily spend weeks there so factor in 2 or 3 days at least!
We flew to Luxor (if you have more time take the train to soak up the local colour) and this is where you first begin to meet the real Egypt, a small town easily navigated by horse and carriage and filled with ancient wonders. The river Nile threads through the centre, feluccas and tiny ferries criss cross from side to side. Hotels line the river so you are ensured a dramatic sunset view. The temples of Karnak and Luxor are so huge and so beautiful it is almost overwhelming ( the heat can also be, so get up early…). It is difficult to describe how astonishing the history is in this place but the fantastic guides do a great job of simplifying the multiple pharoahs and gods into something that is manageable to understand. The Valley of the Kings with all the tombs is a great place to do a balloon ride over to get a sense of scale before you visit the interiors to be amazed all over again at the intricate designs and vivid colours.
The perfect way to see the lesser visited temples is a Nile Cruise which slowly makes its way along the river and then ties up right next to the temples. You get to see the temples in different lights and you get a great glimpse into rural life, the only downside being you have to spend a lot of time waving to all the kids who dive into the waters to wave and yell HELLO! The cruises are extremely comfortable with lovely service and all the treats of nice hotels, including a pool, spa, bars and even a couple of souvenir shops but with only 100 or so people on board.
Arriving in Aswan means arriving in Nubia, a slower pace and the start of a more African feel to life. High tea at the Old Cataract hotel ( where Agatha Christie wrote Death on the Nile) is a must for the gorgeous views, service and architecture. If you ever have wanted to splash out and stay in a palace and get treated like a queen this is the place to do it. Visit the Aswan dam, the temple of Philae and hire a felucca for a sunset sail.
Abu Simbel is a wonder of both the ancient and modern world, a temple that would have been flooded when they built the Aswan dam.
It was painstakingly moved piece by piece into an specially built artificial mountain higher up the river bank. It is awe-inspiring for itself and the move. A really astounding tribute to the skill of the Ancient Egyptians and modern engineering. Unmissable.
Egypt is filled with people saying ‘Welcome’ they are a truly hospitable people who are proud of their cultural history. Tourism is slow there at the moment so it is the perfect time to go. People have time to stop and share their love of their country and the temples are not overcrowded. There is beautiful accommodation, delicious food and endless sunshine. Go now before the crowds return.