A living time capsule where old meets new. If you look in one direction, the pyramids gaze back at you but turn around and you’ll see the bustling modern city of Cairo on the other side. Welcome to Egypt.
Though tourism is starting to bounce back after almost a decade of being out of the spotlight, things still haven’t fully recovered which means Egypt-bound travelers will enjoy lower prices and smaller crowds on their vacation. That’s not to say the country isn’t safe – despite what you may have heard in the past, you’ll be hard pressed to find any real danger. The locals here are incredibly kind, story-loving people with plenty of knowledge to share if you take the time to talk to them. As for the pyramids, you’ll get front row seats postcard-perfect pictures without the swarms of people in them.
If you’ve been considering a trip to Egypt (and you really should be!) but are still on the fence about it, we’re here to help. Check out our top 5 reasons why you need to go to Egypt NOW.
1. Explore the Pyramids
Let’s start with the obvious. For many, the pyramids take the top spot on the travel bucket list. Catching that first glimpse of the pyramids is an experience you’ll never forget. Egypt is one of those places that bring out the explorer in all of us and nowhere is this more evident than the Great Pyramid of Giza. A staggering feat of human engineering and one of the world’s most well-known monuments, the Great Pyramid instantly transports you back in time. The non-claustrophobic traveler can venture deep into the bowels of the pyramid through narrow corridors and into the Grand Gallery and Tomb Chamber. Above ground, you might even stumble upon the next great discovery simply by riding a camel through a desert. After all, it was a tourist in 2010 who found previously undiscovered tombs that helped solve the mystery of who built the pyramids (spoiler alert: it wasn’t aliens).
2. Beach Day Turned Spa Day
The Mediterranean side has beautiful pristine beaches, perfect for relaxing on after a busy week of hopping between pyramids, tombs, and temples. On the other side of the country lies the Red Sea, packed with the beautiful coral reefs for which it is famous. Red Sea coral reefs are the most resistant to climate change which makes for a breathtaking diving experience. Plus, the therapeutic properties found in the water which keep the corals so bright and healthy are also great for people, so your day at the beach doubles as a spa day. Since the beaches are far away from the light pollution of big cities, the night skies are truly something special and are worth the trip on their own.
3. Cruise the Nile
The mighty Nile creates an unexpected palm-fringed oasis amidst the golden heat of the desert. Each temple you pass tries to outdo the last in greatness, while massive marble statues and columns carved with hieroglyphs rise out from the riverbanks. Feel your worries melt away as you float down the Nile in the wake of bygone pharaohs on your way to incredible sites like the magical Temples of Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, the Philae Temple complex, and Luxor. Travel through time as you watch the Egyptian people live along the banks of the Nile as they have for thousands of years. Catch some rays on the deck in between Egyptologist guided shore excursions of ancient treasure – does it get any better than this?
4. The Food
In a country with as much history as Egypt, it’s no surprise that the food scene would also be thriving. Each generation leaves a new distinct mark on the preparation of food, making for a long history nearly as exciting as the pyramids themselves. If you only try one food while you’re in Egypt, make it Koshari. The epitome of traditional Egyptian food, it can be found everywhere from small carts to fancy restaurants and is made of rice, macaroni, lentils and chickpeas topped with caramelized onions, spiced tomato sauce, and garlic vinegar. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, try the hamam mahshi. It’s roasted pigeon stuffed with rice and herbs and is a surprisingly yummy treat for the more adventurous eater. For our vegetarian friends, stuffed veggies or mahshi is a local favorite. Take the vegetable of your choice (think zucchini, eggplants, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc.) and stuff it with rice, herbs, tomato sauce and a dash of cinnamon and roast it.
5. Shop ‘til You Drop
Cairo is home to one of the Middle East’s largest bazaars (also known as souks in the middle east), Khan al-Khalili. A paradise for lovers of bargains, bizarre treasures, and window-shopping alike, you’re guaranteed to find just about anything you could possibly want here. With everything from coffeehouses, street food vendors, busking musicians, and artists to stunning lanterns, leather goods, spices, sweets, silver stone carvings, papyrus paintings, and postcards, you could easily spend an entire day exploring. Though it’s truly a day market, it stays open late and nighttime is when things truly come alive. The market was established in the 14th century, so even if shopping isn’t your thing, you’ll still find yourself stumbling upon a great number of cultural and historic structures along the way. Stop by one of the countless cafes and watch the merchants – some of the smoothest talkers in the world – use their bartering skills with the local shoppers.