Welcome to Egypt, a captivating land where history comes alive. Explore iconic cities like Giza, Alexandria, Cairo, and Luxor on a journey that will immerse you in the local culture, hospitality, and flavours. Egypt has captured my heart, and I can't recommend it enough. Let the ancient wonders and rich history of Egypt transport you to a bygone era. Stand in awe of the majestic pyramids of Giza, home to the Great Pyramid and the enigmatic Sphinx. Discover the grandeur of Luxor, an open-air museum boasting the Valley of the Kings and awe-inspiring temples. Experience the cosmopolitan charm of Alexandria, with its blend of history and breathtaking Mediterranean views. And don't miss the vibrant energy of Cairo, where the bustling streets of Islamic Cairo and the incredible Egyptian Museum await, showcasing Egypt's cultural heritage. Join me on this extraordinary journey through Egypt's timeless treasures.
Reflecting on my incredible journey through Egypt alongside a dear companion, I am grateful for the profound experiences and invaluable lessons we shared. From the moment we set foot in this mesmerizing land, we embarked on an adventure that transcended mere sightseeing. Together, we delved deep into the incredible history, immersing ourselves in the awe-inspiring wonders of the ancient world. We wandered through the magnificent temples of Luxor, marvelled at the grandeur of the Giza Pyramids, and embraced the spiritual serenity of Cairo's mosques. But it wasn't just the remarkable landmarks that left an indelible mark on our hearts; it was the people we encountered along the way. With encounters leaving us with joy and laughter, the warmth and unwavering pride in their culture taught us the power of human connection and the importance of cultural understanding.
This remarkable journey has forever changed me, igniting a thirst for knowledge of the world, broadening my perspective, and reminding me of the profound beauty that exists when we open our hearts to the world. I can only recommend this incredible country to anyone craving adventure. In the following posting, I share with you some expert tips, Egypt travel advice, an action-packed 8-day itinerary and my overall experience in this captivating land. Prepare to be mesmerised by the awe-inspiring attractions that await you in this ancient wonderland. With the following post, prepare to awaken by the pyramids, temples, and vibrant markets that make Egypt a true traveller's paradise. Enjoy!
Discover the Ancient Marvels of Egypt: A Traveler's Guide
Pre-Trip: Booking and Embarking
When planning your journey to Egypt, it's essential to consider some travel tips to ensure a safe and budget-friendly experience. To book the cheapest flights, consider using flight comparison websites such as Skyscanner, and be flexible with your travel dates. Another key is booking connecting flights to arrive at the destination you desire. For example, on our trip to Egypt, we booked flights through Italy (Milan and Rome) for an exciting first stop to the journey, which also benefited our budget in the end. Booking in advance and avoiding peak travel seasons can help secure better deals. During our trip, we travelled in January, which ended up being a perfect time, especially temperature-wise!
Capital One provides a helpful link that offers insights on booking flights and maximising travel rewards. You can receive discounts on flight and accommodation bookings by utilising travel rewards credit cards, such as the Capital One Venture Card or United Mileage Plus Card. Capital One Shopping is a fantastic website and extension that can help you find the best coupons for travel (no account needed).
Egypt's Stays and Accommodations
For accommodations, explore various options, and consider booking directly with the property or utilising reputable travel booking platforms like Booking.com or Airbnb. I highly recommend booking through Airbnb for apartments and homestays, which can give you a completely different and immersive cultural experience compared to staying at a hotel. During our trip, we did a mix of Air Bnb in Giza and Luxor, and then in Cairo and Alexandria, we stayed in hotels. The accommodations in Egypt can be very budget-friendly, especially when booking in advance. There are truly some wonderful places out there! Regarding transportation between your accommodation and attractions, I highly recommend Uber for convenient and reliable rides between cultural stops. Oftentimes some areas may not be the best place to be walking alone as a tourist, especially if you are travelling solo.
Unlocking Egypt's Mysteries: Attractions and Ticketing Tips
Are you ready to embark on a thrilling adventure through the historical wonders of Egypt? First and foremost, plan your itinerary wisely to ensure you don't miss out on the must-see attractions like the majestic pyramids of Giza, the historical treasures of Cairo, the cultural riches of Alexandria, and the ancient wonders of Luxor. To delve deeper into Egypt's rich history, visit renowned sites such as the Egyptian Museum, Luxor Temple, and the Library of Alexandria. To explore Egypt's attractions, it's advisable to research ticket prices and plan your visits accordingly. The link provided offers insights into ticket prices for popular sites. Consider purchasing combination tickets or passes, such as the Cairo & Cairo+Luxor Pass, if available, as they can save costs. Alongside if you are a student, using student discounts along the way can add up when visiting all the cultural heritage sites! It is essential to check local guidelines and restrictions regarding travel and site openings before your trip, as conditions may change.
Egypt's Flavors: A Culinary Journey and Tips
To maximise your budget on your trip and get a taste of local flavour, indulge in local cuisine at authentic Egyptian restaurants (be sure to research ahead of time for food safety reviews) and haggle at local markets for unique souvenirs (everything is negotiating). When it comes to dining, we had planned out restaurants beforehand after researching and adding them to a Google Doc, which saved time and food safety doubts! Remember to stay hydrated on your journey and be careful with your drinking water. I can only recommend purchasing a refillable water bottle with a filter, such as one from Camelbak, before going! However, I always had a safe experience with the water there. Regarding local cuisine, there are some wonderful options that you must try and their particular bread called Bataw (Egyptian Arabic: بتاو), which is a leavened thin flatbread; widely consumed in the Egyptian countryside. The main ingredients vary but include ingredients such as sugar, salt, and ground fenugreek.
One must-try dish is koshary, often referred to as Egypt's national dish. This vegetarian delight is a hearty combination of lentils, rice, pasta, chickpeas, and caramelized onions. Anywhere you can also get falafel, a beloved Middle Eastern dish made from ground chickpeas or fava beans. For meat lovers, order kofta, seasoned, grilled minced meat skewers, often made with lamb or beef. Another iconic Egyptian dish is molokhia, a savoury stew made from the leaves of the molokhia plant (a spinach-like vegetable) cooked with garlic, coriander, and sometimes meat, resulting in a nourishing dish that is most often enjoyed with Egyptian bread. Egyptian cuisine is a reflection of the country's vibrant history, and exploring the diverse flavours of the city and countryside is an essential part of your journey. So, be sure to venture beyond the famous landmarks and embrace the culinary adventure that awaits you in Egypt.
The Art of Negotiation: Egyptian Markets
When visiting Egypt, haggling is an integral part of the local culture and shopping experience. Embrace the art of negotiation and follow these handy tips to make the most of your haggling encounters. Firstly, research the average prices for the item you wish to purchase, either through local recommendations or online resources, to have a general idea of its value. Always approach the haggling process with a friendly and respectful attitude, be prepared for counteroffers and engage in a friendly back-and-forth until a mutually agreeable price is reached. Often times we found many people follow different scripts, which was something to notice! Remember to stay firm yet polite, and enjoy the exhilarating experience of haggling in Egypt, taking home unique souvenirs and treasures at prices that suit your budget.
Fashioning Cultural Respect: Egyptian Attire and Local Customs
During your trip, be sure to dress comfortably. When it comes to dressing in Egypt, it's important also to consider the local customs and cultural sensitivities. Egypt's rich cultural history has left an indelible mark on its traditional attire. As Islam spread, traditional Islamic dress like the hijab for women and the galabiya for both men and women became widely embraced. The galabiya, a loose-fitting robe made from lightweight fabric, is a popular choice to beat the heat. While Western-style clothing is now common, especially in urban areas, Egyptians take pride in donning their traditional attire during special occasions and cultural events. As Egypt has a predominantly Muslim population, modesty in attire is highly valued. To respect the local culture and feel comfortable, it is recommended to dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites or more conservative areas.
For women, loose-fitting clothing that covers the shoulders, arms, and legs is appropriate. While the more modern parts of Cairo and Alexandria and touristy places are more relaxed, to be respectful, and as a woman, I aimed to wear looser covering clothing and show as little skin as possible. Sometimes it may be necessary to cover your hair, especially if you have very light-coloured hair. However, it is not necessary the whole time. Wearing a scarf or shawl to cover the head is advised, especially when entering mosques. The time of year we went (January) allowed us to be able to wear longer layers of clothing due to the temperature. Men typically wear long trousers or pants and shirts that cover their shoulders. In Egypt, by dressing modestly, you not only show respect for the local culture but also enhance your overall experience and interaction with the local community.
An Action Packed 8-Day Adventure from Alexandria to Luxor
Alexandria: Where History Meets the Sea
To begin our Egyptian Journey, we started in the lovely city of Alexandria, nestled on the Mediterranean coast; Alexandria exudes a unique charm. Explore the storied past of this legendary city, once home to the grand Library of Alexandria and the Lighthouse of Pharaohs, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Wander through the Alexandria National Museum, stroll along the Corniche, and visit the mesmerizing Montaza Palace. Alexandria is a city where the allure of history merges effortlessly with the captivating beauty of the sea.
Day 1: Arrival in Alexandria
Upon arrival at Alexandria's airport, breeze through customs with your visa received via email. Hop into an Uber and head to your hotel from the airport (not far from the city). We arrived later in the evening that first day, around 10 pm. We immediately noticed people in Egypt were up all hours of the night! Egyptians have a tendency to stay up late, and this can be attributed to several factors: The country's hot climate during the day prompts people to engage in outdoor activities and socialize during the cooler evenings. Additionally, Egypt's vibrant nightlife and bustling atmosphere come alive after sunset, offering a range of entertainment options. Cultural traditions and the importance of social connections also contribute to late-night gatherings with friends and family. As a result, staying up late has become deeply ingrained in Egyptian culture, providing an opportunity for socialization and enjoyment during the more comfortable evening hours. Therefore, we felt safe and took a walk along the promenade close to the water to head to a late-night dinner at a pier filled with lit-up restaurants and safely back to our hotel on the waterfront.
Day 2: Discovering Alexandria's Treasures
Rise early to catch the breathtaking sunrise at 6:57 am. Energise yourself with a traditional breakfast and take an Uber to Mohamed Ahmed, a delightful traditional breakfast spot! Begin your day of exploration by visiting the Alexandria National Museum, Al Montazah Palace, and the Villa of the Birds. Stop and marvel at the ancient Roman Amphitheater, Pompey's Pillar and the fascinating Catacombs. After that, for lunch, treat yourself to the delectable cuisine at Teatro Eskendria, a traditional Egyptian restaurant with a history of exceptional reviews and amazing food.
In the afternoon, take an Uber to Ras el-Tin Palace and stroll along the Corniche, enjoying the serene views of the Mediterranean Sea. Next, explore the Ras el-Tin Palace, the Citadel of Qaitbay, and the Sidi Morsi Mosque, which shouldn’t take you too much time. If youre able to explore the legendary Library of Alexandria, unfortunately, it was closed at the time we tried to visit it during our trip. Conclude your day by visiting the exquisite Montaza Palace and Montaza Bridge. If time permits, make your way to the Royal Jewelry Museum and Stanley Bridge, where you can witness a breathtaking sunset at around 17:24 in January. Wind down your evening with a relaxing walk along the Corniche before enjoying a delightful dinner at the White & Blue - Greek Nautical Club (incredible, fresh seafood and views).
Cairo: Unveiling the Soul of Egypt
Moving from the quieter streets of Alexandria, Cairo brought an entirely new level of energy to the streets with a more modern way of living. As the capital of Egypt and one of the largest cities in Africa, Cairo offers an unparalleled blend of ancient wonders and modern marvels. With a population of over 20 million, Cairo is a melting pot of diverse cultures, traditions, and cuisines. A city that has witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations over thousands of years, where you can explore iconic landmarks such as the awe-inspiring Giza Pyramids, the enigmatic Sphinx, and the magnificent Egyptian Museum, home to countless treasures from ancient Egypt. Immerse yourself in the bustling streets of Old Cairo, where you can marvel at historic mosques, visit the vibrant Khan El Khalili bazaar, and soak up the rich Islamic heritage.
Day 3: Journey to Cairo and Exploring Cairo's Marvels
On this day, we decided to embark from Alexandria in an Uber to Cairo, with an approximately 2 hour and 36-minute drive to reach Giza. The other alternative is to hop on a train journey to Cairo. Catch the VIP Express train at 7:00 am or 8:00 am, with an estimated arrival time in Cairo at 9:30 am or 10:30 am. We chose Uber due to timing concerns, and overall for our budget, it was more suitable. We arrived in Giza and began our day with a scrumptious breakfast at Rokna Cafe before heading to your Airbnb for check-in around noon.
Giza: The Enigma of the Pyramids
Giza is synonymous with the iconic pyramids that have fascinated generations. Marvel at the colossal wonders of the Great Pyramid, the enigmatic Sphinx, and the fascinating Solar Boat. These ancient structures stand as a testament to the engineering marvels of the ancient Egyptians. Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring grandeur and unravel the secrets of these ancient monuments.
You can begin your exploration of Cairo by visiting the iconic Giza Plateau, where you'll encounter the Sphinx, the Solar Boat, and the magnificent Great Pyramid. During your day, you can stop in the afternoon and recharge with a delightful lunch, drink, or snack at 9 Pyramids Lounge. You’ll have a magnificent view of the pyramids while you relax. As the day progresses, find a perfect vantage point near the pyramids to capture the mesmerizing sunset at 17:22 in January. In the evening, indulge in a luxurious dining experience at a revolving rooftop restaurant in Cairo with impeccable views of the Grand Nile Tower. Here the food is incredible, and the dining experience is upscale, so be sure to dress smart casual and be sure make a reservation a few weeks beforehand. Afterwards, take a leisurely walk along the Nile before retiring to your accommodation with Uber.
Day 4: Immersion in Cairo's Rich Heritage
Savour a delightful breakfast at Eish + Malh, known for its delectable offerings, and then set out to explore the other side of Islamic Cairo. Visit the Sabil-Kuttab of Abdel Rahman Katkhuda, the vibrant Khan el-Khalili market, the grand Al-Azhar Mosque, and the historic Bab Zuweila, where you can climb the minaret for a panoramic view. Continue your journey with your visits to Al-Azhar Park, Al-Rifa'i Mosque, the Mosque-Madrasa of Sultan Hassan, the Salah El-Din Citadel, and the Muhammad Ali Mosque.
Al-Azhar Park is a beautifully landscaped green oasis in the heart of Cairo, offering breathtaking views of the city's skyline and showcasing stunning gardens, ancient ruins, and a tranquil atmosphere for relaxation and leisure. Al-Rifa'i Mosque is a grand architectural masterpiece located adjacent to the more famous Sultan Hassan Mosque; with its intricate designs and ornate interiors, it is a must-visit for its historical significance and stunning aesthetics. The Mosque-Madrasa of Sultan Hassan is an imposing structure that dates back to the 14th century. It is renowned for its impressive size, intricate decorations, and its function as both a mosque and a religious school during the Mamluk era.
The Salah El-Din Citadel is an iconic fortress that dominates Cairo's skyline. Built by the great Islamic leader Salah El-Din in the 12th century, it offers panoramic views of the city and houses several notable structures, including the impressive Muhammad Ali Mosque. The Muhammad Ali Mosque, also known as the Alabaster Mosque, is a prominent landmark within the Salah El-Din Citadel. Its striking Ottoman-style architecture, elegant domes, and towering minarets make it a visual masterpiece, offering visitors a glimpse into Egypt's rich Islamic heritage.
After a fulfilling morning, head to Oldish for a delicious lunch of globally inspired comfort food in a quaint setting. Resume exploring by visiting the Egyptian Museum, Tahrir Square, and the magnificent Abdeen Palace. Uncover the beauty of Optic Cairo before embarking on a walk that will take you to the Hanging Church, the Coptic Museum, the Ben Ezra Synagogue, the Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus, and the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As. Conclude the day by delving into the rich history at The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. Next, Uber to Zamalek and enjoy a leisurely walk along Qasr El Nil Bridge. At 17:23, ascend Cairo Tower to witness the magical sunset in January and embrace the serenity of Gezira Island in the Zamalek district. Relish a delightful dinner at Granita, a funky, chic, worldly restaurant, followed by a relaxed walk before returning to your accommodation. Later, check in for your flight to Luxor for the next day!
Luxor: Journey into Ancient Egypt's Heart
Step into Luxor, a history-covered city rich in archaeological wonders. Here, the East and West Banks of the Nile converge, offering a gateway to ancient treasures. Explore the Valley of the Kings, where pharaohs lie in eternal rest, visit the grand temples of Karnak and Luxor, and unravel the mysteries of Queen Hatshepsut's mortuary temple. Luxor is a captivating destination where the past comes alive.
Day 5: Unveiling the Marvels of Luxor
Get an early start and take an Uber to the airport for your flight to Luxor. The airport has a couple of securities you must run through, but overall, it was a safe, well-organized experience. Luxor’s airport is extremely small and far out from the city, about 30 minutes from which you’ll have to take a taxi and a ferry (depending on which side you stay on of the Nile for your accommodation). After arrival at Luxor, check in to your apartment and head to Aboudi Coffee Break for a classic Egyptian lunch, accessible via the local ferry (which was a charming, local experience).
In the city of Luxor, begin exploring the East Side of Luxor by visiting the vibrant Luxor Souk, the awe-inspiring Luxor Temple at sunset, the intriguing Mummification Museum, and the captivating Luxor Museum. Experience the tranquillity of the Nile with a felucca ride during sunset at 17:26 in January and visit Banana Island. For an exquisite dining experience, savour dinner at the popular and traditional Egyptian fusion food at Sofra. Conclude the day by witnessing the grandeur of the illuminated Luxor Temple at night before taking a ferry back and enjoying a safe walk home.
Day 6: A Journey Through Ancient Luxor
Choose your day to begin early or late! Wake up early to embark on a hot air balloon ride at 4:30 am, offering a breathtaking aerial view of Luxor at sunrise. The Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride Experience in Luxor is a popular attraction you can find listed on many travel websites such as Viator or local companies' platforms. Afterwards, if you choose to seize the day, enjoy a leisurely breakfast at Wannas Art Cafe for a healthy kick to your morning.
Begin delving into the history again by exploring the West Side of Luxor, starting with the Colossi of Memnon, Medinat Habu, Hatshepsut's Temple, and the Valley of the Kings, where you can explore three select tombs such as Nerenptah, Ramses IV, and Tuthmosis III.
If time permits, consider visiting the Valley of the Queens, the Ramesseum, the Tombs of the Nobles, and Deir el-Medina. It gets hot in the desert, so ensure to bring water and sunglasses! To close off an early start, spend a relaxing evening at your apartment, preparing dinner in the comfort of your accommodation (many Air Bnbs offer chefs on site). Ensure you check in for your flight to Cairo the following day.
Day 7: Celebrating Together in Cairo
Wake up early again and begin your day by revisiting the city for a last round and exploring the East Side of Luxor. Discover the awe-inspiring Karnak Temple and Open Air Museum, and experience again the fascinating Avenue of the Sphinxes. Treat yourself to a sumptuous breakfast at Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor before taking an Uber to the airport for your flight to Cairo. The airport is an easy check, so not to worry if you don't have much time planned to be at the airport. Upon arrival in Cairo, take an Uber to Alexandria or Uber the train station, catching the Express train to Alexandria.
Day 7 and Day 8: A Memorable Finale in Alexandria
Arrive in Alexandria, and after reaching your hotel, Uber to a recommended restaurant, Seagull, Santa Lucia, Skyroof - Windsor Palace Hotel, or Chez Gaby Au Ritrovo. Relish a delightful meal as you celebrate a special end to your trip. On this day, we chose to spontaneously stay at the Hilton Alexandria King’s Ranch for a luxury stay with great facilities like a fantastic gym used by the Egyptian national soccer team and an easy route to the airport the next day. As your adventure in Egypt comes to an end, reminisce about the incredible experiences and memories you've made during these packed and exciting days of exploration and discovery.
Thank you for joining me on this exploration of Egypt. I hope that through this blog post, you've gained valuable insights and inspiration to embark on your own adventure in this extraordinary land. May your travels be filled with wonder, learning, and unforgettable memories. بالتوفيق!
(In Egyptian Arabic, the phrase "good luck" is "بالتوفيق" (bel-tawfiq)).