Egypt: the vacation you never knew you needed

Egypt: the vacation you never knew you needed

by Mary Del Rosario
Stripes Europe

While there are many European cities worth traversing, sometimes, it feels as if we’ve seen it all. There are only so many churches and Old Towns we can explore before it meshes together. If you’re wanting to seek out ancient history, yet live in the lap of luxury, delve into another world in Egypt.

WONDROUS PYRAMIDS AND ANCIENT CITIES

No matter what calls you to tour Egypt, one experience that should not be missed is being shocked and awed by its historic cities and magnificent pyramids. The history behind these sites alone will impress you.

Memphis

Known as Egypt’s first capital from 2950 BC to 2180 BC, Memphis was dubbed the place of worship of Ptah, the creator of God. Though now in ruins after the capital changed to Alexandria in 331 BC, you can still see what used to remain in this once thriving city.

Giza

About 17 miles north of Memphis, you’ll stumble across Giza, Egypt’s second-largest city and the home to the famous Pyramids of Giza. The Giza Plateau is comprised of the Great Pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure and the Sphinx. As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, I was transfixed on how the ancient Egyptians were able to build these incredible religious structures. Of course, touring the pyramids is a must. I recommend you hire a guide for your tour and go as soon as the tours open to avoid the crowds and heat.

Cairo

Cairo, Egypt’s largest city is one that has many tales to tell. Formed in 2000 BC by King Menes, this city was the construction site of the Al-Azhar mosque and paved the way to a busy trading center. Now, it’s Egypt’s most populated city. For an authentic modern-day Egyptian experience, head to Khan el-Khalili, a massive bazaar selling everything from herbs to trinkets.

Luxor 

For the history buffs, you can’t go wrong in the ancient city of Luxor. This giant open-air museum will you give an intense history lesson that can’t be found in any textbook. What was once the ancient city of Thebes, Luxor was the place of worship of Amun, the Egyptian deity. While you can spend a few days touring this jaw-dropping place, start off with the Karnak Temple, a clash of decayed temples and chapels.

 

THE BEACH LIFE

The pyramids and storied cities aren’t the only selling points that capture the hearts of many tourists in Egypt. It’s also the beaches and glamorous resort lifestyle. Below are a few noteworthy beaches and resort towns to put on your itinerary.

Sharm El Sheikh

Located on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Sharm El Sheikh boasts as a glitzy resort city. Known for its many all-inclusive luxury resorts to choose from, you won’t have a hard time deciding where to spend your days. When you’re not suntanning the day away, a snorkel excursion at Ras Um Sid Beach is a must—the vibrant explosions of colors in the reef will blow you away. If you’re feeling ambitious, take a two-day certification diving course. The courses range from beginner to expert.

El Gouna 

Another resort town that’s dripping in luxury is El Gouna, which was developed by Orascom Hotels and Development in 1989. Since then, it’s been dominated by mega yachts and grand resorts dotted along the marina. Situated on the Red Sea, El Gouna offers the bluest beaches, fabulous nightlife and scrumptious restaurants. I’ve spent two weeks traipsing through Egypt, but this town has been my favorite as I was not only able to take (exhausting, but worth it) trips to the pyramids from here, but also lived in the lap of luxury for an affordable price. Mangroovy Beach is one to put on your list, as you can watch the kite surfers surf up and down the beautiful sea. Like many of the coastal getaways in Egypt, snorkeling should not be skipped.

Hurghada

If you’re looking for a family-friendly beach retreat, Hurghada is calling your name. Filled with many European tourists wanting to escape everyday life, the amount of sun and relaxation in this city is endless. What makes Hurghada special is that it caters to families more than other resort towns. There are plenty of affordable all-inclusive stays that are perfect for a family. For those who want a little alone time without the kids, many of the resorts offer daycare for children. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to experience something other than water activities, take a quad bike safari. You may even visit a traditional Bedouin village along your journey.

YOUR EGYPT BUCKET LIST

Visiting Egypt alone is its own bucket list entry. However, to be sure you’ve made the most of your Egyptian trip, I recommend you do the following:

  • Ride a camel as you gaze at the Pyramids of Giza.
  • Drink hibiscus tea.
  • Snorkel and see the colorful coral in Sharm El-Sheikh.
  • Travel back in time to the Valley of the Kings and see the tombs of Ramses V and VI. 
  • Delight your tastebuds with delicious foods such as Shawarma, Baba Ghanoush, Mahshi and Basbousa.
  • Barter your way through the many markets.
  • Channel your inner historian and get lost at the Egyptian Museum.
  • Cruise down the Nile. Be sure to check out the Philae Temple.
  • Spend some time in Luxor, Alexandria.
  • Be amazed by the Karnak Temple.

Need to know

  • For active-duty members, be sure to check with your Command to see if you’re able to travel to Egypt. You may need to fill out additional paperwork if allowed.
  • Since the water isn’t safe to drink and there may be a chance you’ll have stomach issues, take Antonil, which is similar to Maalox. Leave behind the Maalox, because this won’t work here. Antonil can be found in the local pharmacies.
  • The cost for the visa is $25. For a hassle-free experience, I recommend paying in cash and opening up your passport to a blank page where customs can easily place the sticker.
  • September to November are the best months to go. During the summer, the temperature is at about 104 degrees Fahrenheit, but can sometimes reach 122.
  • Egyptians are some of the friendliest people I have encountered. However, vendors at the markets may be pushy. Saying a firm “La Shukran,” or “no, thank you,” will go a long way.
  • Though I felt safe during my time here, it’s still always best to be aware of your surroundings—the same as you would anywhere you travel to.
  • Egypt’s currency is the Egyptian pound.
  • Tuk-Tuks are bikes that can be found everywhere. They’ll be your lifesaver for when you want to get around, especially if you’re in a resort and want to venture off a bit. Be sure to agree on a price beforehand.
  • Dress modestly. Though I was mostly at a resort area, anytime I left the resort, I made sure to dress appropriately.

 

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