Egypt gets a pretty bad rap these days for being a volatile country where civil unrest and violence are rife in the streets. When I talk to my friends about Egypt, they offer up the fact that they just wish they could go there to see the Pyramids, but can’t take the risk. Here’s why I can’t wait to go back.
The Red Sea region in Egypt is home to some of the most beautiful, thriving dive spots. I remember the amazing feeling of diving the blue hole in Dahab (or snorkelling for those who aren’t confident enough to dive). As soon as my head ducked beneath the water I saw vibrant coloured coral, schools of fish that were not shy in swimming along beside me and an underwater world that I’d never have guessed was hiding just under the surface.
Egypt has one of the most fascinating and interesting histories of any country. Getting up close and personal with some of the world’s most famous treasures and artefacts in the Egyptian Museum is pinch yourself stuff. It’s all out on display, and you can get much closer to these exhibits than you can in other countries without over protective security guards and barriers guarding everything. I remember walking towards the Tutankhamen room and seeing the gold aura surrounding the room from the hallway, and standing in front of artefacts that I’d heard about for my whole life was a wonderful experience. If you’re feeling extra brave, pay a little extra to see some of the mummified remains of the Ancient Egyptian pharaohs.
Although the people vary depending on where you are in Egypt, everyone I met was friendly and hospitable. Tourism is such an important part of the country’s economy and the recent unrest has disrupted tourism numbers so when I was there I certainly felt that the Egyptians were anxious to show me just how lovely their country was in the hope I’d encourage other people to pay a visit too. The Red Sea region of the country is a beach area and people are laid back and friendly – everyone is eager to have a long drawn out chat. Cairo is the complete opposite – it’s so densely populated that its nuts 24/7 but even here people stopped to say hello, invite me in for tea and help me with directions when I looked lost without expecting anything in return. I had a particularly amazing local woman take me around for a couple of days through Coptic Cairo and to one of the main Mosques in town and then fed me brilliant local food from a roadside stall – I’ve never forgotten that!
The Pyramids & Sphinx
There’s nothing quite like having read about, studied and gazed at images of these stone structures for your whole existence and then standing right in front of them in real life. There are the usual tourist traps around here to be wary of – I’ve head of camel rides where the owner takes you out one way and then makes you pay to get back as well once you’re stuck out in the desert and I encountered men who tell you they know a secret entrance to a separate part of the pyramid if you come around the back with them. All that aside, those pyramids really are a sight to behold and are equal parts spooky, eerie and majestic. Just around the corner lies the enormous nose-less Sphinx, which further increases the wow factor of the whole experience.
Markets and Bazaars
Markets in Egypt are absolutely crazy and have to be experienced. I had vendors literally throwing their wares at me and then telling me to buy them, but with a stern word and a return of the items to their possession, they eased up.
Be wary of your belongings as just like any other large crowd scenario pick pockets operate here, but enjoy the rush and bustle of the Cairo street sellers. Check out some gorgeous lead light lamps, peruse the art, smell the spices, barter a good deal and enjoy the craziness.
The giver of life in this part of the world, the majestic Nile River is the reason that civilisation sprung up in this area so long ago. Take a Felucca down the Nile towards Luxor, a dinner cruise or just watch the sun rise or set over this beast of a river and you’ll fast understand why this body of water is the heart of the country.