First time going to Egypt? Of course you’ll visit the Pyramids and the iconic Sphinx in Giza, and travel down the river Nile. It’ll be foolish to skip those not-to-be-missed wonders; they’re some of the reasons why Egypt is one of the most visited places in the world.
While tourist numbers dropped in 2011 due to political upheavals, the country has been generally peaceful since 2013. Last year, Egypt was named the fastest growing tourist destination, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)’s 2018 global travel and tourism report.
But just because you’ll go where everyone is going doesn’t mean you should do what everyone is doing. Here are some not-your-usual things to do when visiting the usual tourist spots in Egypt.
Dive into the waters off Hurghada
Scuba diving isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Egypt, a land known for its desertscapes. But this resort town along Egypt’s Red Sea Coast is well known precisely for its stunning coral reefs and turquoise waters, perfect for diving, snorkeling, and other watersports. But if an under-the-sea adventure sounds too taxing for you, then see the denizens of the deep behind the safety and comfort of glass in the Hurghada Grand Aquarium.
Pay for papyrus in Giza
The Egyptians invented the precursor of what we now know as paper, using the pulp from the papyrus plant that grows along the Nile River. Today you can witness a demonstration of how the ancient Egyptians used to make this writing material at the Papyrus Institute in Giza.
You can also browse and buy from a huge selection of hand-painted papyrus prints, ranging from the easily affordable to the quite expensive. Rest assured the papyrus prints you purchase at the Institute are genuine quality souvenirs.
Get the guided tour of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo
Egypt is home to ruins of temples, tombs, and pyramids from ancient civilizations. But if you want to see the artifacts plucked from those ruins, the biggest collection of over 120,000 pieces is housed at the Egyptian Museum. Mummies, sarcofagi, jewellery, pottery, and the cursed gold from King Tutankhamun’s tomb are displayed in all their glory.
To make your museum experience even richer, take a guided tour. Not only will the guide show you around and point out the must-see stuff, he will also be able to give background information and context to the artifacts on display. The tour becomes an unforgettable feast for the eyes and the mind.
Visit Khan al-Khalili in Central Cairo
Like New York’s Times Square, the world’s oldest shopping centre on the streets of Islamic Cairo is often branded as a tourist trap.
But unlike Times Square which locals avoid, Khan al-Khalili is where thousands of locals still go for their daily shopping. Its narrow streets are filled with stores selling anything from shoes to souvenirs to clothes, leather, chess sets, cushions, ceramics, oriental jewelry, brass, gold, silver, rugs, fabrics, and so on. Should you choose to shop, here are a few helpful bargaining tips:
- At the start, offer half of the asking price.
- Don’t hand over any money until you agree on a purchase price, and you have your chosen item in your hand.
- Study your change carefully. Certain pound and piaster notes may look indistinguishable to the unfamiliar eye.
- Learn how to say no, which is “La” or “La-a”.
But if you’re not in the mood to bargain, the bazaar district is still a major attraction for visitors. Take a walking tour of the place and experience the hustle and bustle of a marketplace that’s witnessed trading since the 14th century. Or stop at one of the small traditional coffeehouses and enjoy a cup of Arabic coffee.
Ride off into the sunset (literally) on the back of a camel at Giza
Visiting the pyramids can be quite an ordeal during the day, as the heat can soar above 32 degrees Celsius during the summer months. Winter months are the coolest, with temperatures between 10 and 21 degrees Celsius. But regardless what time of the year you visit, it may be wise to troop to the pyramids towards late afternoon, as the day’s temperature cools down.
Make your trip even more memorable by hiring a camel (or if you want something more familiar, a horse) for a one-, two-, or four-hour ride in the dunes of the desert by the pyramids. At sunset, you get to see the sand and the structures in a golden light not often seen in photos. Many say it’s one of the most romantic and awesome experiences in Egypt.
Walk like an Egyptian… and more
If you want to experience Egypt in the not-so-usual way with a community of like-minded travellers, then join us at Wheel & Anchor for our upcoming Israel and Egypt tour in January 2020. It will be 17 days and nights of exploring the historic cities of Jerusalem and Cairo. We will also cruise across two remarkable waterways, the Suez Canal and the Nile River. If you want to journey with us to where east meets west, then get in touch!