Egypt is one of the most ancient and fascinating countries in the world; as the homeland of complex civilizations dating back thousands of years before the birth of Christ, there are tons of things to see and do here.
With the majority of its inhabitants living within 20 miles of the Nile’s banks, over 80 million people call this North African country home. Since the recent ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak, the face of Egypt is constantly changing. Arabic is the official language, but many people in the major cities of Alexandria and Cairo speak English as well.
Must Go in Egypt
Dahab is a funky little hippie town on the Sinai peninsula where the rules of Egypt don’t apply. About a nine hour bus ride from Cairo, this place is a backpacker’s paradise and is much more relaxed than the nearby resort destination of Sharm el-Sheikh.
You can relax on the deck chairs at the seaside thatched hut housing Yalla Bar and sip Egyptian beer, choose from an array of hilariously-named beach-adjacent restaurants, and shop for Egyptian wares without the craziness of other markets.
Accommodations in a bamboo hut on the beach are as low as 40 LE (about 8 USD) per night, and on a clear day you can peer across the Red Sea and see Saudi Arabia looming on the horizon.
Khan el-Khalili is the historic bazaar located in the Husseyn district of Cairo. There is every kind of shop imaginable filling the alleyways and you can find almost anything.
Don’t forget to haggle! A good rule of thumb when you begin haggling is to make your starting offer approximately half of the shopkeeper’s. Bonus points: don’t be afraid to wander deep into the market; you won’t be lost for long and all the good deals are well-hidden, as the most accessible shops are aimed towards timid tourists and the prices along the main drag are sky-high!
Must Do in Egypt
See the pyramids
You can rent a camel for an hour to take you around the area (about 50 LE is usually as low as most camel owners will go, despite a price cap of 35 LE set by local police). There is a museum opening near the complex in the near future; however, don’t miss the boat museum that already exists and don’t be afraid to wander down past the large drop-off to find the elusive Sphinx!
Take a Felucca Ride Down the Nile
Renting one of the small, flat boats for an hour is a favorite of locals. Interacting with the ancient Nile is exhilarating (just make sure not to jump into the polluted waters!).
The best time to do this is on a cool night- feluccas are decked out with thumping music and neon lights after the sun goes down and are the perfect venue for a moving party! Be aware, though, that in some cases, the drivers will charge extra if you want to bring alcohol on board.
Must Eat in Egypt
This restaurant is on everyone’s agenda when they visit Cairo. Located on Talat Harb just off of Tahrir Square, this diner is a little strange for most first-timers.
You order your food and pay upfront, then take your receipt to the appropriate area of the restaurant, where the chef receives it. After your food is prepared, you stand at one of the many counters lining the walls to devour your feast. Felfela serves everything from burgers to traditional fare like shawerma.
Cultural Tips for Travel in Egypt
Grab a pocket-sized English-Arabic dictionary and no matter how unsure of yourself you may be, try and use some basic Arabic words when interacting with locals.
It’s the easiest way to endear yourself to people and will almost always get you a better prices in markets, not to mention make invaluable contacts with people who can help make your stay easier.
Traveling on the Cheap in Egypt
Rather than taking a taxi everywhere in the major cities, try the Metro! It’s only 1 LE per ride and there is a car especially for women so you don’t have to be crammed like sardines against strange men. The Metro in Cairo runs close to every major sightseeing destination and is fairly easy to navigate, as all the signs are in English and Arabic.
Airbnb is almost always cheaper than a hotel and a better bang for your buck. This entire apartment has a view of the pyramids and costs $50 a night! If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $40 credit towards your first booking.
Have you been to Egypt – any tips to share? Questions for Danielle?