When thinking of Egypt, your thoughts might easily walk like an Egyptian straight to the sandy entrance of a pyramid. That history is certainly a large part of what you’ll discover on an adventure to this ancient land, but with about 5,000 years of human civilization, there’s a lot more to look for.
What is Egypt really known for? Journey through this list:
- The Nile
- Culture and People
The Nile River
This may be obvious, but it’s a great starting point because of the impact it has had throughout the centuries. The Nile flows from south to north, and it’s the longest river in Africa. It helped shape the country back in the old days because it would flood over its banks once a year, and this would fertilize the land to allow for more growing of crops. This heavily mixed into Egyptian mythology and spiritual beliefs and promote the river to an even more impressive status.
No trip to Egypt is complete without some extensive exploring of this waterway, and the best way to see the Nile is while relaxing on a slow boat.
Wildlife Along the Nile
The various climates of Egypt give the country an impressively diverse selection of wildlife, but nowhere is this more impressive than on its famous river. There are a ton of species of birds that call the Nile home, and about 200 other types migrate through the region twice a year. If you venture to Lake Nasser, you might just spot some of the last Nile crocodiles or African softshell turtles. Beneath the Nile and its Delta lies a whole other world, as there are more than 100 species of fish swimming around.
Sticking to the Nile theme, don’t forget about the traditional boats sailing around its waters. Riding on a dahabiya is the way to go. These are classic barge-type ships that generally have flat bottoms and angled sails. They have transported people and goods up and down the river for centuries, and there’s nothing like cruising in one that has been adapted to modern standards.
A delicious side effect of the fertile Nile is all the foods grown throughout the centuries. Your plate will also have plenty of Eastern Mediterranean foods, such as shawarma, kebabs, and grape leaves. Grilled beef and lamb are popular, and cheese works its way into many different meals (but not the same preserved specimens found in ancient tombs).
Despite the delicious meats, much of the Egyptian cuisine is vegetarian due to historic religious reasons. Bread is almost always part of every meal, and the spice trade left its flavorful mark on traditional recipes.
Some favorites to try:
- Ful Medammes – this common breakfast is a stew made from fava beans and plenty of spices, and often comes with hard-boiled eggs.
- Kushari – a common street food made from rice, lentils, macaroni, and more.
- Mulukhiya - a green vegetable that is eaten all over Egypt, but prepared differently depending on the region.
- Ta'meya – the Egyptian version of falafel.
- Basbousa – a sweet cake eaten around the Middle East, that is said to have originated in Egypt.
Once you’re well fed, it’s time to start some sightseeing. The obvious place to start is the Pyramids of Giza, where you’ll see these massive tombs from the Old Kingdom, as well as the famous Sphinx.
You’ve seen them in photos a million times, but that doesn’t compare to experiencing them in person.
Luxor and the Valley of Kings/Queens
The next stop down the river is Luxor. This city was formerly Thebes, the capital of Upper Egypt during the New Kingdom, and the surviving temples are a literal walk through history. Once you’ve explored the massive complexes, head across the river to the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens to visit the tombs of many Egyptian rulers.
The second-largest city in Egypt shows the reach of the country. This city is a modern economic center sitting on the Mediterranean Sea, and its name comes from its founder – Alexander the Great. Its waterfront location has caused it to be a connection to other parts of the world throughout history, so it often acts as a gate to Egypt.
Northeast, on the Sanai Peninsula, you’ll find Byzantine ruins, tall mountains, and an intense desert full of fabulous formations of rocks.
There are several important monasteries and churches in this area one of the most important being St Catherine's Monastery. Other highlights include ruins of Byzantine monastic settlements, the highest mountains in Egypt, amazing rock formations and fantastic desert landscape.
In the other direction, you’ll find Aswan. Egypt’s southernmost city sits along the Nile and is the gateway to the rest of Africa. It has a large African Nubian community, so you’ll see a completely new culture than the Mediterranean setting of Alexandria.
Old Cataract Hotel
This luxury hotel from the British Colonial time is known for more than just a relaxing and beautiful place to sleep. It’s where Agatha Christie stayed while writing her famous novel, Death on the Nile, so it’s not surprising that it found its way into the story.
This man-made treasure only dates back to the 1960s when it came as a result of the Aswan High Dam. Its remote location makes it a great escape from some of the more touristy areas of the country, and you can comfortably look at the harsh landscape from a smooth sailing boat.
Hieroglyphics to Arabic
With its long history, Egypt gives you the chance for plenty of linguistic exposure. The official language is Arabic (with a popular regional dialect), but there is also a lot of the Coptic Language spoken by that community.
Of course, if you step back further, you can try your hand at deciphering the hieroglyphics painted on ancient walls.
Markets, Markets, Markets
Another highlight of a trip to Egypt is visiting the many diverse markets you’ll find around the country. Start at the Khan el-Khalili, this massive souq (marketplace) will let you discover plenty of treasures in Cairo. Or, if animals are more your thing, head out of town to visit the camel market. Most cities will have their own version of a unique market to practice your bartering skills.
Visit Egypt with Us
These are just a sample of some of the amazing things you’ll find on a trip to Egypt. Not sure where to start? View our tours to see a pre-planned itinerary that will give you the best experience possible.