Civilization first dawned in Egypt over five millennia ago when Narmer, first pharaoh of the First Dynasty, unified Upper and Lower Egypt. But Egypt’s history is even older, with human settlements dating back to 4,000 BC. In all that time, Egypt has grown and developed into one of the most exciting, richly cultured places in the world. Here’s just a taste of the exciting things awaiting you when you take a trip to this timeless destination!
1. Cruising the Nile
With over 4,000 miles of waterway coursing through 11 countries, the Nile River is considered to be the longest in the world, and Egypt its gift to Earth. Ancient Egyptians revered it as the source of all life, and with a riverfront view of the bustling ports and trading posts like Luxor, Esna and Edfu that blossomed all along its shores, you’ll see why. Stop off to visit the Valley of the Kings along the West Bank of the Nile and tour Edfu and the Temple of Horus! In addition to its ancient treasures, the Nile’s banks are home to a wide assortment of Egypt’s most iconic animals from its storied history, including hippopotamuses and the legendary Nile crocodiles. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse (from the safety of your boat!) and you’ll understand why ancient Egyptians believed them to be gods.
2. Exploring the Pyramids
Everybody who visits Egypt needs to visit the Pyramids. But not everyone gets the chance to go inside! You may find yourself channeling your inner Indiana Jones as you make your way through the passages and antechambers, reading hieroglyphs painted by Egyptian hands thousands of years ago. Though the purpose of many of the chambers hidden within the pyramids has been lost to history, anyone making the visit into the tombs of fallen pharaohs and queens of the past can expect to be charmed by their beauty and the care with which Egyptians of old laid their leaders to rest. As the Great Pyramids are the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to remain standing today, the chance to tour them up close is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.
3. Sampling the local cuisine
Egypt is where societal culture first came into existence, and what unites a society more than the food they create and eat together? You’ll find restaurants and food vendors aplenty, with no shortage of unique dishes to try. With the rich and fertile land provided by the annual flooding of the Nile into the river delta for a millennia, Egypt’s food culture evolved heavily on its bountiful crops. A variety of meats can be found to please any omnivore, yet vegetarian dishes are a staple of many Egyptian households, and the national dish of kushari–a mix of rice, lentils and macaroni noodles blended with spiced tomato sauce and garbanzo beans–is the pride of Egypt’s cuisine.
4. Sunset on the Sahara
If the word “desert” makes you think of a hot, dry, inhospitable landscape, you’re not alone, but you may be doing yourself a great injustice. The Sahara Desert is indeed dry and can be quite hot at times, but at the close of the day, it’s a sight to behold. As the shadows grow long and the sun becomes a molten orange ball dipping into the horizon, light strikes the sands like tongues of flame, creating a glittering illusion of an expanse of gold coins surrounding you. Sand dunes shift and undulate in the winds off the desert, giving you the feeling of standing on the surface of a great golden sea as the wide sky catches fire in brilliant streaks of orange and red. As the sun drops out of sight and the sky turns itself over to starry night, you may find yourself left with a new understanding of the infinity of the earth.
5. Witnessing ancient culture
Egypt’s cities have been continuously populated for 5,000 years and its people carry some of the world’s most ancient lineages. Everywhere you look you’ll see evidence of the dawn and development of civilization, from the ancient mosques and churches that have stood the test of time to the preserved housing structures that still stand today, sheltering Egypt’s people from the Saharan elements. Looming nearby, the great silhouettes of the pyramids serve as a reminder and tribute to the leaders of the old world who helped usher society into the future.
6. Shopping at Khan el-Khalili bazaars
Perhaps one of the most iconic and fascinating places is the Khan el-Khalili souk, an outdoor marketplace built from the mausoleum of the Fatimid caliphs. One of the most popular destinations in all of Cairo, the marketplace is filled with shops and street vendors, restaurants and coffee houses. You’ll find stalls selling Egypt’s most famous goods–silks, pottery, jewelry, gold, lanterns and spices–alongside such cultural landmarks as Fishawi’s, a coffee house first established in 1773.
BONUS EXPERIENCE! Exploring the lost city of Petra
Though not in Egypt, you can visit the lost city of Petra in Jordan on an optional Post-Tour extension. Once a thriving and bustling trade center for the Middle East and the capital of the nomadic Nabataean Empire as early as 400 BC, Petra was a vast settlement carved out of the red sandstone rocks. A landlocked city, Petra fell victim to the rise of sea trade and to a series of 3rd-century earthquakes. It was abandoned by 700 AD and remembered only by local Bedouin until its “rediscovery” by European explorers in 1812. More recently, you may remember Al-Khazneh, the ancient Treasury featured above, as the home of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Today, Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and counted among the Seven Wonders of the New World–despite only 15% of the city having yet been uncovered!
Egypt has myriad surprises and pleasures of things to offer her people and her visitors alike, but even if you only experience this small sampling of Egypt’s great wonders, your trip to the Mother of the World is sure to be one you’ll never forget.