In March of 2023, my wife and I decided to embark on our long-awaited journey through Egypt.
We have always wanted to visit this Arab country to experience its culture and history. So, we booked a two-week tour to places like Cairo, Giza, Luxor, Edfu, Aswan, Sharm El-Sheikh, and ancient monuments and temples like the Great Pyramids, Sphinx, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings.
In the following pages, I will share our impressions of this country, its people, and its past, and some advice on where to go and what to do.
This whirlwind tour of Egypt was terrific, but I realized we needed more than two weeks to experience everything Egypt offers.
Egypt is a country of 110 million – not counting all the tourists, and most seem to live in Cairo. Everywhere you go, there are too many people roaming the streets, visiting museums and monuments, and driving.
Despite this organized chaos, life seems to run smoothly, people are generally friendly and helpful, and visitors should expect a great experience.
Important Warning: Don't drive in Cairo. The locals know how to navigate the nightmarish traffic, but it would be a challenge to visitors. Taxis are available everywhere, but Uber and Lyft are not.
Everyone speaks English and many other languages. If you look like a tourist, expect vendors, beggars, and tour guides to address you in your language. Of course, most of them only know a few words required for their trade.
Tourist attractions are usually traffic-controlled with a barricade. Expect to be stopped and asked a few questions. If you are with a tour guide, they will interact with the police.
Finally, if this is your first visit to Egypt, I strongly recommend going with a tour company.
Interesting Facts: The Ancient Egyptians invented the 365-day-a-year calendar.
Our guide met us at the airport, arranged transportation, and provided detailed information about the sites we visited. They were also well-versed in English.
Western-style, Indian, and Chinese restaurants are found in all major cities, but I advise you to try traditional Egyptian and Middle-Eastern cuisine. Ask your guide to arrange for an authentic culinary experience.
The currency conversion rate is very favorable for Western travelers. One dollar will get you 31 pounds, and a Euro will get you 33 pounds. The locals call their currency "Geneh".
Interesting Facts: There are 5 million Facebook users in Egypt.
A satisfying bowl of Koshari (a local traditional dish) will cost 35 pounds, around 1 dollar. A gourmet Moroccan dinner for two with a Nile view is 1860 pounds, around $60.
Read more about Egypt later on this page.
We relaxed for a bit in the room and then went on a short tour of the city. The tour included a stop at a popular Cairo restaurant to taste Koshari, then a Nile cruise in a Faloca – a small sailboat.
The next day, the real adventure started with a full-day excursion to the ancient sites at Saqqara and Giza.
Saqqara is home to the Stepped Pyramid, Necropolis, and Ramses II Red Granite Statue, while Giza is renowned for the Great Pyramids and Sphinx.
Interesting fact: Contrary to common belief, the Pyramids were not built by slave labor. Read about it at BBC.
Interesting Facts: Most Ancient Egyptian pyramids were built as tombs for pharaohs (rulers of Ancient Egypt) and their families. To date, 118 pyramids have been discovered in Egypt.
On the third day, we went on a tour of Cairo's old city. The hanging church, Saladin Citadel, and Mohamed Ali Mosque. From the Citadel complex, we could see the Pyramids in the distance.
Of course, we had to stop at Khan El-Khalili – a famous bazaar – for some souvenir shopping.
LUXOR and the Nile Cruise
After a short flight, we landed in Luxor, were whisked away to our cruise ship, Steigenberger Minerva, and checked into our fabulous cabin.
The cabin was more like a hotel room than a cruise ship cabin, with a king bed, a large window offering splendid views, and a full bathroom. It also had a flat-screen TV that we never turned on because we didn't have time for it.
We visited Karnak, Luxor Temples, and the Valley of the Kings in Luxor.
Karnak was so awe-inspiring that we had to return at night for the Lights and Sound show.
We also saw the Avenue of Sphinxes, a 1.7 mi (2.74 km) long avenue connecting Karnak Temple and Luxor Temples.
Interesting fact: Thutmose III, Hatshepsut's nephew, and successor, attempted to erase her from history by defacing her images in tombs and monuments. Despite his efforts, her legacy has survived, and she is now remembered as one of the most influential and successful women in Egyptian history.
The cruise included all meals, so we enjoyed buffet-style breakfast, lunch, and dinner with dishes from around the world.
EDFU – KOM OMBO
We stayed up late to witness this engineering miracle and watched the ship rise 26 feet from the Lower Nile to the Upper Nile.
At Edfu, we took a "calèche" ride (horse carriage) to the Temple of Horus, the Falcon God. The Temple of Horus is the best-preserved ancient temple in Egypt and was built by the Ptolemaic.
After a short sail, we arrived at Kom Ombo, where we enjoyed a short walk to the twin Temples of Sobek and Horus.
ASWAN – High Dam - Philae
The final leg of our cruise took us to Aswan, the southernmost city in Egypt.
At Aswan, we first toured the High Dam and Lake Nasser, the world's largest artificial reservoir.
The dam and its hydraulic power are the primary sources of electricity in Egypt, and I help control the Nile floods.
Aswan is also home to the famed Unfinished Obelisk, located in the Northern Quarry, where a crack was discovered as it was hewn from the rock.
The Nile is dotted with small islands in this area, and we can see ancient ruins on many.
We enjoyed our visit to Philae so much that we had to return at night for the light and sound show.
On our final day in Aswan, we visited a Nubian village and enjoyed the hospitality of a resident. Their houses are made of mud and often colored blue or orange.
SHARM EL SHEIKH
After our exciting Cairo and Ancient Egypt exploration, we looked forward to relaxing on the crystal-clear waters of Sharm El Sheikh.
This Red Sea resort is a stark change from the bustling Egyptian cities and archeological sites.
It is very modern and organized, almost like stepping back into California.
Interesting fact: Egypt is mainly in North Africa, but Sharm El Sheikh is in Asia.
At night, we enjoyed the One Thousand and One Nights dinner and show. The show was spectacular. Imagine a Las Vegas Cirque De Soleil show with a Middle Eastern theme.
More about Egypt
Egypt (Arab Republic of Egypt) is a country in the northeastern corner of Africa.
It is the most populous country in Africa and the Middle East. It borders the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Gaza Strip to the northeast, the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west.
The Gulf of Aqaba in the northeast separates Egypt from Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Although Egypt is a developing country, it has the third-largest economy in Africa.
Interesting Facts: The Ancient Egyptians invented many things we still use today, such as paper, pens, locks and keys, and – believe it or not – toothpaste!
Egypt's history dates back to the 6th millennium BC. The ancient Egyptian civilization was one of the world's earliest and most influential civilizations.
The Ancient Egyptians built the pyramids, the Sphinx, and many monuments and temples. They also developed a complex system of writing, mathematics, and science.
Egypt has a rich and diverse culture. The Egyptians are known for their hospitality and love of music and dance.