08 Oct Incredible things to see and do on a trip to Egypt
Home to over 5,000 years of human history, Egypt is a country every cultural traveller should visit in their lifetime. On top of this, its desert climate means the sun shines almost every day, making it a great place to come during the Northern Hemisphere winter.
However, it is crucial you don’t forget to apply for your Egypt visa online before travelling to this storied nation. Trust us: nothing is more embarrassing than showing up for your flight, only to be denied a boarding pass because you forgot to take care of this legal necessity. With that proviso out of the way, let’s talk about the many sights and attractions that await you in Egypt.
Great Pyramids of Giza
Ask someone what they see when you say the word ‘Egypt’, and this is usually the first image that will pop into their head. It’s not hard to see why: of all the ancient wonders of the world, this is the only one left standing, 5,000 years after they were built. Meant as tombs for the Pharaohs of the ancient kingdom of Egypt, they were stocked full of the king’s favourite implements, so they could derive enjoyment from them in the afterlife. While you can’t access their interiors due to health and safety issues, the exterior form of these monoliths is impressive enough.
After all, withstanding five millennia worth of erosion, ransacking, natural disasters, and warfare is not an easy task, yet they managed to outlast structures erected thousands of years after they were built.
There is more to Cairo than simply serving as a base for the Great Pyramids of Giza, which sit nearby. The Egyptian Museum shows off the antiquities that once sat in the temples and pyramids across the land, the Cairo Citadel takes you back to Egypt as it existed in medieval times, and its many bazaars will allow you to sample the street life that defines modern-day Egypt.
Known as Thebes during the time of the New Kingdom, Luxor was home to the Pharaohs of that time. Many of them were crowned at Luxor Temple, a structure which celebrated the return of monarchy to a land where it had failed at the end of the Old Kingdom. Containing many statues depicting past kings, it is best to visit later in the day. Experience its hallways in the golden evening light, then stick around for dusk, when the exterior of the temple gets lit up brilliantly by spotlights.
The Valley of the Kings
The Cairo area wasn’t the only place in Egypt that hosted a capital during its long history as an ancient civilization. In the middle of the present-day country, Pharaohs ruled from nearby Luxor between the 16th to 11th centuries BC.
When they passed away, they were laid to rest in an area that came to be known as the Valley of the Kings. One of these royals was none other than Tutankhamun, or King Tut. Tours are restrained to respect the diminished integrity of these ancient chambers – when you get a chance to explore them, remain quiet as you are led through them in single file formation.
Temples of Abu Simbel
Further south near the border with Sudan, you’ll find evidence of how extensive the New Kingdom of Egypt was at its peak more than 3,000 years ago. The Temples of Abu Simbel were built to commemorate a military victory against the kingdom of Kush – carved out of a mountainside in the form of the Pharaoh and queen at the time, it was a monumental undertaking.
In modern times, though, an even greater feat of engineering was required to save this historic place. In the 1960s, the structure in its entirety was cut from the rock and physically moved from its original location to prevent it from being submerged by the expansion of the Aswan Dam. The operation was a resounding success, allowing travellers to enjoy this marvellous piece of history just as previous generations had.
While such a megaproject would have a tough time getting off the ground today, the Aswan Dam had no issues being approved in the 1960s. This crucial piece of infrastructure needed to be built if Egypt was to bring itself up to modern standards. With measures taken to save its most precious cultural assets, it went ahead, allowing authorities to not only create hydroelectricity, but it gave them the ability to control the annual floods which sometimes had negative effects downstream. While some view it as just a dam, infrastructure nerds will love a chance to walk atop a structure that created the world’s largest man-made lake.
Egypt isn’t all temples and pyramids – after you have gotten your fill, head to Hurghada. Situated on its Red Sea coast, its year-round sunshine, crystal clear waters perfect for diving and snorkelling, and its uncrowded nature will win you over soon after arrival. With short flights available from Cairo, don’t worry about having to spend all day in a bus – within an hour, you’ll be in a lounger soaking up the sun.