Famous for its ancient civilization, modern-day Egypt still plays homage to its past. Best known for the Pyramids of Giza, Nile River, Valley of the Kings, and stone-carved hieroglyphs, tourists flock to the country to explore this nation’s treasures and antiquities.
While Ancient Egypt evokes curiosity in Egyptology, the country has moved towards a modern-day future. Today, Egypt and its 102 million citizens (as of 2020) will welcome you with open arms to its modern cities, cool cafes, and resorts. Tourists can bounce between the past and present as they unlock the secrets of this beautiful country.
حَلَلْتَ أهلاً ووطِئتَ سَهْلاً – Welcome to Egypt!
Cairo is the capital of Egypt, and it’s beating heart. It’s also the Arab world’s largest city with a population of over 20 million people (as of 2020) living within its metropolitan area. The city is also a complex combination of the country’s ancient history and hope for the future.
The famous Pyramids of Giza are a part of the skyline as the three iconic structures sit on the city’s edge, while the government rules the nation from an interior part of the city. Cairo is often described as chaotic, but spending a day exploring its streets often leaves visitors addicted to its lively energy.
- Culture and Language
- Spending Budget
- How to Get Around
- Top Cities to Visit
- Points of Interest
Culture and Language
Without a doubt, Egyptian culture has remained dominant for thousands of years. With over 6,000 years of recorded history, Egypt is home to one of the world’s earliest civilizations that have gone on to influence the cultures of the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.
When it comes to Ancient Egypt, most people think of powerful Pharaohs, ancient temples, storytelling hieroglyphs, art, mummies, and burial customs. Ancient Egypt also helped advance agriculture as they successfully lived off of the Nile River and the rich soil.
While Ancient Egypt had its own culture that continues to influence the country today, the Islam religion also became culturally significant, starting in 639 CE. With plenty of Arab immigrants, the Muslim culture has only solidified itself in Egyptian society.
Christianity is also practiced by the native people, meaning the country harmonizes between two religions. Today, mosques and minarets call for prayers; tourists are eager to witness the power of worship.
Egyptian culture is also exceptional in hospitality as the people are often described as friendly and helpful. Their generosity also means that they often refuse gifts or invitations, so you may have to repeat a genuine offer before it’s accepted.
If you are ever invited into a local’s home, it’s important that you show respect and make an appearance. Not showing up would be disrespectful and humiliating for the host family. With tolerance and acceptance, Egyptians show deep respect and expect to be given the same courtesy in return.
Standard Arabic is the official language of Egypt, and it’s used by the government or in literature and writings. However, it’s not the most spoken language. Instead, Egyptian Arabic or Masri is the most widely spoken language in the country.
Egyptian Arabic originated around Cairo and was influenced by the Egyptian Coptic language, which was an official language until the 19th century. Other forms of Arabic, like Sa’idi and Sudanese, are also spoken in Egypt but as a minority language.
Egypt was once a British colony, which means that a good portion of the population has also been educated in English. In fact, in most tourist areas, English is widely spoken, and you will be able to navigate in your native tongue. Once you leave urban areas or tourist hotspots, Egyptian Arabic is the most likely language to be spoken.
An important part of planning your vacation is determining your spending budget for the duration of your stay. Egypt is moderately expensive to visit, and this is in part due to the guided tours.
Most people feel more comfortable traveling around Egypt with a local and licensed guide. It’s also often recommended for your safety that you book guided tours instead of roaming around on your own; however, that means you’ll need to incorporate this expense into your budget. Other important parts of your budget will include airfare, accommodation, food, drink, and transportation.
Egypt is far from the United States, and that only adds to the cost of an airline ticket. Most tickets will cost over one thousand dollars if you’re traveling from the East Coast. If you are traveling from other parts of the US, like the West Coast, you should expect the ticket price to increase.
However, airlines may have special deals that lower the price drastically. There are even rare deals that can drastically lower the price of a ticket. But the price can change due to when you travel, what type of ticket you book, and how far in advance you book your ticket.
The peak tourist season in Egypt runs from mid-October to May. This is springtime in Egypt, which means that you’ll avoid the high heat of summer. If you travel in springtime, you should expect tickets to be more expensive.
The ticket price will also drastically increase from economy prices if you choose to book a business or first-class ticket. Finally, you should always try to book in advance of your departure date because waiting often means that you’ll have to pay more for a seat.
On the flip side of spending a lot on your airline ticket, accommodation can be affordable in Egypt if you choose to stay in hostels and are traveling on a backpacker’s budget. Most hostels will only cost a few dollars a night, making it a great option for those looking to save.
Typically including a bunk bed, some places will have AC to make it more comfortable during your stay. Fans are also often provided.
If hostels are not your preference, there are plenty of budget hotel options, however, some nicer hotels only cost a little more.
Luxury hotels and resorts are also available, but be prepared to spend a few hundred dollars per night. This is particularly true for any that come with dining packages. You shouldn’t feel that you have to spend what you can’t afford. There are plenty of nice budget hotels in Egypt that are both safe and clean.
Once you have decided on where to stay, you will also need to stay energized. Food is important for all travelers, but it’s also a way to connect and experience the local culture. Egyptian cuisine is known for using many fruit and vegetables in its dishes with influences from other cultures along the Mediterranean.
Kushari is a spaghetti and rice dish that is packed with onions, vermicelli, lentils, hummus, and garlic that’s topped with tomato sauce. Rozz Me’ammar is a baked rice dish that combines simple grains with milk, butter, and cream for a rich meal.
Mulukhiya is a popular dish throughout Egypt, but each area cooks it differently. In coastal areas, mulukhiya is served with fish, but inland it may be served with rabbit or chicken.
Egypt also has its own version of the falafel, which they call ta’meya. The falafel is often served with a salad and Egyptian bread. Finally, kebabs are also popular and are served with Egyptian bread, tahini, and a salad.
Many travelers are excited to taste Egyptian cuisine, and the good news is that it’s not expensive. Street food is a great budget option, and you can buy dishes like a falafel sandwich for very minimal.
Even if you choose to eat out at a restaurant, local places will still be well-priced. In nicer restaurants or touristy areas, you should expect to spend about more on a meal for two, but don’t worry too much as the bill won’t break the bank.
While many Egyptians refrain from drinking for religious purposes, the country is not dry, meaning tourists are allowed to drink local or imported alcoholic beverages. Very affordable, most drinks can be purchased for a few dollars, though prices will increase in touristy areas.
How to Get Around
While guided tours normally provide or include transportation, you may not always want to book a tour. The most popular options for traveling around Egypt are using the metro, taxi, bus, or train.
Metro and Taxis
In Cairo, the metro is an affordable way to move throughout the city. Taxis are also another cheap option, but only if you find white ones, which are metered. Black taxis, on the other hand, are known for being more expensive and often hassle riders for their fares.
Buses and Trains
The bus in Cairo is another affordable option and costs the same price as the metro. Outside of Cairo, the most used methods of transportation are buses and trains.
Trains can be confusing to use, especially with buying a ticket, but it’s doable. Most train tickets are the fastest way to get between cities, however, sometimes they won’t get you to your final destination. Buses are another option that you could pair with a train ride, especially since longer drives are extremely affordable.
While they make take longer, they can provide you with great views of the area. Finally, walking is a great way to explore cities, but you should take caution to not walk alone and stay in touristy areas. You should also always be aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings close by.
Top Cities to Visit
While Cairo is often the main attraction for tourists, there are plenty of other ancient cities to visit in Egypt. Boasting beaches, temples, and opportunities to enjoy the Nile, each of the locations is worth adding to your itinerary. Here are the top city destinations in Egypt.
Cairo is a city packed with action, and at times it can be overwhelming. Those brave enough to explore these streets are rewarded with grandeur and charm. The stunning architecture hides ancient artifacts, while mosques provide the people with sacred places to worship.
Modern-day Egypt has also filled its skyline with towering skyscrapers and cool cafes. Tahrir Square is one of the most famous spots in the city and a great place to spend the day. In Cairo, you can experience what it means to be Egyptian.
Luxor is unique because it was built on top of the ancient city of Thebes. Today, the modern city pays homage to its past by preserving ancient sites like the Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple as well as holding the famous Valley of the Kings.
Tourists flock to Luxor to explore the ancient valley and view a glimpse of ancient Egyptian burial customs.
Named for Alexander the Great, Alexandria was once the center of cultural importance to the Roman Empire. The famous Library of Alexandria once stood here, and today, the city still houses an amazing collection of books.
Tourists will also enjoy the stunning beach views and portside activities. With vibrant energy, Alexandria has become a major tourist hotspot.
Often called the “Jewel of the Red Sea,” Sharm El-Sheikh is a gorgeous beach resort. With a mountain backdrop and blue water oceanfront, the area is stunning.
Unfortunately, due to political instability and its location within the Sinai Peninsula, it’s become a ghost of its former self. Once bustling, the resort is now less crowded, and hotel rooms can be easily booked. You should know that due to its location, you will only be able to reach the resort town by air.
Resting along the banks of the Nile River, Aswan was once an ancient military base. Now, people flock to the area to relax along the banks of the Nile or take a cruise. The lush green landscape is dotted with rocks and palm trees, which only add to the beauty.
With plenty of freshwater springs, the Siwa Oasis really is a breath of new life in the dry desert. Now, the area is lined with palm and olive trees, which shade the streets. While it’s in a remote location and difficult to reach, the oasis will be your reward.
You can relax in tranquility away from the normal hustle and bustle of the country.
Points of Interest
With plenty of ancient wonders within the historic cities, there are also various points of interest that have become popular among tourists. Whether you want to explore a temple, visit a monastery, or take a cruise, there are plenty of options for visitors. Here are some of the top attractions in Egypt.
Discover the best of Egypt’s thermal springs to add to your itinerary, on our sister site, Top Hot Springs.
Abu Simbel was the great temple of Ramses II, who had towering guards carved into the exterior. On the inside, there are ornate wall paintings. The temple sits in a new location after it was moved by UNESCO to preserve it from being destroyed by the creation of the Aswan Dam.
The temple was moved in 4 years to its now permanent location back in the 1960s.
For a change in scenery, you can explore this strange natural landscape for a fun time. The White Desert is filled with chalk mountains that look otherworldly in their design. With boulders and pinnacles, you can explore this unique area and bask in the beauty of nature.
St. Catherine’s Monastery
St. Catherine’s Monastery sits at the base of Mount Sinai and is close to the place where it’s said that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. For the religiously inclined, many people flock to the monastery to see the burning bush and other religious artifacts.
As one of the oldest monasteries in the world, it’s also significant for our world heritage and worth a visit.
Constructed as a Temple of Osiris, this is a destination that receives significantly fewer visitors than the nearby Luxor. But for travelers who wish to see hieroglyphs up close and avoid the crowds, the Abydos Temple is the place to go.
The Nile River
While the Nile River runs through all of Egypt, it’s famous for its river cruises. What was once the center of importance for Ancient Egypt has become a popular tourist destination as agriculture has changed throughout history. Instead of cultivating crops, the Nile River is home to ancient sites and relics, as well as beautiful scenery.
Grand Egyptian Museum
Those going to Egypt at the end of 2022 will have the chance to visit the brand-new Grand Egyptian Museum. There’s much anticipation about this new installment in Cairo because it will hold the largest collection of Tutankhamun relics in the world.
The museum is also expected to draw in over 5 million visitors annually and have multiple galleries. While still in the process of being opened, hopefully, visitors will be able to see everything it has to offer in the near future.
“The Two Lands”
With endless adventures, Egypt is the place to go for those who wish to explore an ancient civilization that has not been forgotten. While Egypt has remained tied to its ancient culture, the country has also become a modern hotspot.
With plenty of posh resorts and new construction, you can experience the ancient world in the comfort of modern-day amenities.