Around the world, Egypt is mostly known for its ancient pyramids, of which, up to date, 130+ have been discovered. Built as tombs for the pharaohs and their families, these age-old structures are indeed fascinating, but there is so much more to Egypt than long-buried cultures.
The Arab Republic of Egypt links North East Africa with the Middle East, and features natural wonders like the Nile and its fertile region, as well as barren deserts and coastal gems along the Red and Mediterranean seas. With a population of 82 million people, the country has the largest Arabic population in the world, most of which speak both English and Arabic.
This singular combination of natural wonders, cultural treasures and a burgeoning tourism infrastructure makes Egypt one of the travel destinations to watch in 2017.
Ananda, Melicia, Dani and Angus are all tenured members of the Expat Explore team, with Ananda heading up the customer service team. It is their job to help travellers from all over the world make their wildest wanderlust dreams a tangible reality.
Over the course of the last year, each of them joined an Expat Explore Egypt tour with complimentary flights sponsored by the Egyptian State Tourist Office, so they may see the many marvels of the land of the riverbank for themselves. Their travels took them to the best-loved archaeological, historic and cultural treasures in and around the cities of Cairo, Aswan, Luxor, and Hurghada; they came back with plenty of stories and even more enamoured with Egypt’s vast and captivating diversity than ever before.
We’ve asked them about their travel highlights and why they think Egypt should be on everyone’s bucket list. Here is what they had to say.
What were your highlights on tour?
Dani: The art in Egypt left me speechless – the stunning and colossal monuments of Ancient Egypt never fail to astonish. Abu Simbel on day five, the Valley of the Kings on day six, and the Pyramids of Giza were my top highlights. I will also always remember my camel ride in the desert. Moses, my camel, was from Sudan and I was his first ever rider!
Ananda: I’m a huge fan of natural beauty, so snorkelling in the Red Sea is always my absolute favourite thing to do in Egypt. In Hurghada, you get free days on day seven and eight of the Expat Explore tour, which gives you plenty of time to swim, tan and snorkel. You stay in a grand sea resort basically on top of the Red Sea. There is a massive swimming pool and even an ice cream hour at the resort where we stayed. I mean, what more can you ask for?
I also loved the Nile Cruise. It’s a five-star cruise and definitely the most relaxing part of the trip. Guests are treated to three great meals a day and you can spend your time as you see fit. Snacks and entertainment are offered on the deck. You can tan, chill by the pool or just hang around with fellow travellers at the bar. The deck allows for the best scenery and sunsets ever – you won’t believe the lushness of the area around the Nile.
Lastly, I absolutely loved the perfumery we went to on the second day. The ancient Egyptians cherished exotic perfumes, and we got to visit one of the famous perfume trading houses. You get to smell the finest aromatic essences such as myrrh, rose, natural musk and frankincense. Traditional perfumes naturally preserve the benefits of the essential oils it contains, unlike contemporary alcohol-based perfumes that dry out the skin. Remember to budget for this excursion – you can buy handmade perfume for anything from $5 to $10 for 10ml.
Tip! Try the Nubian dinner! The Nubians are one of the oldest civilizations in the world. They invite you into their home and cook you food in their humble way – it’s a real, honest look into their culture. Guests are entertained by dancers, get henna tattoos, and enjoy authentic Nubian fare. If you’re looking for a true cultural experience, this is it!
Now for the million dollar question: Do you think Egypt is safe to visit?
Ananda: Yes. We’re all aware of the political uproar we’ve seen in Egypt and the Middle East in the past, but in general Egypt is a very safe country. Our expert Egyptian tour leader was with us at all times and I’ve never met anyone who knows as much about a specific area’s culture and history. He could answer all my questions and I felt especially safe with him in the vicinity.
Melicia: We had a convoy leading us on all the long rides to destinations and temples like Abu Simbel and Aswan. None of the tourists or people we met along the way were oblivious to the political climate, but none of them were scared either. If anything, they were just happy to have Egypt all to themselves. Tourism in Egypt took a big knock after the widespread unrest in 2011.
Ananda: Egypt is still an amazing travel destination. If you’re worried about your safety, don’t be. I felt as safe in Egypt as I would in London.
Dani: There was not one moment that I felt unsafe. I would live in Egypt if I could.
Angus: Absolutely! The situation is very different now, compared to what it was during the Arab Spring. From speaking to tour guides and operators, I know they feel the country is back to its pre-2011 safety levels – that is to say, there is nothing to worry about. The Tourist Police are a large presence at most of the sites, so you always feel safe and secure. In fact, 2017 is the perfect time to visit Egypt – it’s perfectly safe now, and it’ll be your last chance to visit the Pyramids and Temples in relative peace and quiet, before the masses of tourists return!
What about the Egyptian cuisine?
Melicia: Unless you are from the Middle East, the food is different from what you would find in your home country. Egyptian food is similar to Turkish, Lebanese and Persian cuisine. Bread is one of the Egyptians’ main staple foods and you find it in all shapes and sizes. Bread and pitas are served with delicious Egyptian kebabs, lentil soup and sauce, and always accompanied by an abundance of fruit and vegetables.
On tour, breakfast is included every day, and on the cruise you enjoy three meals a day. There is always a vegetarian option.
Ananda: The best part was exploring street food options – foodies will have plenty to whet the appetite! It’s not expensive (about 80 Egyptian pounds for a meal) and always interesting. My favourite restaurant was the Ezba restaurant where they prepared an amazing barbeque for us – the meat is barbequed right there on the table and served alongside tahini, falafel and baba ganoush – delicious!
Tip! Do not eat street food just anywhere. Trust your tour guide to take you to the best places.
Angus: If you like simple, delicious Middle-Eastern food (grilled meat, pita, tahini, baba ganoush and very very sweet desserts), you’ll like the food you get on tour. We had a vegetarian in our group and they didn’t have any issues.
They say the service in Egypt is out of this world…
Dani: The Egyptians work really hard to please tourists. Aside from the magnificent sites we visited, I can say that everything was well prepared and the attention to detail was insane! The overall hospitality and service of every person we encountered was excellent. The Egyptians are a very friendly nation – they like calling each other ‘Habibi’, which means ‘sweetie’ or ‘my darling’ in Arabic.
credit: Joel Carillet/iStock
Melicia: Everything always happened on time and took place exactly as it was stated on the itinerary. I’ve been on other tours and on boat cruises, but the time in Egypt proved to be of the best service experiences I’ve ever had.
Something that I will always remember: I lost/misplaced my sunglasses somewhere in Aswan. The following evening in Luxor, our tour guide handed me my glasses. He somehow tracked it down and had it delivered to us 200km from where I left them. I never expected to see my favorite sunnies again and I’ve no idea how he found them!
Angus: The locals we encountered were some of the friendliest I have experienced during my travels. The tourist industry is vital for the Egyptian economy, and for local jobs, and everybody we met was super friendly and helpful. They are so delighted to see that tourists are starting to return to their country, and they certainly made us feel welcome!
General Travel Tips (Surviving Egypt)
As for the climate, Egypt has two main seasons – a mild winter from November to April, and a hot summer from May to October. The time of the year you visit is by far the most important thing to consider – because Egypt gets HOT! Depending on where you’re from, you may be accustomed to temperatures of 40°C+, but the ideal months to visit are from November to March, when the average high is below 35°C and much more comfortable.
Remember the following essentials:
● Comfortable walking shoes. You walk a lot, and the terrain at most sites is uneven and rough-cut.
● High factor sunblock & a hat. The sun is potent and you need to cover up on outside excursions
● Scarf or shawl. Your shoulders should be covered when you enter a mosque.
● Toilet roll. Public toilets cost money and they rarely dole out enough toilet paper.
● Loose-fitting clothes. Stay cool by wearing loose-fitting items in natural fibres that allow your skin to breathe.
● Anti-mosquito spray & hand sanitizer. To keep those pesky mozzies at bay and keep your hands nice and fresh as you go about your day. Useful travel phrases: Thank you – Shukraan Hello – Ahlaan Let’s go – Yalla Things to consider before you booking your trip: Applying for your Visa. The best option is to simply buy your visa stamp upon arrival. If you insist on paying in Egyptian dollars it’s a problem – they prefer American dollars or pounds, both of which are widely accepted the best option for travellers.
● Abu Simbel
● Kom-Ombo and Edfu Temples
● Valley of the Kings
● Pyramids & Sphinx of Giza
● The Red Sea
● Capital Cairo
Items that are not included in your Expat Explore Egypt tour
● Flights to Egypt from your home country
● Entrance fees
You are welcome to put in a call to any one of these four Expat Explore consultants to learn more about their Egypt experience. Go to the Contact Us page and ask for them by name!
Explore Egypt with us! Expat Explore offers exciting Egyptian Coach Packages to Egypt. Tours start and end in Cairo and all tours are guaranteed to depart. Our guests stay in 4-star hotels and each tour includes a 5-star cruise.
Check out this video showcase of our Egypt trips –