With the world opening back up and various countries reducing their COVID-19 travel restrictions, many people are planning their much-needed vacations for the summer. Whether you are one of them, or you’re opting to wait until next summer, here’s why Egypt should be your next destination.
Although the official language of Egypt is Arabic, the country is considered bilingual in English as well. Throughout the country, Arabic is translated to English everywhere you look, from street signs to storefronts and restaurant menus to price tags. This makes the country very accessible to English-speakers, both Egyptian expats and tourists alike. Additionally, you can request an English-speaking employee to speak to at almost any establishment. Even if one is unavailable, chances are a fellow customer or client will have at least a basic-level understanding of English and will be more than willing to help you out. That’s the thing about the Egyptian people — they’re always ready to offer a helping hand.
Shop ‘til You Drop
A staple of a good vacation spot is a lively shopping scene. Egypt is home to tons of malls, markets (also known as souqs in Arabic), shopping centers and small businesses on every street. Perhaps you’d like to shop the many designer and luxury brands found in the Cairo Festival City Mall before enjoying a fine dining experience at one of the many restaurants surrounding the Dancing Fountain. Or maybe you’d rather get a more culturally exclusive experience, roaming Darb Al-Barabra for delicious sweets and candies, delicate handmade jewelry and intricate, handsewn scarves and fabrics.
You may pass through Khan el-Khalili, where you can pick up beautiful souvenirs and unique gifts to take back home, as well as hundreds of aromatic spices and perfumes to choose from. Located at the heart of Islamic Cairo, Khan El-Khalili is one of the oldest flea markets in Egypt. It houses dozens of shops that sell everything from antique relics to handcrafted cultural clothing to authentic, high-quality silver jewelry. If you’re into thrifting, be sure to visit Wekalet El Balah Market, where you’ll find vintage clothes, bags, shoes and delicately crafted fabrics. In Souq El-Ataba, the extremely cheap prices and hidden gems will be well worth navigating the maze of vendors and crowds of shoppers. Additionally, while roaming through the residential streets of Cairo and its surrounding areas, such as El Mansoura and Sixth of October City, you’ll notice the hordes of shops crowding the sides of the roads, along with their flashy signs and fun window displays.
You may be worried that all this opportunity for shopping will leave you penniless by the end of the trip. Fear not: Visiting Egypt is actually quite affordable for the average American tourist. One U.S. dollar converts to roughly 15.68 Egyptian pounds. Round that up to 20 for easier calculation, and you’ll realize that 100 EGP is only a little over 5 USD! Just be sure not to abuse this privilege; don’t be too cheap when bargaining with vendors and try to repay the locals’ kindness with generous tips to match their exemplary service.
It’s not a vacation without a beach, and Egypt definitely delivers. Despite its dry, hot desert climate, the region is surrounded by water, with the Red Sea on its East coast and the Mediterranean Sea to its north. Of course, there is also the Nile River, which runs through the middle of the country, and the Gulf of Suez, which separates the main part of Egypt from its territory in the Sinai Peninsula. Because of its aquatic surroundings, Egypt is home to dozens of beaches and resorts, making it the ultimate summer vacation spot. You can go scuba diving in the Red Sea at Hurghada, where you’ll swim with hundreds of colorful fish surrounded by deep blue water and beautiful coral reefs. In the Siwa Oasis, the waters are so salty that you can float on your back and enjoy the warm temperatures and amazing scenery. If you want to jet ski, visit Ain el-Sokhna, where you can also go paragliding and explore the sea in a submarine. For a more refined experience, visit the North Coast, also known as El Sahel el-Shamaly, which is filled with dozens of resorts to choose from, including Porto Marina and Granada Beach Resort.
Also by the Mediterranean Sea, the city of Alexandria is home to some of the best seafood the country has to offer. After a long day of sightseeing and beach-going, one can enjoy a refreshing seafood meal at one of the many restaurants overlooking the sea. Near the Sinai Peninsula lies the gorgeous Dahab, whose crystal-clear waters, gorgeous colorful buildings and dozens of aquatic activities make the 10-hour bus ride from Cairo well worth it. Even though Egypt is very hot in the mornings, the breeze from the many bodies of water makes for a very relaxing, calm evening.
Wonders of the Ancient Egyptian World
The Great Pyramids of Giza aren’t the only ancient Egyptian marvel you’ll find in Egypt. While you’re there, hop on a camel for an unforgettable experience, stop by the Sphinx for amazing pictures and venture into the tight, dark corridors of the pyramids — if you’re up to it. Afterward, you can dine at one of the many restaurants nearby, taking in the incredible view of the pyramids at sunset. To further explore the amazing talents of the ancient Egyptians, take a cruise down the Nile River to Luxor and Aswan to see the Abu Simbel, Karnak and Horus temples. On this trip, you’ll surely stand in awe as you take in the Valley of the Kings and the Tombs of the Nobles. You can also visit Queen Hatshepsut’s temple at the Temple of Dier al-Bahri, as well as the Valley of the Queens, Dier el-Madina and Madinat Habu. Many of these attractions are well-preserved and out-of-the-way, making it a worthwhile experience to observe the amazing work of the ancient Egyptians.
For a more guided experience in learning about Egypt’s history, visit some of the many museums here. The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, also known as the Egyptian Museum, is home to the largest collection of Pharaonic artifacts and relics in the world. There you’ll find hundreds of examples of what life was like in ancient Egypt, along with the statues of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, the kings for whom the Great Pyramids of Giza were built for.
While the Egyptian Museum is the largest in the country, there are dozens of other smaller museums with other valuable antiques to observe and learn from: See the Manial Palace Museum, the Museum of Islamic Art, the Coptic Museum, the Royal Jewelry Museum, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization and more. Perhaps the most intriguing of the bunch is the Mummification Museum, where you can learn the details of how the intellectual masterminds that once lived in Egypt preserved bodies for hundreds of years. The plethora of museums and ancient sites in Egypt are sure to dazzle anyone, history buff or not.
With an abundance of affordable shopping opportunities, dozens of glamorous beaches to enjoy and a rich ancient history, a visit to Egypt is a vacation like no other. Despite its portrayal in Western media as a simple desert with not much else but the Great Pyramids, it is clear that Egypt is the place to be for the summer and many more to come.