New York City
Aswan – go to the famous Island and explore it without a guide, just wander a lot. talk to people who speak english, butknow they may want donations/tips/and to guide you, so be polite and make your own decision about that.
Cairo – Wander through the famous Khan Al-Khalili shopping area, get tea and/or smok sheesha (flavored tobacco) at Fishawi’s Coffeehouse.
Don’t miss the pyramids, too, of course either with a driver or on a tour (with driver you can spend as much/little time as you want and see more, stop at roadside fruit stands, etc.)
Luxor – KARNAK AT SUNRISE get yourself up way early and beat some of the crowds, the heat… better photography, better weather!
Luxor animal market – awesome!
please check out my travelogue with photographs and more recommendations here:
Thanks for your suggestions! Your blog looks great…did you blog from Egypt? I am thinking about doing this….
A Nile cruise is an awesome way to see Upper (south) Egypt. I recommend getting up early in the morning to start your sightseeing. Most places open early (i.e. 7 a.m.) so if you get there when they open, you can beat the tour buses. When I was at the Temple of Luxor, my friend and I had the whole place to ourselves! The Valley of the Kings and Queens is definitely a must see. You can buy a ticket to see several tombs. If there’s one open for limited viewing, pick one of those. The Temple of Hapshesut is over there as well; you should see that. Near Aswan, you have to go see Abu Simbal. Try to research the history of it before you go. In a nutshell, when they built the Aswan dam, it flooded Upper Egypt. The Smithsonian literally cut Abu Simbal into huge chunks and moved it uphill so it wouldn’t be flooded. It is truly amazing. While you’re in Egypt, be sure to always stay with your boyfriend. For your safety, and so you don’t get harassed, tell people he is your husband. It seriously makes a huge difference. It’s also not a bad idea to not say that you are American. You can never be too safe anymore and you definitely don’t want to be target.
I hope I haven’t scared you. Seriously, Egypt is a safe country; you just have to be smart. Stick together, hide your cash, ignore pleas for ‘baksheesh’ (it literally means ‘bribe’), and always bargain for something before you buy. It’s part of their culture and it seems like Egyptians like it. You may want to take some things to share with kids in the rural areas (pencils with sharpeners, candy, etc.). The people in Egypt are amazing. You are going to have a great time!
See and take in as much as you can! In Cairo see the pyramids of course, concentrating on the Great Pyramid, also visit the market and the Egyptian Museum. If possible take in Saqqara.
Aswan is beautiful – take a ride in a felucca, visit a Nubian Village, just be on the water. If you get time, visit Abu Simbel. Make sure you see Philae.
Luxor just see as much as you can take in, on both banks of the Nile. Karnak is a must, plus of course the Valley of the Kings, Queen Hapsepthut’s Tomb etc etc.
Wish I was going with you…
a few more ideas:
- a felucca (boat-ride) along the Nile, if you take it from opposite the Meridien in downtown, or in Maadi it would cost about 40LE per hour. Bargain it!! They will ask for more.
- Coptic Cairo (where there’s also the Ben Ezra synagogue and many many churches).
- Islamic Cairo:
- a visit to the Khan el Khalili (tourist) bazaar, where they also have Sufi dancing I believe on Mondays and Tuesdays.
- Azhar Park and the Citadel
For local flavour, try Kushari Tahrir (famous eatery for the local dish Kushari, but might not be good for sensitive stomach).
The Egyptian museum in Cairo is worth a visit even though some of the artifacts are handled way too carelessly, but if you want to see a museum where they take really good care of the things on display go to the archaelogical museum in Aswan (I don’t remember the name, sorry). Everything is set up really nicely, it’s quiet and it’s a good escape from the smothering heat down south in the afternoon.
Other than that, most of the things I’d want to say have already been said above. Make sure when you go to the valley of the kings you also visit the wonderful sites around the valley: the temple of Hatshepsut and the worker’s tombs i.e.
Others have covered plenty of interesting places. The one thing I’d like to stress on is to visit the Egyptian Museum at the very end. You can appreciate it much more after visiting Luxor, Aswan and the other sites.
And if you have the time, check out the beach resort of Sharm El Sheikh in the Sinai peninsula. It’s fantastic!
Well that’s a great idea !
Beware that the heat during this season is a factor not to be neglected during your visits
Doing the valley of the kings and other outdoor archeological visits should be carefully planned to avoid midday
I really enjoyed the Nile Cruise, even though it felt bad sometimes to ride on a flashy blinking de luxe boat and dock on a little poor village with people looking at you as a pack of dollars …
Dress casually, avoid too revealing clothing as you will attract men like flies (even if accompanied by your boyfriend)
Keep in mind that average salary is very low and that you should never display cash or very expensive equipment
Keep also in mind that bargaining is a must ! You cannot just pop in and say how much and buy things …
Most of the times prices are never indicated and they are calculated on the looks of the customer
I had once the case that in a small shop in Luxor i wanted to buy a Djellaba (kind of full body dress for men and women white or colored even ornamented some times with beads) and the price he told me was so outrageous that i just left the shop … he run after me on the street and almost fought me back in the shop even if I told him I had no intention of buying from him …
The rule in bargaining
you start from 10% of the price they say to end up at 30%
And that is because you are a tourist!
Great fun is Khan al Khalil market in Cairo especially at night … the face of this market changes after 22h00 … tourists are gone !
You have to take the shisha (water pipe) at the famous Al Fishawi cafe in the same market
When staying in Cairo chose carefully your hotels the difference between a 5 star and 4 star can be enormous (where 4 start can look like a 2 star to you)
Bakshish is a word you will remember comming back …
You first encounter it at the airport you arrive in Cairo if you need to use the WC. There will be more than one queuing up once you are done to get a tip (they prefer of course Euros or Dollars) just because they oppened the door or passed you the toilet paper …
The first thing to do is change your money in local currency (Egyptian Pound) and make sure you get as many as possible coins and small change … you will be giving these away during most of your trip (even taking a picture of an old man can cost you)
You need to take it as it comes on that issue … the equivalent of the US / Euro money you will spend is very little … so dont worry about tips
You can of course refuse ridiculous demands (like tips from boys opening the door of the WC for you…)
If you have not planned for a certified guide to visit the sites, you can rely on Lonely planet or Rough guide for the basics
It would be a good idea to take some charcoal pills just in case for food poisoning. Never drink tap water.
You are going to have a great time I am sure !!
I was most awed by Karnak temple itself. We did the Globus tour so we hit the not-to-miss things by default. :) Cairo — the museum if fantastic. You could spend multiple days there or fit it all into one afternoon, but just seeing a little of it is well worth it. The market was good but just be aware of your surroundings — we stopped in this fantastic little cafe and had Turkish Coffee & I got shoes shined by a nice gentleman. A very very fond memory. The Muhammad Ali Mosque was amazing to behold.
If you take pictures of kids expect to pay bakshish (basically tips) :) And expect to pay tips for basically everything. :)
Don’t miss seeing the pyramids and Sphinx but please please please say only the word “no” to the camel drivers — no pictures, nothing. Despite warnings we fell into that trap. Makes a good story now but they were acting like they were going to take us off into the desert if we didn’t tip them more :)
Pyramids are a good place to start. It gets better from there, I thought.
If you’re up for it, try taking the climb down into the pyramid. Hot, but amazing. Valley of the kings was great especially the walk into one of the tombs. Well, well worth it to see that.
Aswan — I was most amazed by the Nubian village they took us to. Take a feluka ride if you can get something arranged maybe thru your concierge. But there are other spots there well worth seeing too (others have no doubt mentioned them).
You will find a lot of folks wanting to sell you stuff. If you don’t want it just say “no” and nothing else. There’s no maybe. Don’t offer anything unless you will buy it and know the price you’ll pay ahead of time. If you want a bargain say no once or twice, then offer a price that is much less than they originally tell you and work up from there. It is kind of fun to haggle and I suspect they think we’re idiots if we don’t :) Then when you come back, try buying a car and you’ll find you’re a lot better at it. :) :)
All the Egpytians I met in shops, museums, on tour were great people, friendly, kind, generous, and hospitable. I felt safe and welcome in almost every place we went (except on the camel at the pyramids…) :)
Hope this helps!
Those are the same places that I visited with my family. I was younger and don’t remember the names of the things to tell you, but do definitely go on a camel ride at the Giza pyramids!
Some Dos and Don’ts, in my experience:
Do NOT dress like an american. You will at least be harassed verbally, if not physically- and there’s really not a damn thing you can do about it… so just avoid it. I THOUGHT that I dressed conservatively… not enough I guess because I got more than a few offers to my mother to buy me off her for camels! (They were being serious!) I was only 15 and I got my breast grabbed at least one time which really freaked me out. The only thing “sexy” that I could think of was my elbows showing (and I wore a 3/4 length shirt so they didn’t even show much, just cover up)! I tried not to make eye contact, and said “Laa, shocran” (However you spell “NO thank you”) to anyone that approached me. Also, they have a different idea of personal space, which took a while to get used to.
Wear a money belt. There are kids trained to pick-pocket. They might look innocent, but just be really careful. Keep your passport and other valuables VERY close to you, under your clothing. Don’t let any kid hug you or touch you in any way.
Bargain as much as possible, anywhere. Nothing is the price someone says. You probably already know that… but really they will go MUCH cheaper than you think.
Overall, have fun. You will probably have MUCH less trouble than my mother and I did, we had no adult male, just my younger brother- whom all bills and speaking were directed. Be prepared to be your husbands “property”. My brother was 13 and yet it was clear from how we were treated that he was in charge and we were “his women”
Another thing- any Arabic you can learn will impress the locals. They appreciate when you take an effort to communicate in their language- we got some tapes from the library that were pretty helpful.
**Tip well and you will find that you have instant, very helpful friends. ;)
(they are like $1 or $2 at Walmart and will be your life saver!! bring more than one if you can!)
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