Egypt Itinerary - in the Land of the Pharaohs

With this Egypt itinerary, you can plan the best trip to the Land of the Pharaohs and discover the best that this country has to offer.

Table of Contents

Planning an Egypt itinerary is no easy task. The country has a lot to get to know, there is a lot of cultural and historical diversity. You have to take into account all the logistics, travel time, distances from one place to others and especially what you personally want from the trip.

In any case, the land of the pharaohs is passionate and deserves to be visited at least once in a lifetime. Here we unveil the entire itinerary for this mysterious country, which leaves us wanting to return every time we watch one of the many documentaries on television.

When to visit Egypt?

Egypt is a country that can be visited practically all year round. However, take into account the seasons and periods of intense heat.

The best time to visit the country is between October and March, the temperatures are milder.

Summer, between June and August, is usually extremely hot and of course, Christmas and Easter are popular times so prices will be inflated.

We chose late September, early October to visit because of the temperatures. It was quite pleasant and even in the desert, we didn't feel that intense heat, at night we needed a sweater.

Travelling to Egypt in Covid-19 times?

We already know that traveling these days requires us to research some information beforehand especially because of the pandemic situation.

So, I contacted the Egyptian embassy in Lisbon to find out what the procedures are. I remind you that our trip was in October 2021, however, and as this is continually changing, it is always worth checking with official entities.

To enter Egypt from Europe we only need:

  • Valid passport (to be stamped on entry into the country)
  • entry declaration (works like the Passenger Locator Form in Europe)

At the time of our entry and as we had a valid vaccination certificate we did not need a test. It is also important to check if the flight is not direct what restrictions are in place for the country you are going to. Our flights were not direct, we flew there to Italy and they were individual flights, meaning we had to enter Italy and from there we went on to Egypt.

To return we bought the Turkish airlines flight as a whole, in other words, our flight was Cairo-Porto (with a stopover in Istanbul). In Turkey, we did not leave international space, which means that in this case, the rules applied to entering Portugal were as if we had come straight from Cairo.

Everything we are reporting here is really very important, don't just rely on everything that is written, because every case is a case. We use the IATA website to check the restrictions. However, always confirm with official sources, preferably in writing so you always have proof, we had emails exchanged with embassies. We saw some passengers falling by the wayside as they were unaware of the key documents.

Hurghada

Our entry point into Egypt was Hurghada. The town is very touristy, mainly sought after for those going to do Red Sea activities.

Our goal here was just that, so we set aside two days to do two tours in the red sea.

After doing a lot of research on the subject, we did the tours with MTO Egypt. They are very experienced in this area and have a great selection of activities to do in Hurghada. It's great because it pretty much covers every type of audience, from couples to single people looking for more extreme activities, for example. You can book with them through the website or for fast booking possibility on WhatsApp number (+2 011 005 98 980). 

MTO booking banners

In addition, they were also very kind to help us with the whole activity choice process, which honestly we were very undecided about.

Exploring the Red Sea

Any self-respecting tour of Egypt must include a visit to the Red Sea. After all, the country is so diverse, it doesn't live on history alone and the proof of this is the plethora of tourists we encounter in Hurghada.

Our tour day started with the driver taking us to the embarkation pier to cross the red sea. Along with us were several tourists, of various nationalities. Once at the pier, we were assigned to 3 different boats.

These boats have nothing to do with the small longtail boats from Thailand or the bangka boats from the Philippines. They are quite big and spacious, with all this pandemic situation, the number of people on each had to be halved.

The Red Sea is famous for its diversity of marine life, which includes over 1000 species of invertebrates and around 200 different species of coral. A veritable paradise for those who enjoy snorkelling and diving.

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At our first snorkelling stop, we confess we were a little disappointed with the place, as they didn't have that much coral or fish. Then we continued on our way, and the goal was to be able to spot a group of dolphins. To our misfortune, it was only possible to see a lone dolphin, which swam along with the boat for a few minutes.

At the last snorkelling point, we had better luck and the coral was much more amazing. Lunch was served on the boat and water activities followed afterward.

Back at the embarkation pier, we didn't like the way the boat staff forced the tip. We had already come prepared and knew that in Egypt they ask tips for anything and everything but, sadly it was over the top.

They passed a box between all the tourists and waited for each of us to put in the well-said tip. This is definitely no way to do things. If we like the service we are sure to give some compensation. Note that this has nothing to do with the company we bought the tour from, as the service is outsourced to staff who own boats.

Abu Dabbab

The day spent in Abu Dabbab was our favourite in Hurghada. Early in the morning, the driver who was to take us was waiting outside the hotel. The day was spent with a Belarusian girl who was travelling alone and it was her first time in Egypt.

Abu Dabbab is considered a nature reserve, it is located in Marsa Alam, which is apparently excellent for snorkelling and diving.

We were looking for much more intact coral, as Abu Dabbad is known for its coral and colourful fish. Here you can also swim with friendly turtles and if we are lucky, dugongs.

We wanted to try our luck since in the Philippines we couldn't swim with dugongs. But, you have to keep in mind that they often just don't show up and we can't blame anyone for that. That's just the way nature is. So, we are grateful whenever we are able to see an animal in its natural habitat.

From Hurghada to Abu Dabbab it's a painful 3h30, desert roads are like that, it always takes a long time to get anywhere. We still took a break to stretch our legs and refuel the vehicle. Our driver kindly offered us breakfast.

When we got to Abu Dabbab we didn't want to waste any more time so we got some sunbeds, put our stuff down, and went snorkelling.

The water world always surprises us and this time it was on the positive side. The coral is genuinely more intact and you can see a whole swathe of colour. Fish of different sizes and colours inhabit the coral, this is their home after all, and we even saw turtles.

However we cannot leave aside this feeling of sadness, because at the rate our world is going, corals like this will not survive that long.

With global warming, there have been so-called 'bleaching' of coral.

'Bleaching'

When corals are stressed by changes, such as increased temperature, brightness or even nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues which causes them to turn completely white.

So, the coral that you see white and even find beautiful is actually coral that is already dead. It's important to understand well what's going on, there's on Netflix a very good documentary called 'Chasing Coral' that explains all this very well.

Despite everything, I read somewhere that in 2020 a type of heat-resistant coral was discovered in the Red Sea. Perhaps this is hope for the world's corals.

To complete our day in Abu Dabbab, on our way back to the hotel we went to a typical Egyptian restaurant for lunch/dinner. This turned out to be a terrific experience as we were with someone local and were explained the various dishes and habits at the Egyptian table.

Restaurants in Hurghada:

  • El Darak
  • Starfish Seafood Restaurant
  • GAD

We were advised by our Uber driver, as we said we wanted to go and eat where the locals go.

Luxor

We arrived in Luxor from Hurghada. The bus trip was in charge of the Go Bus, which holds other routes in Egypt.

To Luxor, it is almost 5 hours on a bus on roads through the desert. Traveling in Egypt is time-consuming. The bus was air-conditioned and the seats were comfortable.

Most local people don't wear masks and some foreigners don't either but, we chose to keep ours on inside the bus.

As for the tickets, the purchase process can be done online or on the day of departure at the station, the price is the same. For two people we pay about 15€.

In Luxor, we chose to stay at the Nefertiti Hotel. The hotel is very well located, with views over Luxor temple, the avenue of Sphinxes, the Nile river, and the Valley of the Kings.

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This really is the best accommodation to stay in, good price, the room is small but, with all the essentials, comfortable bed, air conditioning, and they even left us fruit. On arrival, they offered a welcome drink in their rooftop restaurant.

The restaurant is equally fantastic, around 100 years old, it's a family business passed down from generation to generation.

The food is traditional, homemade, freshly made and the produce comes from local producers. On the days of our stay in Luxor, we had all our meals here.

The hotel staff was friendly, they treated us like family and always tried to help us with anything we needed, including with some of our tours.

Still, in Portugal, we contacted several agencies based in Egypt for some tours. Most of them, however, did not seem to understand what we wanted, rather they were trying to sell us pre-defined packs or even had some reluctance to help the itineraries to our need.

We then contacted Magic Carpet Travel, through Nefertiti hotel. Mohamed was spectacular, more than just selling something, he wanted everything to be as we envisioned it. We explained what we wanted and sent the itinerary already defined, to which he practically took care of everything. It was the only agency we contacted that really listened to us and for that we are grateful and we really recommend it.

We leave here Mohamed's WhatsApp contact (+201068642001) in case you need it. 

Temples of Luxor

On the day of our arrival in Luxor, we didn't want to waste any time and went exploring straight away. The Nefertiti hotel offers to pick up from the bus station.

And just as well, because as soon as we got off the bus it looked like the 'jungle', it was just drivers trying to get us to go with them. As soon as we got to the hotel, we checked in and at the last minute, we went to the temple of Karnak.

For 3€ (one way) at our request at reception, a hotel driver took us to the temple. Karnak is majestic, perhaps the element that best distinguishes it is the huge columns, some with well-preserved hieroglyphics.

It is one of the largest temples in Egypt and the restoration work lasts to this day. Currently, it is one of the temples that receives more tourists and for that reason when we visited, it was full.

When we left Karnak we had multiple horse-drawn carriages waiting. The drivers station themselves at the entrance to the temple so that those leaving are almost 'forced' to the ride.

We declined and walked to the temple in Luxor. It was one of the best decisions. First, because we don't agree with this kind of activity, and we said so several times to the person who was trying to sell us the tour. Second, because the main avenue is flat and by the river at sunset is wonderful. If we hadn't walked we would never have had this experience.

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When you arrive at the temple of Luxor, it is definitely worth a visit. It may not be as grand as Karnak but it is of great importance, as it is one of the few monuments in the world that contains documents from the Pharaonic, Greco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic eras. It has passed through several historical eras and civilizations and has been used for political and religious purposes.

Admission costs 160 EGP (about 8€) and can be visited until 9 pm.

Dendera

In our Egypt itinerary, we knew that we almost mandatorily had to include Dendera. Usually, when you visit Dendera you also add Abydos. However, as travel is time-consuming we couldn't put the two together.

The drive takes almost 2h and we went very early, this way we avoided the organized tours and had the whole complex almost on our own.

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The entrance to Dendera costs 120 EGP (about 6,50€) and is worth every penny spent. It is one of the best-preserved temple complexes in Egypt, the detail is incredible and you can still see plenty of colour along the walls, columns, and ceiling of the temple.

In Dendera, there is the so-called Mammisi, or small chapel situated next to a larger time. The name is not of Egyptian origin but rather Coptic.

The temple of Dendera is also known for its 'lamp'. In one of the reliefs you see men holding something that appears to be an electric lamp, several details are perceptible such as a kind of conductor wire and a connecting cable.

At another site in the complex, a relief of the circular zodiac carved into the ceiling was discovered. The original was removed during Napoleon's invasion and is in France, and a replica currently remains.

Dendera is a place full of history and mystery, it was, without doubt, one of the temples we liked the most, I'm glad we decided to include it in our Egypt tour.

Valley of Kings

After Dendera, we continued our tour of Egypt passing the Colossi of Memnon. The two statues displayed here represent the pharaoh Amenhotep III and would have been the guardians of the funerary temple. Unfortunately, the temple was destroyed due to the flooding of the Nile

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A little further on we are in the Valley of the Kings. Here were built the tombs for the pharaohs and powerful nobles of Egypt. The area is still the focus of Egyptological explorations and is currently home to 63 tombs of various sizes.

Entrance to the Valley of the Kings costs 240 EGP (about 13€), giving the opportunity to visit 3 tombs out of 8:

  • KV1 - Ramesses VII
  • KV2 - Ramesses IV
  • KV6 - Ramesses IX
  • KV8 - Merenptah
  • KV11 - Ramesses III
  • KV14 - Tausert-Setnakht
  • KV15 - Seti II
  • KV47 - Siptah

At the entrance, we have to buy the tram ticket, 4 EGP (about 0,25€) that will take us to the tombs.

In addition to these tombs included in the entrance ticket, we can visit others at an additional cost, these are:

  • KV9 - Ramesses V & VI - 100 EGP (about 5€)
  • KV17 - Seti I - 1000 EGP (about 55€)
  • KV62 - Tutankhamun - 300 EGP (about 16€)

It's quite a difficult choice, so research well. In our personal opinion, we think Tutankhamun's tomb, and because it is the most popular, is overrated. Whereas the tomb of Ramesses V & VI is well worth the extra money, as the detail is fantastic.

Hatshepsut

We couldn't miss one of the most unusual Egyptian temples, the Temple of Hatshepsut. The entrance fee is EGP 140 (about 8€).

She who was the second female pharaoh played a very important role in her time, she reigned for about 22 years, in an era of peace and economic prosperity. She left a legacy of historical traces to this day. 

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To our great regret, we did not have time to further explore the Valley of Queens and visit what is said to be one of the most incredible tombs, that of Queen Nefertari.

The entrance is expensive, it is 1400 EGP (about 77€), the rules are always changing so research before you go. The tomb has been restored for over 20 years and was closed to the public, today you can visit but only for a certain period of time and with a limit on the number of visitors.

We also advise you to always check the rules for photography at all visiting sites in Egypt. In most tombs and temples you need to pay an extra fee for camera photography, but mobile phone photography is generally allowed with your entry ticket.

Edfu, Kom Ombo

After exploring Luxor, it was time to follow our route through Egypt, heading south. The goal was to get to Aswan but during the trip, we still got to see Edfu and Komb Ombo.

Edfu also nicknamed the temple of Horus, is still very well preserved. However, some of its reliefs and religious images were destroyed when image worship was banned.

Remember that this temple was buried in the sand for many, many years. At the entrance, there are two statues of Horus in his falcon form. Already inside we can see a sacred boat.

Like other temples, at Edfu there is a 'Nilometer', this was connected to the River Nile to measure flood levels. All this is to determine how much land would be bearable and to define what taxes would be levied. The entrance fee is 180 EGP (about 9€)

A little further down towards Aswan, we arrive at Kom Ombo. It is the only double temple in the country, meaning it is dedicated to two gods. On the west side, the temple honours Horus and on the east side, the tribute is to the crocodile god, Sobek.

It has two entrances, connected to a hall divided by columns with illustrations of the two gods on each side.

Admission to Kom Ombo is 140 EGP (about 8€) and we can also visit the small adjacent museum where crocodile mummies found on site are displayed.

Aswan

Aswan is a breath of fresh air, situated on the banks of the Nile River the city is known for its red granite, quartz and diorites which are in several Egyptian temples.

On the outskirts of the city, there are several monuments that can be visited. As well as Elephantine Island, where the big hotel chains are also located.

On our quick passage through Aswan what we did was visit the so-called highlights, the great Aswan Dam, the temple of Philae, the unfinished obelisk, and the Nubia village.

Great Aswan Dam

The dam is not far from the center of Aswan and to enter you have to pay 80 EGP (about 4.50€). Let's be honest, visually it's just another dam, what's most impressive about it is the fact that it creates one of the largest artificial lakes in the world, Lake Nasser, which is practically all the way to Sudan.

Side the dam is a monument dubbed the 'Lotus Flower', which celebrates the cooperation between Egypt and Russia (then USSR) in the construction of the dam.

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The great Aswan Dam was very important work and still is today, for it put an end to the flooding of the Nile and changed agriculture.

With the construction of the great Aswan Dam, several archaeological monuments were to be submerged. After UNESCO's intervention they were recovered and repositioned, as was the case with the temples of Abu Simbel.

Unfinished Obelisk

The unfinished obelisk area has little to visit other than just that, an obelisk. If it had been finished this obelisk would be the largest in Egypt, at around 41 metres.

It ended up never leaving the spot where it is due to a defect in the granite. In any case, it is formidable how they were able to move something like this obelisk, without any recourse to modern machinery like we have today.

The entrance is 80 EGP (about 4.50€).

Philae Temple

The Philae Temple is one of those places to imperiously include in your Egypt tour. It is truly amazing.

Its prime location so dictates, positioned on the small island of Agilika, it is also known as the temple of Isis, once being one of the goddess's places of worship.

To reach the temple you need to negotiate a boat, although the tour packages already include. The boat ride to the site is 5/10 minutes but, the surrounding landscape is fantastic. The entrance fee is 180 EGP (about 9€).

The temple of Philae was carefully relocated to its current site so that it would not be submerged by the construction of the dam.

Legend of Isis and Osiris

Isis and Osiris, who we can see in many of the illustrations in the temple of Philae, lived one of the most beautiful and tragic love stories.

According to legend, Set brother of Osiris signed him out of jealousy after the latter inherited his father's kingdom. Set devised a plan to kill his brother and take all his power. While Osiris slept, Set took his measurements and had a sarcophagus built.

He then organised a feast and issued a challenge: that whoever could settle in the sarcophagus would win it as a gift. Many tried and failed, for this one was contrived for Osiris, and as soon as he entered Set immediately closed the sarcophagus and threw it into the Nile, killing his brother.

Isis grieved at the loss of her husband, searched everywhere for him, retrieved the sarcophagus and hid it from Set, who once again discovered everything and quartered Osiris' body into 14 parts burying them in different places in Egypt.

Eventually, Isis eventually got back almost all of Osiris' remains except his genital organ. Because of her powers, Isis would eventually bear Osiris a son, Horus.

Isis buried Osiris' heart on the island of Bigeh, which she frequented assiduously and at a nearby location on the island of Philae a temple was erected to pay homage to Isis and the two loved ones stayed together eternally.

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The Philae Temple is loaded with this symbolism, telling on each wall detail of the love story of Isis and Osiris. It is impossible to remain indifferent to so much history and romance of the place.

Nile Sunset Cruise and Nubian Village

We couldn't plan our Egypt itinerary without including a tour of what is the country's ex-libris, the Nile River. In fact, most tourists include a cruise past several locations.

However, we prefer a short boat ride that takes us to Nubian village.

The traditional thing would be to do the tour in a felucca. Which is namely the traditional Egyptian boat, made of wood and uses a sail. However, the tour was done on another boat since the Nubian village was still far from where we were.

We opted to go at sunset and it turned out to be a great choice. We even venture to say it was more worth the boat ride than the Nubian village itself.

The colours were sensational, contrasting with the calmness of the Nile, although the jostling of tourists on the boats made a difference.

The Nile divides Aswan into two banks and also into small islands. From our boat, we can contemplate some sites such as the mausoleum of Aga Khan, the monastery of St. Simeon, and Elephantine Island.

The Nubian people are among the oldest in Africa, they live on this bank of the Nile in small villages.

As soon as we moored the boat at the entrance to Nubian village the harassment of tourists to buy something began. We were a little disappointed with the whole atmosphere in the village, we were expecting something more genuine, more traditional and in fact, it seemed all set up for tourists.

Our guide and friend Mansour told us that 10/20 years ago it was nothing like that. He remembers going to Nubian village, there were few tourists around, the people were friendly, they had their businesses and cared little for tourists. In fact, they liked to show their culture, their traditions.

Today that seems a bit lost, the fact that mass tourism has arrived here has led to many of the people who have stalls here to sell items not even being nubians. It is indeed a sad thing that tourism instills.

We walked through the streets of the village to get to know it a little better, the houses are striking because of their shape and bright colours. Many have oval domes and murals painted on the outside walls. There are crocodile carcasses placed on the doors, most probably for protection.

We ended up not spending much time in the Nubian village because of the constant harassment of tourists to buy something. We got back on the boat and after another ride down the Nile, we arrived back in Aswan again.

Abu Simbel

We couldn't help but include in our Egypt itinerary, Abu Simbel. These majestic temples are one of the country's ex-libris and despite being in a not so easy location to get to, the tourist demand is immense.

The temples at Abu Simbel took about 20 years to complete and were buried in the sand for a long time. With the construction of the Aswan Dam, the temples had to be relocated to higher ground. It was a complex job, with the help of UNESCO, which would start in 1964 and finish in 1968. Large blocks were meticulously cut, dismantled, hoisted, and reassembled on the new site.

Still today it is considered one of the greatest archaeological engineering challenges in history. For those who visit it is difficult to realize that this was not the original location.

The complex consists of the temple of Ramses II, with its colossal facade flanked by four 20-meter-high statues carved directly into the rock. Next door is the temple of Nefertari, smaller in size but of similar beauty. On the façade are six 10-meter-high figures, representing the king and his queen. Interestingly, it is one of the few examples where the two statues are the same size.

The axis of the temple of Ramses II was positioned so that on February 21 and October 21 of each year, the sun's rays penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the statues arranged there, with the exception of Ptah, the god of the underworld. 

For most of our tour of Egypt, especially in Luxor and Aswan, we had the help of Magic Carpet Travel, who provided us with the best driver and the best guide ever. During the days we spent together we learned a lot, from each other.

Our driver, Mammoth always drove carefully and took us to know the best of Egypt. Our guide Mansour was spectacular, he has studied history and archaeology from a young age and his knowledge is vast. We really enjoyed listening to every bit of history, plus he always gave us the freedom to explore the sites visited on our own.

In this way, we combined knowledge with self-investigation. It was definitely days well spent in Egypt.

Aswan-Cairo night train

Moving from Aswan to Cairo is not easy, as we are very far south. So, there are two options: plane or train.

As the price of flights was not inviting and we wanted to have a different experience we opted for the night train, which also allowed us to save on accommodation.

We must admit that the tickets are not the cheapest, we paid 160 euros for the two of us, with meals included and a cabin just for us. The whole process is simple, to buy the tickets we did it through the Watania, once in the station just show the ticket and we are directed to the train.

The train cabin was quite nice, with two bunk beds so we had a quiet night. At meals we could choose light, hot or vegetarian, we ordered light. We were entitled to various products about 1-2 hours after boarding, in the morning before arriving in Cairo we were still entitled to breakfast.

We have nothing to point out on this trip, it is safe, comfortable and we were very well received, we would definitely repeat the train journey.

Cairo - city tour

Our Egypt tour wouldn't be complete without visiting the capital, Cairo. As soon as we arrived, and took advantage of the 'lift' from the hotel where we were staying, the Panorama Pyramids Inn, we immediately went to explore every place in the city.

Our first destination was the Citadel of Saladin, which offers a great view of the city. Entry costs EGP 180 (about 9€) and also includes the Mohamed Ali Mosque.

The Citadel was built by Saladin to protect the city from crusade attacks. As it was one of the most secure locations, it served as the seat of government for almost 700 years. Although different from the original, the Citadel continues to amaze

Still, inside, the imposing Mohamed Ali Mosque leaves anyone awestruck. Built in a square shape, it has a central dome 52 meters high.

However, perhaps the most interesting fact is the two cylindrical minarets, 84 meters high. The entire mosque is clad in alabaster with golden ornaments. Outside, we find a courtyard with a fountain for ablutions and a lacy copper clock given by King Louis Philippe of France in 1845.

We continue our journey to Egypt's most famous market, the Khan El Khalili. Its origin dates back to 1382 when it was an important venue for the region's merchants. Today, several craft shops and coffee shops make up the market and are sought after by tourists either to relax or to buy a souvenir from Egypt.

In the vicinity, we discovered several mosques, such as the Al-Azhar mosque and Al-Hussein mosque.

To finish our day, we visited the Hanging Church. It is part of the old part of Cairo, called Coptic Cairo, which includes besides this church, the Babylon fortress, the Coptic museum, the church of St. George as well as other historical sites.

The church is in itself an amazing building, located on the ruins of the fortress of Babylon. Nowadays, it is one of the most important sights of the Orthodox church. Its interior contains 110 icons, the oldest dating from the 8th century.

Giza Complex

In this archaeological site, we can find the sphinx but, also the pyramids. Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the pyramids have been part of our imagination since we were kids.

Hint: Try to stay in a hotel right by the entrance. Firstly because they are cheap and have good conditions, and secondly because it allows you to visit right at the opening, which will undoubtedly be the best time.

We stayed at the Panorama Pyramids Inn, it's great as it's a few meters from the entrance and because from the rooftop we can see the pyramids.

It was 8 am and we were entering the Giza complex. The ticket costs EGP 200 (about 10€), all visits inside any of the pyramids are paid separately.

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At the entrance to the complex, we are treated to the Sphinx. Although already quite deteriorated, it is still fascinating, the mythical creature with a lion's body and a human head, representing the pharaoh Khafre.

It is oriented west to east, towards the sunrise, according to the ancient Egyptian sun cult. Speculation about hidden chambers under the Sphinx lasts to this day. Could it be true?!

A few minutes gazing at the Sphinx, and it's impossible not to digress into history and wonder what it would have been like at the time it was built. Places like this always make you think.

We proceed to the pyramids, and it's worth mentioning that once inside the complex, there come the guys asking if they want to ride a camel or a horse-drawn carriage. We refused again and again and continued on foot. We were sad to see very few people doing the same as us.

The truth is that it doesn't hurt to walk as it was nice, and if we hadn't we would never have seen what we saw, or taken the pictures we took from different angles.

It is degrading to see this type of tourist activity, do not cooperate with this. We are in the 21st century and there are other ways of getting around without endangering animal life. Why not use bicycles inside the complex? We wouldn't mind paying an extra fee for that. Or maybe use the tram, like in other places.

Back to the pyramids, it is believed that these were built to house the remains of the pharaohs. The three main ones are:

  • Pyramid of Khufu (the largest of them all)
  • Pyramid Khafre (the second pyramid)
  • Pyramid of Menkaure (the smallest of the three)

Each of the pyramids is part of a larger complex which includes other smaller pyramids called 'queen pyramids', sun boats, temples, and other features.

To have the opportunity to visit a place like this is indescribable. How many times have we watched National Geographic documentaries and dreamt of being here? What a thrill! 

The pyramids are part of any Egypt itinerary, so at 10 am there were tourist buses arriving. Glad we went early and were able to enjoy the tranquility of the place.

Saqqara, Dashur & Memphis

After spending most of the morning at the Giza Complex, in the afternoon we headed to Saqqara, Dashur and Memphis.

At our first stop, at Saqqara, about 30km south of Cairo, we discovered the Pyramid of Djoser.

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Presenting a different shape, in steps, this is considered to be the first pyramid in the world and therefore the oldest stone structure in existence. The state of degradation is quite evident but, we cannot forget how ancient this structure is.

In this archaeological complex still subsists other small pyramids and tombs of nobles and rulers such as, Mereruka, Kagemni, Ankhmahor, Idut and Ti. Saqqara was a place of worship of the goddess Bastet, as denounced by the thousands of cat mummies found here.

To enter Saqqara you have to pay 180 EGP (about 9€)

A little further from Saqqara is Dashur, an interesting place to visit. Tours usually include Saqqara, Dashur and even Memphis on the same day.

On site we can find several pyramids that served as tombs of kings of Ancient Egypt. The two most important are the Curved Pyramid and the Red Pyramid. Here also relevant archaeological discoveries have been made such as six wooden boats (sun boats).

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It is believed that the Pyramids of Dashur were instrumental in learning about pyramid building. They were a source of knowledge for the later building of the pyramids at Giza.

The Curved Pyramid owes its shape to a miscalculation when it was built. It is also special because it has two entrances, one to the north and the other to the west. It is one of the best preserved in Egypt, perhaps because of its huge stone blocks and how they were placed.

Unhappy with this pyramid King Sneferu ordered the establishment of the Red Pyramid. When it was created it was the largest in the country, thought to have been the first pyramid with smooth sides. It got its name from the red limestone used.

Egypt-in-the-land-of-the-pharaohs (43)

On the site a rare spike was discovered which to this day is not known what it was actually used for. It is possible to enter the inside of the pyramid but, not advised for claustrophobics due to its long and narrow corridors.

The entrance ticket to Dashur costs EGP 60 (about €3) and includes entrance to the Red Pyramid.

The last site of our visit on this day was Memphis, what is said to have been the country's first capital. At the time it was an important political and religious centre, a coronation city for the pharaohs and a place of veneration for the god Ptah.

In the Memphis museum, which we can visit, are dozens of relics of the country with the main highlight being two of them: the Colossus of Ramses II and the Alabaster Sphinx.

The Colossus of Ramses II is the best thing to behold in this museum. Although it is missing two legs, the statue measures an impressive 13 metres tall and is quite detailed.

Egypt-in-the-land-of-the-pharaohs (44)

This statue shows how skilled Egyptian sculptors were, the polishing of the surface is so perfect that to this day it is unclear what technique was used.

One of the biggest curiosities is how it was transported and erected given its size. Since its discovery by the Italian archaeologist Giovanni Caviglia it has been offered as a donation several times, one of them to the British Museum, which refused due to the cost and difficulty of sending the enormous statue to London. It thus remains to this day in the museum built to protect it.

In the outer space of the museum, the Alabaster Sphinx is not without astonishment, measuring around 4 metres high, 7 metres wide and weighing around 80 tonnes. It was carved from a single piece of alabaster and is thought to be a representation of Queen Hatshepsut.

Saqqara, Dashur & Memphis

After spending most of the morning at the Giza Complex, in the afternoon we headed to Saqqara, Dashur and Memphis.

At our first stop, at Saqqara, about 30km south of Cairo, we discovered the Pyramid of Djoser.

Egypt-in-the-land-of-the-pharaohs (41)

Presenting a different shape, in steps, this is considered to be the first pyramid in the world and therefore the oldest stone structure in existence. The state of degradation is quite evident but, we cannot forget how ancient this structure is.

In this archaeological complex still subsists other small pyramids and tombs of nobles and rulers such as, Mereruka, Kagemni, Ankhmahor, Idut and Ti. Saqqara was a place of worship of the goddess Bastet, as denounced by the thousands of cat mummies found here.

To enter Saqqara you have to pay 180 EGP (about 9€)

A little further from Saqqara is Dashur, an interesting place to visit. Tours usually include Saqqara, Dashur and even Memphis on the same day.

On site we can find several pyramids that served as tombs of kings of Ancient Egypt. The two most important are the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid. Here also relevant archaeological discoveries have been made such as six wooden boats (sun boats).

Egypt-in-the-land-of-the-pharaohs (42)

It is believed that the Pyramids of Dashur were instrumental in learning about pyramid building. They were a source of knowledge for the later building of the pyramids at Giza.

The Bent Pyramid owes its shape to a miscalculation when it was built. It is also special because it has two entrances, one to the north and the other to the west. It is one of the best preserved in Egypt, perhaps because of its huge stone blocks and how they were placed.

Unhappy with this pyramid King Sneferu ordered the establishment of the Red Pyramid. When it was created it was the largest in the country, thought to have been the first pyramid with smooth sides. It got its name from the red limestone used.

Egypt-in-the-land-of-the-pharaohs (43)

On the site a rare spike was discovered which to this day is not known what it was actually used for. It is possible to enter the inside of the pyramid but, not advised for claustrophobics due to its long and narrow corridors.

The entrance ticket to Dashur costs EGP 60 (about 3€) and includes entrance to the Red Pyramid.

The last site of our visit on this day was Memphis, what is said to have been the country's first capital. At the time it was an important political and religious centre, a coronation city for the pharaohs and a place of veneration for the god Ptah.

In the Memphis museum, which we can visit, are dozens of relics of the country with the main highlight being two of them: the Colossus of Ramses II and the Alabaster Sphinx.

The Colossus of Ramses II is the best thing to behold in this museum. Although it is missing two legs, the statue measures an impressive 13 metres tall and is quite detailed.

Egypt-in-the-land-of-the-pharaohs (44)

This statue shows how skilled Egyptian sculptors were, the polishing of the surface is so perfect that to this day it is unclear what technique was used.

One of the biggest curiosities is how it was transported and erected given its size. Since its discovery by the Italian archaeologist Giovanni Caviglia it has been offered as a donation several times, one of them to the British Museum, which refused due to the cost and difficulty of sending the enormous statue to London. It thus remains to this day in the museum built to protect it.

In the outer space of the museum, the Alabaster Sphinx is not without astonishment, measuring around 4 metres high, 7 metres wide and weighing around 80 tonnes. It was carved from a single piece of alabaster and is thought to be a representation of Queen Hatshepsut.

Entrance to Memphis cost us 80 EGP (about 4.50€).

Museums in Cairo

Cairo is well known not only for its pyramids but, also for its museums. No visit is complete without including at least one.

script-by-museum-image

As our last day the flight back was only in the early hours, we took the opportunity to visit two museums in Cairo. They were:

  • the Egyptian Museum
  • the NMEC (National Museum of Egyptian Civilization)

Note: Not to be confused with the long-awaited GEM (Great Egyptian Museum). Unfortunately, the opening has been constantly delayed. It is projected to be one of the largest, most modern museums in the world, housing over 100,000 artefacts.

The Egyptian Museum is so far the most important museum in the country. Its collection includes numerous Egyptian antiquities from excavations throughout Egypt.

It is also a very old museum, dating back to 1858. Various collections are organised throughout the numerous rooms, although many artefacts have already been transferred to the GEM. 

The most attractive collection is of course that of the pharaoh Tutankhamun, which has its own room where we cannot photograph any of the artefacts on display. It is included in the entrance ticket.

For us the pinnacle of this exhibition is Tutankhamun's death mask, it has been restored and the detail is something extraordinary.

For those who can't visit, a virtual tour is possible at home. See it all here.

The NMEC may not be one of the most visited museums but, you should include it in your Egypt tour. Why? It's quite comprehensive and informative, plus it has a mummy exhibit room.

The museum is recent, opened in 2021, and displays various artefacts from ancient Egyptian civilisation, depicting its development from the earliest to the modern era.

The Mummies Hall is the most prestigious room in the museum, where the 20 royal mummies are arranged, which most tourists who come here want to visit. It is strictly forbidden to photograph and film inside, the security guards are always on the lookout for undue movement.

Sincerely, the important thing is to really see it with your own eyes, because photo or video doesn't do justice to what we saw.

Of the best-known mummies displayed here are Hatshepsut, Ramses II and Thutmose III.

It is exciting to see details like hair, or nails in a considerable state of preservation. We're talking about mummies that are thousands of years old! It was undoubtedly one of the most sublime things we saw in Egypt.

Museum tickets can be bought at the entrance of each museum and are for:

  • Egyptian Museum - 200 EGP (about 10€)
  • NMEC - 200 EGP (about 10€)

White Desert

One of the activities we were most looking forward to was going to the desert so we took the opportunity and added White Desert to our Egypt itinerary.

We could say that spending a night in the desert is not for everyone, there are no 5-star hotels or fancy restaurants here. However, this is one of the most 'luxurious' experiences you can have. What a privilege to be able to see an amazing starry sky, we want to do it all again.

Our tour to the White Desert started very early in Cairo, where the driver who picked us up from the hotel directed us at the bus station to the public bus towards the oasis of Bahariya. We were not alone, more foreigners were going on the same bus along with the local people who were friendly and always tried to help despite the language barrier.

Once in Bahariya, our Bedouin guide (a must for anyone going to the desert, as they know the land better than anyone else) was waiting for us with the appropriate vehicle.

Egypt-in-the-land-of-the-pharaohs (45)

Before we head on our way, a short technical stop for lunch. The tours to the White Desert are usually individual, as the logistics are big. But, ours was shared with an American/Kenyan guy, quite nice and fun, it were time well spent.

We move on to the Black Desert, a place formed by mountains of volcanic origin. The ground is black made up of small stones of the same colour. The scenery is incredible, all uninhabited, it looks like something out of a science fiction film.

Not long after, we arrive at the desert cultivation site. It sounds strange but, those who think that the desert cannot be cultivated are mistaken. With water extraction pumps it is possible to take advantage of what the land gives and part of the fruits and vegetables that you eat nearby come precisely from the desert. It was interesting and educational, as like most people we had the wrong perception of these lands.

Between the Black Desert and the White Desert lies Crystal Mountain. The view is marvellous, and its name comes from its rocks, which, although not pure crystals, are made of barite a barium sulphate mineral that is less hard than crystals.

We head out into the desert, our guide Reda has impressive driving skills. It's not easy driving in the desert, the slightest mishap can get you priced out of sand. Before reaching the White Desert we still had time to sandboard, and visit the Agabat valley.

The area is surreal, for a moment and as we walked around the place it felt like we were in a Star Wars movie or something similar. Various limestone rock formations are arranged throughout the desert, it's something hard to transcribe into words.

After miles done we finally arrived at the long awaited White Desert. While our guide set up camp we were able to explore the area and see a spectacular sunset. As soon as it got dark, dinner was prepared and served around the campfire that was lit so we could warm up. Don't be fooled, the desert is quite cold at night.

Sleep was slow to come as the conversation was good and the sky was something indescribable. We took photos and more photos, we stayed up until dawn looking at the sky, what an extraordinary night, we promised to return to the desert.

In the morning, breakfast was served and we still had time to enjoy some more of the White Desert. Next it was time to head back to Cairo. The White Desert was one of the wonderful surprises of our Egypt itinerary. If you are planning a trip to the country you should include it in your plans.

In short Egypt turned out to be an amazing destination, where there is much to discover. It is a timeless destination, and one to visit at least once in a lifetime.

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