Egypt has one of the oldest civilisations on earth dating back thousands of years.
During recent times (in comparison to Egypt’s history) the British colonised Egypt in the early 1900’s. Travellers flood to this country to absorb the riches of the Great Pyramids of Giza, Cairos souks and mosques, the catacombs of Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast, the Valley of the Kings in Luxor and river Nile cruises.
The River Nile, the longest river in the world and Egypt’sl lifeblood flows from its source from the Sudanese border to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Egypt’s culture is diverse due to its history spanning several millennia. It is a sense of permanence and timelessness that is buttressed by religion, which pervades every aspect of life. Although the pagan cults of ancient Egypt are as moribund as its legacy of mummies and temples, their ancient fertility rites and processions of boats still hold their place in the celebrations of Islam and Christianity.
ℹ️ Travel: Cairo airport is roughly 13 miles (22KMs) from Cairo. The journey time is about 40 minutes. From Cairo Airport a shuttle bus additionally runs every 30 minutes downtown Cairo and Giza. The price for a bus ticket to Downtown Cairo is E£35 (GB£1.65) travel time is approximately 45 minutes. To make use of the shuttle you need to pre-book. Taxis from the airport to Giza (Pyramids) are fairly expensive roughly costing E£430 (GB£21).
ℹ️ Entry Requirements: If you are a British Citizen you will need a valid passport and a visa. A visa on arrival can be purchased at booths within Cairo airport at a cost of US$25. Ensure you have the exact amount in cash! For more information regarding entry requirement for BRITISH citizens click here.
ℹ️ Currency: The Egyptian Pound (E£) .
ℹ️ Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are common place at well established tourist spots with several ‘bureau de change’ around the city. From a personal view I preferred to deal in cash and secured a safety deposit box at the hotel reception.
ℹ️ Accommodation: There is no shortage of accommodation in Cairo and Giza areas. Hotels in Egypt are extremely well priced and even luxury hotels are a fraction of the cost they would be anywhere else in the world. In Cairo why not consider the 3* New Garden Palace Hotel. If your stay is more concentrated on Giza and the Great Pyramids then consider the Royal Pyramids Inn. The location to this hotel is incredible – 5 minutes walk from the Great Sphinx. If you are planning a trip to Luxor and The Valley of the Kings then consider the 5* Hotel Mercure.
ℹ️ Weather: The summers can get crazy hot in Egypt, and if you visit in July or August, the heat is oppressive, making it difficult to explore. I think the best time to visit Egypt is in the winter months (November to January).
GIZA AND THE PYRAMIDS
are located in Giza, the third largest city in Egypt. Giza is set on the west bank of the River Nile about 10 miles away from Cairo. The Pyramids at Giza were built at the very beginning of recorded human history, and for nearly five millennia they have stood on the edge of the desert in magnificent communion with the sky. The Pyramids date back to 2560 BC, and were ordered by the second ruler of the Fourth Dynasty, Pharaoh Khufu. For a very long time, they were believed to be built either by aliens or Jewish slaves.
Today they sit on the edge of the city. The Great Pyramid, contains the tomb of Cheops, the Fourth Dynasty pharaoh who ruled Egypt during the Old Kingdom. This is the oldest of the group, built around 2570 BC, and the largest – in fact it’s the biggest single monument on the face of the Earth. The others, built by Cheops’ son Chephren and his grandson Mycerinus, stand in descending order of age and size. When built they were probably aligned precisely with the North Star, with their entrance corridors pointing straight at it.
Unless you have booked accommodation in Giza my personal recommendation is to stay the night at one of the hotels in front of the pyramids (I suggest Royal Pyramids Inn). The undisturbed view you can wake up to in the morning is unbeatable and breakfast they serve is absolutely fantastic. If you stay nearby you can simply walk up to the main entrance to the site.
Once you enter the site, you can either walk or get a horse or camel to ride around the pyramids and nearby desert. The walk is only around 8 minutes.
Otherwise, if staying in downtown Cairo, Uber works well and it’s ridiculously cheap. It will save you from haggling with taxi drivers. I paid about E£59 (GB£2.70) for a ride from the pyramids to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
There are three pyramids of the Queens of Cheops and you can go inside the one in the middle for free. Khufu’s Pyramid and Khafree’s Pyramid are an additional cost. You can go inside the pyramids. It’s a little cramped inside so you suffer from claustrophobia then this may not be for you. However, I opted to go inside.
You enter the Great Pyramid through a hole hacked into the pyramid’s North facing side. Crouching along narrow passages you arrive at the Great Gallery, that ascends through the heart of the pyramid to Chephren’s burial chamber. Chances are you will have the chamber to yourself (like I did), as claustrophobia and inadequate oxygen mean that few people venture this far.
The best way to enjoy this is to hire a camel and ride about the desert, observing them from different angles, close up and looming, or far off and standing lonely but defiantly on the open sands.
PYRAMIDS NIGHT SHOW
Seen at prime times – dawn, sunset and night – they form as much a part of the natural order as the sun, the moon and the stars. Of an evening time the pyramids are a spectacle to observe as they are illuminated with coloured lighting giving new character. The light show has remained unchanged for almost 20 years.
While in Giza the Sphinx, said to have been made in the image of Pharaoh Khafre guarding the Pharaoh’s pyramid, is another must visit. There are two spots to see the Sphinx, but most tourists have to go to the side through a weird structure that I still don’t know the purpose of. The officials will check your tickets to ensure that you paid the entrance fee to the pyramid complex.
Cairo is chaos! There is traffic, fumes, heat, car horns, donkey carts and the distorted roar of the muezzins’ call to prayer echoes out from duelling minarets. Below are a few places to visit whilst in Cairo.
THE EGYPTIAN MUSEUM
Do not forget to visit this museum. It has to be one of the best I have ever visited anywhere in the world, especially if Egyptology is your bag. The Egyptian Museum holds the worlds most important collections of ancient artefacts, the Egyptian Museum takes pride of place in Downtown Cairo. Inside the glittering treasures of Tutankhamun and other great pharaohs lie alongside the grave goods, mummies, jewellery, eating bowls and toys of Egyptians whose names are lost to history.
Tickets for adults costs E£160 (GB£7.50).
KHAN AL KHALILI
This is basically a medieval shopping area with narrow streets that you can be easily lost exploring. Most streets lead to small courtyards with shops and market stalls peppered around the perimeter, that sell everything you can think of.
AL AZHAR MOSQUE
Founded in 970AD the building is a blend of architectural styles, the result of numerous enlargements over more than 1000 years. The tomb chamber, located through a doorway on the left just inside the entrance, has a beautiful mihrab (a niche indicating the direction of Mecca) and should not be missed.
Memphis, was Egypt’s first capital, located in the north of the country and founded by Narmer, the first pharaoh of Egypt. Memphis was during its 3000 years of history an important political and religious centre, headquarters of the great temple of the god Ptah and place of coronation of the pharaohs.
SPHINX OF HATSEPSHUT
In 1912, the British Egyptologist Flinders Petrie found this statue in Memphis. It is believed that it was inside the precincts of the Ptah temple and that it represents Hatshepsut, the queen of the 18th dynasty.
The Workers of Memphis
This relief from the tomb of Ti in Saqqara shows some workers who work in the construction of a ship. Ti was supervisor of the pyramids of Niuserre, Pharaoh of the 5th dynasty.
THE STATUE OF RAMSES II
is a 3,200 year old figure of Ramses II, depicting him standing, that was discovered in 1820 by Giovanni Battista Caviglia at the Great Temple of Ptah near Memphis. It is made from red granite.
LUXOR AND THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS
Luxor, has been a tourist mecca ever since Nile steamers began calling in the nineteenth century to view the remains of Thebes, Ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom capital. The name Luxor derives from the Arabic El-Uqsur – meaning “the palaces” or “the castles” – a name which may have referred to a Roman castrum or the town’s appearance in medieval times, when it squatted amid the ruins of Thebes.
Largely built by the New Kingdom pharaohs Amenhotep III (1390–1352 BC) and Ramses II (1279–1213 BC), this temple is a strikingly graceful monument in the heart of the modern town. Visit early when the temple opens, before the crowds arrive, or later at sunset when the stones glow. Whenever you go, be sure to return at night when the temple is lit up, creating an eerie spectacle as shadow and light play off the reliefs and colonnades.
In front of the temple is the beginning of the Avenue of Sphinxes that ran all the way to the temples at Karnak 3km to the north. Beyond lies the Great Court of Ramses II, surrounded by a double row of columns with lotus-bud capitals, the walls of which are decorated with scenes of the pharaoh making offerings to the gods.
An adult ticket costs roughly E£100 (GB£4.80)
THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS
The west bank of Luxor had been the site of royal burials since around 2100 BC, but it was the pharaohs of the New Kingdom period (1550–1069 BC) who chose this isolated valley dominated by the pyramid-shaped mountain peak of Al Qurn. The Valley of the Kings has 63 magnificent royal tombs.
The road into the Valley of the Kings is a dry hot climb so be prepared. Also be prepared to run the gauntlet of the tourist bazaar, that sells soft drinks, ice creams and snacks alongside the tat. (The tat I did enjoy!)
An adult ticket that offers you access to three tombs will cost E£160 (GB£7.75).
TOMB OF RAMSES VI
The tomb of Ramses VI is full of wide corridors and tall shafts supporting the roof. Started by Ramses V and finished by Ramses VI, it is a feast for the eyes, much of its surface covered with intact hieroglyphs and paintings. The burial chamber has an unfinished pit in the floor and scenes from the Book of the Day and Book of the Night.
An adult ticket costs around E£80 (GB£3.90)