Is it safe? How are women treated? Is there a huge language barrier? All questions I’ve been asked once I share the fact that I studied abroad in Egypt. A short program, unlike most semester-long gigs, I spent 18 days exploring various cities of Egypt, going from end to end of the country, learning the history, culture and attempting the language. In our short trip, we were able to touch Cairo, Luxor, Alexandria, the Suez Canal and more.
I always preface my answer to those questions above with a short statement advocating for the exploration of all of Africa. It frustrates me that this beautiful continent has a lot of negativity associated with its name when any country has its edge or dangers. So, is Egypt safe? Yes. But just as I would tell someone visiting NYC, do your research, trust your instincts and be self-aware. I visited in 2013 when the country was in turmoil and still felt safe. Most tourists’ attractions are well guarded and rarely if ever prove as dangerous to those visiting.
Though a study-abroad program, I don’t remember much of the studying as much as I recall all the fun we had doing this list of what I consider my favorite parts of my trip and a list of Top 9 Must-Do’s and Must-Sees:
- Pyramids of Giza: Arguably, one of the most famous historical monuments in the world, and of Egypt, and the oldest standing ancient wonder of the world, these pyramids are in Giza City, Giza, near Cairo. Consisting of three pyramids, there is the largest Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure, royal tombs built for three pharaohs. There is also, in the same section, the Great Sphinx of Giza. What you think about when dreaming of traveling to Egypt, or at least should be thinking of, the Pyramids and the Great Sphinx, so you would be remiss not to make this stop a focal point of your trip. There is so much history and so much to learn as you marvel at their magnificence, built so many years before our time.
The site is open every day from 8am to 5pm Oct-March and 7am-7pm April-September, and the entry price is about 160 Egyptian pounds PP.
- King Tutankhamun’s Tomb: Who doesn’t know King Tut? An Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, his final resting place is in the Valley of the Kings for all to see and learn more about this young pharaoh’s reign. Not included in the entrance fee of the other tombs of the Valley of the Kings, the additional ticket cost is well worth it when you consider the history of this small King.
The Valley of the Kings, where you can find King Tut’s temple is in Luxor, Egypt.
- Nile River Cruise: Cruising from Luxor to Aswan, a cruise up the Nile River is not only magical, but you’ll also avoid some of the heavy traffic while soaking in some of the sites of Egypt in style. We did a shorter cruise, only being on board 2 days, but there are different options to choose from, ranging from longer to shorter trips.
4.Temple of Horus and Edfu: Located on the west bank of the Nile River, the Temple of Edfu is in Edfu, Egypt. This temple is one of the most well-preserved monuments in Egypt.
Bonus: We also rode a horse carriage through Edfu and it was honestly just a good time.
- Alexandria, Egypt: The second-largest city in Egypt and my personal fav, it rests along the cost of the Mediterranean Sea in the northern part of the country. Aside from taking a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean Sea, there are several must-do activities to experience. From Alexandria’s National Museum, Pompey’s Pillar, Alexandria’s Naval Soldier Memorial, Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Citadel of Qaitbay.
- Valley of the Kings (Luxor): Located near Luxor, Egypt, west of the Nile, this one of the most famed collections of tombs. No secret, when looking at the Great Pyramids of Giza, it was common to build large, elaborate monuments to honor the late Kings, providing a grand resting place. King Tut and Ramses II are two famous kings known to be buried in the Valley of the Kings, amongst other great Kings, Queens and High Priests. The ancient Egyptians had a strong belief in the afterlife/afterworlds and it shows through clearly when looking in the tombs with all the food, jewelry, clothing, and gold left behind, decorating the walls and floors.
- Visit Aswan, Egypt: One of my favorite parts of our trip by far. Learn about Nubian history at one of the many museums or explore the ancient temple of Philae to learn more of the Egyptian god, Horus or visit any of other ruins or temples located throughout the city.
- Aswan Tombs and High Dam: Located in the city of Aswan, south of Egypt, sits the Tombs of Nobles. It has been said by experts that these tombs don’t compare to those of in the Valley of Kings, but they still very much warrant a visit.
- Khan el-Khalili: A major souk (markets) located in the center of Cairo, this bazaar is a major tourist attraction as it is one of the largest markets filled with gold, silver, spices, antiques and more.
Tips for Visiting:
- Depending on what time of the year you visit, the days can be VERY hot and the nights can become very chilly. Pack layers.
- Plan your trip in a manner that allows you to explore multiple cities in the country enabling you to visit as many historical monuments as possible
- Be adventurous and try new foods
- The currency of Egypt is the Egyptian Pound; make use of ATMs to withdraw money or exchange at local exchange facilities
- Egypt is a tipping country and a lot of service workers will expect/ask for a tip or “Baksheesh”, do not be alarmed and carry small bills/tips
- DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CLIMB THE PYRAMIDS
- Driving in Egypt is unlike anywhere I’ve been, opt for public transportation and do not attempt to rent a car
- Stay hydrated. I did not drink enough water and got a nose bleed- the sun is stronger than you think
- It is a good idea to negotiate with vendors-prices are typically raised for tourists so don’t feel bad trying to get a reasonable price
- Visit as many tombs/temples/museums as your trip will allow. No matter how many we visited, they all seemed to blow my mind