When I said I was going to Egypt most people gave me a strange or shocked look. Especially as I would be there alone for 10 days before Max came to join me. Luckily I had some friends to stay with to guide me through the craziness that is Cairo before I went alone to Alexandria and then met Max and headed South. We absolutely loved exploring the ancient history and enjoyed seeing lots of the sights without other tourists about. Most people were friendly and helpful, especially in the South. We were there during Ramadan which made for an interesting food experience (Muslims eat and drink nothing during daylight hours). But after nightfall there was plenty of new and delicious foods to try. These were our highlights:
1. The Pyramids, Giza
Of a course a trip to Egypt wouldn't be complete without a visit to the only remaining ancient wonder of the world- The Pyramids of Giza. I had wanted to see them since I was a child but was a little worried that they would be underwhelming after all the hype. This was not the case. These structures are a huge mystery and are awe-inspiring to look at. As with most of our trip, there were very few other tourists there and we managed to spend a bit of time walking around and climbing up the sides of the pyramids without another person in sight- a pretty amazing experience. I used an expired student ID to get in half price and when the security guard noticed I simply had to bribe him with a couple of pounds instead of going back to the ticket booth. A life aspiration and world wonder experienced for just €6! We opted not to go inside the pyramids as we heard that there wasn't much to see and all of the artefacts were displayed in the Egyptian Museum.
2. The Temple of Karnak, Luxor
We ended up at this place twice during our trip. Once during the day to marvel at the incredible ruins of ancient tombs, sculptures and temples. We spent around 3 hours walking around the complex on a oppresively hot day and still had a great time. We then returned the next night for the sound and light show which was a mixture of cheesy and impressive. Walking around the temples by night was amazing and along the way there were projections and optical illusions to tell the story of the area. Totally worth it both times and, as with everything in Egypt, totally affordable.
3. The Nubian Villages, Aswan
At the time we were there Aswan was suffering from a huge decrease in tourism (to virtually nothing) due to the civil unrest in the North of the country. Aswan however, was a relaxed, friendly and safe city. One of the most notable things about the area was the Nubian people who live there. They were very different looking to Northern Egyptians and traditionally live in villages with domed roofs and brightly coloured walls. We stayed in a traditional Nubian style home on the opposite side of the river from the town and were treated to iftar (evening meal to break the fasting of Ramadan) with the owner and his family.
4. Travelling on the Nile
Unfortunately, due to the lack of other backpackers, our dreams of travelling up the Nile by felucca (sail boat) couldn't be fulfilled. We did however, cash in on a very cheap deal on a cruise ship which would take us to Luxor over 3 days and 2 nights. We spent 3 wonderful days waking up to views of the Nile out our window in the morning, waving at children in villages as we floated by, stopping at ancient temples and watching the sun go down from the deck. It was a very relaxing couple of days with gorgeous views, we thoroughly recommend this as a way of travel.
5. The Egyptian Museum, Cairo
This is like a labyrinth of artefacts and treasures. More of a warehouse than a museum, it's absolutely packed with items. Most are not clearly labelled or even in a case but it's mesmerizing to walk the halls surrounded by 3000 year old sculptures, tools and jewelry. If you're really interested in the history and significance of the items on display then I suggest you pay for a guide as there is no real map and there are literally thousands of things on display.
Cameras are banned and need to be checked in at the entrance but I took my phone in no problem and managed a few cheeky snaps. It costs 60 Egyptian pounds for entrance. I arrived right as it was opening and went straight upstairs to avoid the tour groups and enjoyed around 45 minutes of peaceful wandering, including the great hall with no one else in it! A huge highlight for me was seeing the mask of Tutankhamun, there is also a display of everything found in his tomb.