Not sure whether it's the right time to visit the iconic North African country? Peter Miers explains why you need to grab your bag and get to Egypt now
The civil unrest you see on the news is purely a domestic political issue. Egypt remains quite safe for travellers and although there may be demonstrations from time to time, these have nothing to do with Westerners and there is no ill feeling towards visitors. The media tend to focus on the negatives. However, a couple of streets over from any unrest, you’ll find a peaceful street where life is going on as normal with old men playing backgammon and mothers shopping.
The ‘must-see’ sites are relatively empty of crowds. For instance, the numbers of visitors allowed to enter the tomb deep inside Cheops pyramid each day are usually limited and tickets tend to sell out early in the morning. Presently it’s relatively easy to get hold of them and you won’t have those annoying busloads of tourists getting in the way of your pictures.
The Egyptian people are genuinely happy to have tourists visiting and will always give travellers a warm welcome. Usually these people are individuals who in some way are connected to the tourism industry, but it’s not uncommon to receive a genuine and hearty “Welcome to Egypt!” greeting from an ordinary man on the street who is proud of his country and wants to show its best face to the world.
There are always bargains to be had, especially while business in the bazaars is relatively slow. There are bazaars in all the main tourist towns in Egypt, such as Luxor and Aswan, but the mother of them all is Khan el Khalili in Islamic Cairo. It’s a huge labyrinth of stalls full of every conceivable type of souvenir and the stallholders are always ready to haggle.
Egypt remains one of the world’s most fascinating and spectacular destinations. In a time when most European communities were still wearing animal skins and just working out how to cultivate, ancient Egypt had reached the apogee of human civilisation and maintained a stable and sophisticated culture for nearly three millennia; an incredible feat by modern standards.
1. Definitely go to see the Pyramids, they will not let you down.
2. Buy the extra ticket to go inside Cheops tomb in the Great Pyramid; the crowds are relatively light nowadays.
3. Try to avoid doing that “Walk like an Egyptian” photo in front of the Sphinx. Apart from it being so 1995, it also just looks stupid.
4. Always try to keep a one Egyptian pound coin handy, as you need them every time you use a public loo – it may save your life someday.
5. Sunscreen and a hat when visiting the Valley of the Kings is a must.
6. If you are given the option to visit Abu Simbel – go.
7. Cross the Nile to visit one of the Nubian villages on the islands opposite Aswan and meet the Nubians who are laid-back, relaxed and friendly.
8. Drop in to the Promenade Cafe in Aswan and order a real Bedouin coffee – you won’t regret it.
9. Make sure you are fully insured before attempting to cross the street in Cairo traffic.
10. If you are ever given the choice between a local Stella and a Saqqara beer, choose the Stella – you’ll thank us.
Peter Miers is an avid traveller and Middle East Destination Manager for Peregrine Adventures – what he doesn't know about the country isn't worth knowing. Peregrine Adventures has a 10-day Classical Egypt tour starting from £1,090pp, which includes a cruise along the Nile, a sleeper train journey to Luxor and a horse-drawn carriage ride to the Karnak temples. Find out more here.