Egypt is a country like none other. Rich with history and culture, it is both part of Africa and the Middle East. Home to the only remaining original “7 Wonders of the World” and filled with more archaeological sites than almost any other place on earth, Egypt attracts million of foreign visitors each year. Planning a trip here though is not always easy and in order to get the most out of your visit, you have to consider a number of factors.
Understanding the Culture
The majority of Egypt is Muslim but in general, the country is more moderate than many in the Middle East. Women, even Muslim women, often don’t cover their heads and alcohol and cigarettes are way more common here than in most Muslim countries. The relaxed, friendly attitude of the locals is very welcoming and while English is not widely spoken, in the main tourist destinations you shouldn’t have any problems finding your way around or asking for directions.
While religious views are somewhat moderate, this is still a conservative country by western standards and it is important to remember that. Women should avoid showing too much skin and if you are traveling independently as a woman, it is usually a good idea to book a tour or find some new friends at your hotel to go out with. Heavy drinking, kissing in public, and other activities are best avoided.
In a country this popular with tourists, it is all too common for visitors to get ripped off on everything from taxis to tours. Hotels and the top tourism companies work hard to maintain good reputations though and often your best option, even if you are more of an independent traveler, is to schedule or at least ask about tours with your hotel.
Check the Political Climate
Egypt is an incredible country, once home to the powerful ancient Egyptian culture that built the pyramids and countless temples to their gods. This ancient culture was one of the longest, most stable kingdoms in world history. Today though, the political climate is a bit more unpredictable.
Keeping an eye on the political climate and issues of Egypt is important if you are planning a trip here. Sometimes years go by without major issue but then, as we all saw in 2011, the political climate can change in a heartbeat to the point of outright revolution. During these more turbulent times, many countries put out warnings advising against travel to the region. It is up to you to decide where you draw the line and cancel your trip but remember that Egypt isn’t going anywhere and the great Pyramids of Giza will still be there once things settle back down politically.
Deciding Where to Go
Egypt is a rather large country and literally packed with incredible archaeological sites, museums, and unique cultural traditions all worth seeing. The most difficult part of planning your trip will probably be deciding where to go.
The main archaeological highlights lie along the Nile River and specifically around Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan. Many tours of the country just hit there three spots which cover the Pyramids of Giza, the Valley of the Kings, and a few major temples of ancient Egypt. To the north, the coastal city of Alexandria is also worth seeing for its historic significance if you have the time.
Beyond the Nile, the most popular region of Egypt for foreign visitors is the coastal area along the Red Sea. Here the appeal is less historic and more fun-in-the-sun, complete with beach resorts and world-class diving. The two centers of tourism here are the resort areas of Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada.