Six months ago, I boarded a flight from Karachi to Bahrain. Now here I was at the airport yet again, getting on the plane to another Middle Eastern Country.
Before making the decision to go to Egypt, questions and doubts began to surface like "I am sure it is beautiful but why should I visit another Arab country, right away?", "What's there to do apart from seeing the Pyramids?", "It seems conservative, would I be able to blend in?". But that was due to my lack of knowledge about it. Like most people I thought it was unsafe or had only a handful of sights to see. Luckily, despite the things I heard, I took the plunge and decided to go there.
Traveling the country from North to South, I was flabbergasted by its beauty and to say that it took me by surprise would be an understatement.
I felt completely ignorant because unlike the skewed image that I had of it, this Pharaohs Land was so much more and my bubble of misjudgment burst, for good!
Having visited 15 cities in Egypt, I was Transfixed by the Mediterranean, Captivated by the underwater splendor in Dahab and Astounded by the magic of the desert stars in Black and White Desert.
In the years after the revolution this country has been in the spotlight, sadly for tragedy, rather than for the history, culture and beauty that is synonymous with it.
Although, Egypt has an intense sensory overload, which you'd either love or loathe, you would fly back a better traveler merely because you went! And like Anthony Bourdain said in his episode of No Reservations shot in Egypt, Arab hospitality is not a cliche, so you might as well experience it yourself.
Egypt is famous for having two of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, the Pyramids of Giza and the Lighthouse of Alexandria (which was destroyed by an earthquake), but have you wondered what are the 7 wonders of Egypt?
Here are my favorite 7 spots that you shouldn't miss out on visiting during your trip to Egypt!
1. Blue Hole, Dahab
From scuba diving and hiking to stargazing and quad biking, there's pretty much everything that this laid back, coastal city of Dahab offers its visitors. Dahab has an amazing chill vibe which I can't put into words. Just being there makes you calm and relaxed.
While from hiking up Mount Sinai to scuba diving in Blue Lagoon, our trip comprised of pretty much all activities you can do while in Dahab, snorkleing in the Blue Hole stood out for me.
The Blue Hole is a 94m deep submarine sinkhole, which, although, is notorious for being a deadly dive location, divers from all over the world don't keep away from it.
My snorkeling experience at the Blue Hole was phenomenal because it was my first deep-sea venture and I was amazed by the aquatic wonders; the coral reefs and the feeling of floating along with all kinds of colorful fishes among those steady waters.
- Diving Service providers
- getting to the Blue hole
Looking to go diving in Dahab? Below are three top diving service providers:
Red Sea Relax: In addition to providing accommodation discounts for divers, Red Sea Relax provides trips to the best locations in Dahab. It is pretty much everything you want under one roof.
Poseidon Divers: Poseidon Divers has received great reviews overall and it's a reliable and affordable diving agency.
Sea Dancer Diver Center: There is a plethora of different diving techniques that are taught at the Sea Dancer Diver Center.
Eagle Divers: Eagle Divers are a team of multilingual diving enthusiasts and they have a 40 year long experience in diving.
Club Red Dahab: Club Red Dahab has a reputation for having a wonderful and cooperative staff. The location of the accommodation is also ideal.
To get to the Blue Hole, you first have to get to Dahab and for that you can either book a flight from Cairo to Sharm-el-Sheikh and take a bus from there to Dahab which will take around 1-2 hours and it will cost you 20 L.E, or you can take an overnight bus, which will cost you 80 -150 L.E and the ride will take around 8 to 9 hours.
If you haven't already booked a trip to the Blue Hole, then you can ask the front-desk at your hostel/hotel to arrange the trip for you, or you can check out the tours in the Dahab local bazaar.
2. Black & White Desert, Farafra
My short excursion to the White Desert claimed a spot in the list of top places I've visited in Egypt because I was able to have a complete Middle-Eastern experience here. Here is what I have wanted to do in a desert:
Visit an oasis Camp under the stars Desert safari
Horse back riding
So out of the 8 things I have wanted to do in a desert, I managed to pull off 5 of them in the Black and White Desert. That's pretty good for a trip of 2 days and a night.
This desert locally known as Sahara el Beyda is unlike any desert that I have visited before. Farafra is one of the best places to camp in Egypt.
Fun Fact for South Asians: Part of the song Suraj Hua Madham, which became the national anthem of romantic numbers, was shot in the White Desert.
See what I mean?
For a list of important tips to remember and approximate budget for the trip to this destination, check out the tabs below:
- Important Things to Remember
Take water bottles with you: Not only is it going to be tough for you to find water near the desert, it is also going to cost your double the price. I went there in the excruciatingly hot weather of July and the frozen water bottles costed us 15 - 20 L.E.
Pack flip flops: Flip flops are your best bet when it comes to protecting your shoes from sand. However, I'd suggest you to take closed shoes along as well because your trip might include hiking up the hills.
Beware of the foxes: While the foxes, we spotted in the desert were harmless, I'd still suggest you to be cautious.
Pack toiletries: Although, the camps on the way to Farafra consist of toilets, when you actually make it to the desert, you will be camping under the stars with only the handful of supplies that you brought. So be sure to pack a hand sanitizer, deodorant, wet wipes, and tissues.
The tours to the Black & White Desert usually start from 700 LE or $40 approx. depending on how long you are planning to stay.
Food, transportation and camps are included in the trip.
3. Citadel of Qaitbay, Alexandria
Alexandria is a beautiful industrial seaport by the Mediterranean, which in addition to depicting Egyptian culture, shows influences of European countries as well.
The lighthouse of Alexandira, which was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, was destroyed by an earthquake, but the beauty of this city still remains intact.
My favorite landmark in Alexandria is the Citadel of Qaitbay, which is a 3 story fortress standing right beside the Mediterranean sea.
It is a place which makes me nostalgic for Alexandria, probably because Alexandria is the second city that I traveled to in Egypt and, visiting from Cairo, it was nothing like I could have imagined.
From the gentle and cool breeze that was blowing even in the month of May, to the streets that were fragrant with the smell of seafood, I can't claim one favorite thing about this city.
- Getting to the Citadel
- Ticket Price
From Cairo, you can either get a bus, micro bus or a train to Alexandria, which will cost you around 40 L.E to 80 L.E depending upon the seat that you take. My word of advice is to take the first class train which won't cost you more than 60 L.E. The ride is 2.5 to 3 hours long.
Once you get to the train station, you can actually walk to get to your hotel/hostel. That's what we did on our way back as our hostel was 20 minutes walk away from the station.
To get to the Citadel, you can take the tram, horse carriage, taxi or walk. My preferred mode of commute was to walk as the city was so lively and I wanted to soak in its beauty.
For students the price of the ticket is 15 L.E, and 35 L.E otherwise.
4. El Nayzak, Marsa Alam
While Marsa Alam is usually not in the list of cities to visit in Egypt of tourists, doesn't mean that this city is any short of spectacular sceneries and world famous beaches.
El Nayzak was one of the three beaches I visited in Marsa Alam and it completely stood out for me. Although, it wasn't easy to convince myself to dive in head first in this beach because of how scary it seemed, I still managed to do it. However, the scars that I had from cutting myself on the rocks of the Sharm El Luli beach, started burning up as soon as I hit the water. But as I was transfixed by the beauty of this beach, I got over the pain in no time.
Famously known as one of the most splendid beaches in Egypt, El Nayzak is a natural rock pool on the Red Sea. A commonly known fact about the El Nayzak Beach is that it was struck by a meteor, which is why this place is very well-known by Egyptians.
Pack your snorkeling kit to see the underwater life in this amazing blue pool.
5. Banana Island/Gezirah Al Mozh, Luxor
For some reason, when we think about a relaxing spot in Egypt, Luxor or Aswan don't quite get us psyched. Although, Luxor is famous for its temples, you should definitely visit the Banana Island while you are there. Visitng the temples everyday for hours, although exciting, can be exhausting too. So my excursion to the Banana Island proved to be cathartic and just what I needed.
The Bedouins prepared an amazing meal for us and (as surprising as it is), the meal came with free fruits. Not only did we have an amazing meal at this island, we were also able to spot crocodiles and monkeys.
To get to this emerald green Island, you have to take a Felucca. The ride is relaxing on its own. After you have hopped on the Felucca, you can watch the Nile-side views, which are breathtaking.
Feeling adventurous? Pack your bathing suit and dive into the Nile river to cool off.
6. Philae Temple, Aswan
Located in a reservoir of the Aswan High Dam, is this huge Pharaonic temple called Philae. Like Abu Simbel, this temple was also moved decades ago to its current location.
Although, visiting temples is not usually on top of my list, I was so glad that I got to see this one. From the architecture of this temple to the felucca ride to get here, everything was on point.
The hieroglyphics are stunning to see and the architecture of the temple and surround area doesn't disappoint either.
The ticket price for this temple is 50 L.E regular and 25 L.E for students.
7. The Temple of Hatsheput, Luxor
The temple of Hatsheput is a sight to look at. You can't keep your mind from wondering about how this temple was made when you see it. This temple is not only a memorial temple that honors Queen Hatshepsut, it is also one of the greatest Egyptian architectural achievements.
Location: West Bank, Luxor.
Honorary Mention: Colored Canyon
The reason why the Colored Canyon is not on the above list is because, I Never Went There. In fact, when I visited Dahab, I didn't know Colored Canyon existed. When I did get to know about it, I had already booked my flight back home and it was too late.
So, to keep you from making a mistake like that, I am keeping the Colored Canyon in this list.
This place is so amazing that it has got me planning a second trip to Egypt already.
Already been to Egypt? Comment below your favorite spot. ^.^