Steeped in ancient history, the North African country of Egypt conjures images of pyramids, temples and hieroglyphics. Home to two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and with heritage tracing back to the 6th millennia BCE, there are plenty of reasons to visit this once influential region. As a result of conflict in the region, Egypt recently saw a decline in tourism. However, with several areas now restored to peace, tourists have been flocking back again. In fact, research shows a massive 51% growth in tourism. It seems that people just cannot resist the charm and grandeur of Egypt’s landmarks. Here are a few things that you might be surprised to know about holidaying here.
1. You’ll need a visa
Before entering the country, you will need to obtain a visa. This can be done online before you travel or obtained from an airport kiosk upon arrival. The fee is around 25 USD, although payment can also be made in GBP or Euros (preferable over the more fragile Egyptian pound). As with most travel documents, it is easier to obtain online before you go in order to avoid lengthy airport queues. If you are planning on purchasing your visa on arrival, make sure you have enough in cash for each person in your group.
2. Cruising is the best way to explore the Nile
Cruising the longest river in Africa (and arguably the world) is not only a fantastic addition to your trip but also the most efficient way to discover the area. The banks of the Nile house some of Egypt’s best kept secrets. Witness the daily life of rural villages and farms before stopping off to visit the temples. The Valley of the Kings and other archaeological sites are easily accessible from the banks of the Nile, so you can tick a few sites off your bucket list in a single cruise.
3. Bread is life… literally!
Bread is a staple food of the 95 million people in Egypt and considered such a huge part of the way of life here that its production is subsidised by the government. In fact, bread (or ‘aish’ in Egyptian Arabic) is so important to the Egyptian people that it quite literally translates into English as ‘life’. Flat pitta-like breads are most commonly sold – but ‘fino’, a sweet-tasting baguette shaped loaf, is also very popular.
4. There is more to the Sahara than you think
More than 90% of Egypt is desert land, with the Arabian desert in the east and the Libyan
Desert, a part of the Sahara, in the west. There is much more to the Sahara than the vast
stretches of golden sand that might come to mind. A favourite with tourists is the white
desert, located north of Farafra. This alien landscape of white and cream features towering chalk rock formations (a natural phenomenon resulting from sandstorms).
5. The beaches are beautiful
As a destination with such historical grandeur, it is often forgotten that Egypt is home to
some incredibly beautiful beaches. The coast of the Red Sea is a favourite of sun-seekers
and divers; with both red and white sandy bays to choose from and a wealth of coral reefs.