9 Reasons Why Egypt should go back on your bucket list

January 19, 2020

Egypt Feluka Sail Boat on the Nile

Image: An Egyptian feluka sailboat floats lazily on the Nile River

For many travelers, Egypt is a complicated decision. It may be home to one of the most iconic, awe-inspiring ancient civilizations, but years of political disorder created some understandable apprehension in the tourism world. Those days are over, and this is one of those scenarios where you shouldn't believe the hype.

So let’s clear something up: Is it safe to travel to Egypt?

This is hands down, the most frequent question from potential travelers. The short answer to that question is, yes, it's safe. Egypt has been welcoming mass tourism for decades, and although the country has had its fair share of bad press in recent years, it's worth understanding how that impacts you as an individual traveler before you write it off.

The political environment in Egypt has come a long way in recent years. In January 2011, the people overthrew the 30-year rule of former president Hosni Mubarak. The battle over Egypt's subsequent leadership led to the election (and eventual removal) of the far-right conservative president, Mohamed Morsi. During these years, tourism came to a grinding halt, and the government suffered from a lack of direction that created a feeling of insecurity and instability. In 2014, Abdel Fattah El Sisi was elected in overwhelming numbers and since re-elected again in 2018. Egypt's definition of democracy is widely disputed, but one thing stands out about the current president. Determined to put Egypt back on the map, El Sisi is creating massive foreign investment opportunities and domestic initiatives that brought Egypt out of its gloomy tunnel. Tourism is slowly recovering with modern, eye-catching campaigns highlighting the many treasures across the country that once made Egypt one of the world's top travel destinations. Safety and security measures for tourists are enforced through the required registration and regulation of tour operators, hotels, airports, and major attractions. The presence of white-uniformed officers is visible but not overwhelming, offering a sense of reassurance that won't cramp your mood. Bottom line: Egypt's bad rep overwhelmingly overshadows the reality of what it's like to immerse yourself in its uber rich history and culture.

Reassurance in numbers: 

With its diverse cultural attractions, Egypt is ranked #3 in Middle Eastern Tourism, and in 2017, Statista reported over 8 million visitors to the country.



Egyptians revel in Western culture 

English is widely spoken among the middle and upper classes, with some folks also fluent French, Italian, German, Greek, and Armenian due to a long history of colonization and immigration. Popular radio stations with native English speaking hosts play top 40 hits, metal, and hip hop, friends discuss international politics and celebrity tweets over a weekend boozy brunch, and everyone watched Game of Thrones. For better or worse, Westerners have an elevated social status, which means that visitors are not only welcome but also treated with a little extra special attention.

And to debunk another common myth, Egypt is actually safe for women. While it's still a conservative culture on the outside, women do not need to cover in a shapeless, head to toe frock. A degree of modesty is expected in public places, but many restaurants and nightlife venues are far more relaxed where women frequently flaunt revealing high fashion and hotels, and private beaches are full of bikini-clad bodies. Women certainly don't need a male companion but should exercise the same common sense in any major city. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid dark alleyways late at night. It's that simple.


Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are 9 reasons why you should go:

Egypt Red Sea Resort

Image: Farsha Cafe, Sharm El Sheikh. Blissful beach vacations on the Red Sea are (a LOT) less expensive than you think

1. It’s easy on your wallet. Egypt is a budget traveler's dream. You can epitomize that champagne taste on a beer budget life due to the still rebounding economy that created massive devaluation of local currency. So what does that mean for you? Cheap eats are widely available for about $3, your average meal is around $5, with fine dining options ranging from $15-20. A local beer will only set you back $2.5. Accommodations in 5-star hotel chains like the Ritz-Carlton or the Four Seasons will run $150-200 per night, where 3-4 star hotels are under $100 per night. Looking for a deal? Budget hotels that don't lack basic creature comforts are as low as $50 per night, and great Air Bnb options are plentiful in major cities like Cairo. Attractions are also affordable, with tickets to popular sites like the Pyramid of Giza, the Cairo Museum, and the many temples in Luxor charging under $10.

    ATV Safari in Sinai Egypt

    Image: Explore the mountains on an ATV safari in Sinai

    2. The list of things to do is incredibly diverse. The ancient wonders in Cairo and Luxor's southern temples are an absolutely worthwhile spend of time, but dig a little deeper, and you'll find a myriad of activities that will satisfy a wide range of interests. Learn kite surfing in El Gouna, go on an ATV safari in the Sinai mountains, enjoy big game fishing off the coast of Ain El Sokhna, or swim with dolphins and giant sea turtles in Marsa Alam. Eco-tourism is gaining momentum where you can stay in minimal huts along the beaches of Ras Shitan or experience a full body detox, burying yourself neck-deep in the hot, mineral-rich sands of the Siwa desert oasis. For late-night fun, the party rages on until the wee hours in Cairo and the North Coast with DJ's pumping house, pop, hip hop, and Arabic tunes while patrons sip boozy cocktails and rub shoulders with local celebrities.



      3. Cairo's alternative scene is alive and well. Take a break from the tourist route and head to CJC for the city's best alternative music venue. Sip on a cocktail or buy a pitcher of beer while the stage hosts local musicians from every genre, ranging from hip hop, punk, indie, experimental electronica and everything in between. For more local events, ideas on where to eat out, or some casual reads about what's happening around the country, visit Cairo Scene, an online lifestyle guide of click-worthy articles and reviews.

         Hot air balloons flying over Luxor Egypt

        Image: Hot air balloons flying over the Valley of the Kings in Luxor

        4. You can indulge your inner thrill-seeker. In the water: Head west to the Sinai peninsula where divers from all over the world explore the captivating Blue Hole, dubbed the Mount Everest of the sea due to its stunning and unforgiving nature. Wanna take it down a notch? Get your scuba certification at a dive school in the neighboring hippie town of Dahab or grab some snorkeling equipment and check out the world-class coral reefs and marine life. In the air: While visiting the temples of Luxor, sign up for a sunrise hot air balloon ride that cruises over the Valley of the Kings, the temple of Hatshepsut, and the Nile River. Not for the faint-hearted, these balloons float anywhere from 1,000-2,000ft in the air for about 40 minutes. The thrill is real, and the views will take your breath away.

        Egypt White Sand Desert

        Image: Get lost in western Egypt's White Desert

        5. Get some serious R&R. Away from Cairo and Alexandria's busy metropolises, you can find absolute peace and quiet amid stunning landscapes. In the south, the small town of Aswan enjoys a much slower rhythm, with lush green islands and white sailboats dotted among the waters of the Nile. The Siwa desert oasis in the west is truly magnificent with fields of palm trees and massive salt lakes that rise out of desert dunes. Bring your camping gear or join a group headed for the White Desert for stunning, uninterrupted views of the sculpture filled desert landscape that is straight out of a sci-fi movie. If you dream of white sand beaches and stunningly clear turquoise waters, look no further than the North Coast beaches along the Mediterranean sea, the most popular summer destination for affluent locals.

        Zooba Traditional Egyptian Breakfast

        Image: Traditional Egyptian breakfast at Zooba. This eatery is so popular, they recently opened a branch in Manhattan

        6. If you’re a foodie, Egypt has got you covered. Looking for something traditional? You've never tried falafel, shawarma, baba ganoush, or baklava until you've tried it in Egypt. Restaurants and family recipes are passed down from generation to generation, creating dishes that are perfected and prepared daily. These spice-laden, aromatic meals are not to be missed, but Egypt's modern community thrives on insta-worthy creations by high profile chefs who are garnering their own cult following at restaurants like U Bistro & Bar and Sachi, featuring upscale international fare. Reservations are hard to come by, and the exclusivity of these places makes getting a table all the more gratifying.

        7. English is widely spoken. Learning a few words in Arabic like hello, please and thank you is always welcomed with a big smile, but if you’re staying in a hotel or going on a tour, you won’t have trouble communicating. Members of the hospitality industry are fluent in multiple languages to cater to visitors from all over the world, but English is by far the most commonly spoken. With the exception of smaller, local restaurants (who will excitedly welcome you all the same), you’ll usually have an English menu option and an English-speaking wait staff. Shop owners, especially in the bigger cities or in touristy areas, are also fluent enough to complete a purchase without issue. 

          Diving in the Red Sea Egypt

          Image: The Red Sea, off Egypt's Sinai peninsula, is home to rich underwater life drawing international divers from all over the world

          8. Getting around is easy. Well, sort of. Traffic is legendary, but local flights are all one hour or less, no matter where you go, and trains and buses offer cheaper options to every destination in the country. Using your same Uber account to call a car service is recommended (although you will need to turn roaming on, or pre-purchase a travel plan from your cell phone provider) or have a car arranged for you by someone at your hotel. A word about public taxis: Local cab drivers are not known for their English skills, and tourists are easy bait for overcharging. If you do take a cab, know your exact destination, and ask a local what an acceptable fare would be since meters are uncommon. Agree upon your fare with the driver before you take off, and you'll avoid incoherent haggling at the end of your trip. Worst case scenario, if you feel like you got swindled, it was probably the equivalent of no more than $10. So relax. 

            Adam Henein In The Moonlight Karim Francis Cairo Gallery

            Image: Adam Henein In The Moonlight at Karim Francis art gallery in Cairo

            9. You’ll find awesomely unique, artisan treasures for your home. Skip the tourist shops (unless you really want a set of pyramids or miniature statues of ancient gods that were most likely made in China) and get lost in the marketplaces and side streets that are brimming with local shops where merchants create and sell their works (not unlike the cool finds we have featured here on Blue With Envy). Flex your bargaining muscles, and you'll go home with handcrafted textiles, woodwork, decor, stoneware, jewelry, and more. Looking for a casual gallery stroll? Head to Karim Francis in Cairo for contemporary works from local artists.


              Looking for more inspiration? We highly encourage a swipe through Experience Egypt’s Instagram for absolute eye candy, curating a collection of the country’s best destinations by local and international travelers.


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