Saturday, 26 June 2010
Egypt: Do's and Don'ts!
Well, with the trip to Egypt over, what advice could I offer for anyone planning to visit this amazing country?
- Go inside a pyramid. It doesn't have to be the Great Pyramid (in fact, I'd advise one of the others that may be open as they're far less likely to be crowded), but standing inside definitely helps to appreciate even more these great feats of engineering.
- Get on a camel. Initially dead set against this level of cheesiness, it's actually fun and a great way to see the pyramids. Just think carefully about how long you want to be up there. Good rule of thumb: every hour you bounce along = one extra day's recovery time. You have been warned...
- Take a hot air balloon ride. Cheap and easily organised once in Luxor, this was a true highlight of the trip - I can't recommend it enough!
- Chat to the locals where you can. Many of the people we met were warm and inviting - you might even get an invite to their house which is a real pleasure.
- Eat the local food - Koshary (also commonly known as Kushari) is a gorgeous dish with pasta, lentils, rice and a spicy/vinegary tomato sauce, and tastes amazing, filling with a bit of a kick to it. Try it. Plus you can't go wrong with all the tasty grilled meats, breads and stews available.
- See as many things as possible. Yes, by the end of the trip we were feeling a bit 'templed-out', but there really is so much to see it's worth exploring as much as possible. Take your time at each site though - the little details are often the most incredible.
- Explore modern as well as ancient Egypt. It's tempting to spend most of your time at the ancient sites (especially for a history junkie like me!) but modern Egypt is a vibrant place - the mosques, the markets and the villages are fascinating and welcoming.
- Dress for the temperature. Egypt is hot - very hot, and it's tempting to strip off. But it's also a conservative country, and out of respect for the locals, please dress modestly.
- Get offended/angry at some of the hassle you might experience. The men are not shy about their calls - we found that the best way to deal with it was to ignore it completely - there's no point making a fuss.
- Have lie-ins! Most of the sites were emptier in the mornings, before the coaches arrived, and the heat was also more bearable. Plus, all the great activities start early (balloon rides, Abu Simbel trip etc). Be prepared for a few 2-3am starts!
- Forget comfortable walking shoes. With sand, hills, rough streets and plenty of walking opportunities, don't forget some sturdy and comfortable footwear!
- Get ill. We were really lucky on our trip, with neither of us falling prey to the upset stomachs that so many travellers experience. Anti-bacterial gels, drinking bottled water and not putting fingers in mouths after handling money will all help keep the bugs at bay.