Egypt in the eyes of a history connoisseur (Part 1 of 3)

Updated: 6 days ago

If you are like me, fond and fascinated by the ancient Egyptian civilization, its relics, mysteries and knowledge we are still deciphering, then the article below will be of value to you.


You are about to embark on an adventure to the magic Egypt.


In a series of 3 articles I articulate an itinerary that my friends, my family and I have been using in order to discover ancient Egypt for the first time.


This specific journey is focused on a deep dive into Ancient Egyptian civilization with route including (Cairo -) Luxor - Aswan - Cairo, mode of transport: air, river cruise, and sometimes a horse carriage.





Cairo and Giza

The Pyramids - first thing that comes to your mind if you think of Egypt. There are 118 pyramids in the country with the main ones being located in Giza, a governorate to the south-southwest of Cairo (where Sphinx is). This is where your journey might begin.


When I travel to Egypt, usually I take a direct flight to CAI - Cairo International Airport.


Giza


The hotel of my choice is Mena House Marriott, located in Giza with breathtaking views over Pyramids. The story of the hotel itself is quite romantic as well. Back in 1880s it was just a hunt hut when a newlyweds Frederick and Jessie Head came to the honeymoon and fell in love with the place and its local charm. A few years later they sold it to another romantic couple from England, Ethel and Hugh F. Locke King who didn’t spare time to expand the residence and launch it as a hote in 1886.




While walking in the hallways one could enjoy some retro photographs of the place and with their own eyes witness beautiful transformation. Certainly the best spots in the hotel - view from the terrace (if you request one overlooking the Pyramids) and from the Breakfast cafe.





The Hotel itself is within walking distance to the Pyramids - you just need to walk a few hundred meters up the hill to reach the Pyramids ticketing office. For those of you from the UK and used to history establishments open to the public, in Egypt all museums you have to purchase tickets. At the ticketing office you will need to decide whether you’d like to walk around Pyramids or you’d like to "test your fitness level" and explore some of them from inside (climbing up and down is guaranteed. Certainly you won’t feel like earlier explorers deprived of oxygen and crawling on their knees, but at some parts you will have your pulse going up. My Garmin watch counting steps was buzzing) - hence comfortable and non-slippery shoe ware if highly recommended.


After exploring the Pyramids from inside we took a horse carriage to reach some of the pyramids located a bit far away, and also take more photos capturing the landscape. Be aware, most if not all horse carriage rides end at one of the perfumery or precious stones stores where you are invited to have a cup of tea or coffee and purchase something. It is your choice to opt for either.


After exploring the Pyramids and getting more questions in your head than answers it worthwhile considering exploring the museums with a professional guide.


You can have a private guide and a car arranged for you by Mena House concierge. I would recommend to check the proposed itinerary in advance, so that if you want to make changes - it needs to be done in advance as tour guides are required to report the car route to the Tourism Police. You can guess that one of the final stops of the city tour would most like be… a precious stone shop. With that you are not obliged to purchase anything, unless you wish to do so.


Cairo Museums of Ancient Egyptian Civilization


Depending on a traffic situation it might take anything between 40 min to 1 hour to reach Cairo Downtown from Giza (hence if you prefer to focus only on Cairo Museums about Ancient Egyptian Civilization and Islamic Heritage then you might select a hotel closer to Tahrir Square - Four Seasons, Ritz and others overlooking the Nile).




Until recently one of the top attractions for history lovers has been the The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (known as Egyptian Museum or the Cairo Museum), designed by the french architect Marcel Dourgnon in 1901 to become the first national museum in the Middle East. For over a century the Museum has been home to an astonishing collection of Ancient Egyptians antiques.


To truly benefit from visiting The Cairo Museum I would highly recommend to have with you a knowledgeable egyptologist with you. There are intricacies that only a specialist could highlight as you pass the long halls of the museum.


As of June 2022 the Grand Egyptian Museum is being built. The new museum will be located in Giza and promises to supersede the Cairo Museum by scale, exposition, and guest experience. As of June 2022 there is no official information on the opening date.


Another impressive museum which won’t leave you indifferent - National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, which seized the international fame for its Mummies Hall, launched upon Pharaoh's Golden Parade in April 2021.


Cairo Things to Do After Enjoying The Museums


Upon visiting the Cairo Museum in Tahrir Square it is tempting to stroll the neighboring streets of the downtown - especially if you are here for the first time. You can walk toward Talaat Hard Square. Some the spots worth visiting:


  • Hassan Kamy Orientalist Antique Bookstore (in Google Maps it will be shown as مكتبة حسن كامى المستشرق), where you can find unique pieces of literature and art. It is a block away from HSBC branch and ATM which is always of great necessity and help when I am visiting such special places. (Location)


  • Cafe Richi’s - if it is your first time in Cairo, then this is social landmark to visit for a cup of Turkish coffee, and experience the place where time, according to one of Cairo’s journalists, has stopped, “a meeting place of Egyptian intelligentsia and revolutionaries, bearing witness of many significant events that marked Egypt's modern history”. (Location)


  • Groppi Garden Cafe - a lovely hidden spot to have lunch, a walking distance from Talaat Hard Square. (Location).


 

Recommended itinerary


Based on my experience I would recommend two alternative options of how you could explore Egypt. Option 1 with includes time in Cairo, Option 2 provides opportunity to be part of Serenity retreat in Luxor


At Pyramids

Day 1 Arriving to Cairo or Giza

Day 1 Flight to Luxor

Day 2-3 Exploring Pyramids and Museums

Day 4 Flight Cairo - Luxor

Day 7-8 Night at Winter Palace

Day 5-8 Exploring Luxor

Day 9 Boarding on the Nile Cruise

Day 9 Boarding on the Nile Cruise

Day 10-12 Sailing to Aswan

Day 10-12 Sailing to Aswan

Day 13-14 Exploring Aswan

Day 13-14 Exploring Aswan


 

General recommendations when traveling to Egypt


More travel information you could certainly source from the dedicated pages of your home country Ministry of Foreign Affairs / your Embassy in Cairo:

  • Egyptian currency is Egyptian Pound. While credit cards - VISA, MasterCard - works just perfectly fine across the country it is always recommended to have some small bills for tipping and minor purchases. For some of the antique works I collect, including books, paintings and silver items I sometimes pay in US dollars as well.

  • When you arrive to Cairo airport you will need to purchase a visa (always check in advance if you need to do any applications before arriving to the country). You can do this in one of the bank kiosks located next to the immigration area. The visa on arrival fee as of today (June 2021) is USD 25. You will need to pay cash - in USD or Egyptian Pounds. If you pay in USD and require change - it will be given to you in local currency.

  • Traffic is hectic and you might encounter some traffic jams commuting in Cairo and between Cairo and Giza - plan ahead.

  • I always use Uber when in Cairo, preferably the Comfort one as the service is more professional, with cleaner cars.




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