Holidays in Egypt – Culture, desert and the Red Sea
Egypt , the land of the pharaohs, Cleopatra, the pyramids and tombs, the Red Sea and the desert. A country bustling with beautiful archaeological sites with numerous ancient treasures. We have experienced this ourselves during our journey through this great country. Great in surface area but also certainly to culture. Maybe you went on vacation in Egypt, for us it was the first time. And that has left a certain impression!
Holidays in Egypt – Last-minute
A last-minute to the sun, was what we were looking for a week before departure. The drizzly weather in Belgium did not keep us at home. A trip to the sun could appeal to us now more than ever. Anyone who has gone on holiday to Egypt before knows that a trip can already be quite cheap. In addition, Egypt has captivated us for years because of its fascinating history. Reasons enough for a holiday in Egypt!
Sun in December
After six hours of flying and at about 20 degrees warmer, we arrived in Hurghada. This together with Sharm El Sheikh is the most popular place to go on holiday in Egypt. Not surprising as all the major hotel chains are located here. So is ours.
A huge complex with a huge number of restaurants and pools was our stay for the next ten days. It’s clear you’re not short of anything here. Also the staff is very attentive to make your stay as pleasant as possible. Sun, sea and a luxury stay. We were pleased.
Although it is tempting to spend days in your hotel, we obviously didn’t. A day at the pool is more than enough for us. Soon it starts to tickle to go exploring. Almost always we make a schedule for the next few days and how we will organize it. What was certain was that we wanted to visit the historical sites in Luxor, as well as explore the desert a bit better. All other activities then give way to that. What’s extra is nicely taken.
Day trip Luxor
At half past five in the morning we left in a taxi – for us rather no organized tour- towards Luxor. The ride would take just over three hours. However, our taxi driver could not speak a word of English, which made the ride take exactly longer. It did have something magical to drive through the mountains with the rising sun. The sky colored all the colors of the rainbow. There’s nothing to stand for a beautiful sunrise. And in Egypt you will undoubtedly find one of the most beautiful in the world.
After as many as ten (I’m not exaggerating) checkpoints later, we arrived in Luxor. You can see right away that this city lives on tourism. The cruise ships are gathered at a joint spot on the Nile and the tour buses all go in the same direction. Same direction as we went.
The first stop of our day was Karnak. Here you will find ruins but also remains of an ancient temple that have remained perfectly intact, various statues and hieroglyphics. You can really walk around here for hours. Maybe days. You keep discovering something new. Historians and lovers of Ancient Egypt can enjoy themselves here. But even if you love photography, this is a place you shouldn’t skip. It is recommended to go there as early as possible as it can get very busy here. However, you won’t soon feel that it is crowded because of the huge surface area and the crowd that runs well.
Karnak is without a doubt our favourite place in Luxor. Because of the amount and fine condition of the ruins and perhaps also because it was the first place we saw and we were very impressed with that. Well worth visiting!
Valley of kings
Our next stop were the tombs of the ancient kings in the Valley of the Kings. Here is also the tomb of Tutankhamun. However, we did not visit for a number of reasons including the “curse of the pharaoh” but also the entrance fee to be honest. The entrance price of the entire archaeological site is already on the high side but if you want to visit this tomb, you pay extra. As a matter of principle, we would rather not do this. We don’t participate in money-beating.
The other tombs we visited were without a doubt at least as impressive. It is fascinating and at the same time incomprehensible that this really exists. That this could have been built so many thousands of years ago, without machines, without tools and tools as we have now, is at least remarkable. What is beyond doubt is that the Ancient Egyptians were extremely strong.
Temple of Hatsjepsute
After a glitzy visit to the tombs we arrived a little further at the temple of Hatsjepsut. This is a popular and well-known place for photographers. The temple is incorporated exactly into the giant rock formations surrounding the palace. It looks very special. Beyond the view of this temple, we were less impressed with the finds here. If you visit Karnak, you have been able to see more than enough details.
If you have to make a choice I would recommend to visit Karnak for sure. If you are in Luxor for a whole day or even several days, it is worth making a stop here as well. The three different sites we have visited, including some smaller sites we have come across along the way, each have their own unique value. In some places you will even see archaeologists at work who are finding more and more treasures or unraveling certain hieroglyphics.
After an exhausting but interesting day, we returned to Hurghada at sunset.
Holidays in Egypt – Red Sea
After an intense day, we decided to stay inside the hotel the next day. The coast in Hurghada, and especially on Makadi Bay where we stayed, is beautiful there. The water is warm and you can still spot many different fish and coral as this is quite a new built area. The waves may be ferocious, but that makes the image all the more unique. Keep in mind that the beach is stony rather than sandy. Even if you want to go in the water, chances are you have to walk over stones. Water shoes are certainly a useful tool to make swimming in the Red Sea more pleasant. For the rest, it’s pure enjoyment here.
Because we also want to eat traditional as often as possible, we booked a table at the Egyptian restaurant in the hotel. Most Egyptian dishes contain a mix of barbecued meat, but vegetarians also have a choice. We have been served several humus with traditional bread. As well as cooked vegetables are a common (bee) dish in Egypt. We also ate rice mixed with noodles. All very tasty!
Holiday in Egypt: The desert
Egypt, however, consists largely of desert. The drought and warm temperatures create a desert climate with little precipitation during the year. Ideal for a sun holiday all year round!
The Egyptian desert, which is part of the Sahara, is unreal beautiful if you ask us. There are giant mountains to be found alternating with flat plains. We decided to take a quad bike ride for a few hours so we could really explore the desert. We came to crazy places including a part where the Red Sea meets the desert. A very surreal image but wonderful!
Sunset in the Sahara
Because we found both the desert and the sunsets in Egypt so impressive, we booked an additional activity to go and admire the sunset in the Sahara Desert. The ultimate activity, right?
The route in any case does not count. This one was bumpy, long-winded and painful! A jeep ride through the desert is absolutely not pleasant. Especially if you have back problems or get nauseous quickly. Keep this in mind! There were also small children on our tour and for them it was also anything but a pleasant activity.
Arriving at a magical place in the desert where the mountains surrounded us, the last rays of sunshine seemed like a warm glow over us. The sun quickly plunged between two massive mountains and on a blanket with a glass of bubbly we watched the spectacle. One of the absolute highlights of the past year! The exhausting ride and the almost broken back was worth it all.
After this unique experience, we were still treated to dinner in a Bedouin village. Bedouins live mostly reclusive and separated from the rest of the country. In Egypt, most of them live in the desert in different locations. They do not identify themselves with the nationality or the faith of a country. They want to live independently and survive on water and food and sometimes a camel as a means of transport. It can be dangerous to visit a Bedouin village as these people are very suspicious of outsiders. They are often harassed by the police and the army. They themselves sometimes attack civilians. In any case, it is fascinating to discover this lifestyle.
After our planned schedule, we had a few days left and we went to explore Hurghada City better. We didn’t know what to imagine in a city in Egypt and were prepared for everything.
As quiet as it is at the hotel zone, so busy is Hurghada City. It is home to about 160 000 inhabitants. You come across a mix of people and cultures. The majority of the population here is Muslim and you can see that in the (religious) buildings and the costumes of the women and men.
Hurghada City is characterized by numerous (souvenir) shops and restaurants. The houses and apartment blocks are in dilapidated condition. It’s actually like you’re thinking you’re in a war zone. Not counting the violence, of course. You will also find several market vendors and a restful harbour where you can book all kinds of tours but also walk around quietly. A tip: Don’t try to answer all the questions from sellers or people on the street. Most just want money from tourists and chat, give some tips and then ask to pay.
One tip we did follow is to visit the Al Mina Mosque. This mosque is located in the middle of the city by the water. As a woman, you have to rent a robe at the entrance that covers your body and hair. The fabric feels light and it is a nice experience to feel like a Muslim in the mosque. The mosque itself is beautiful. A restful place with an immense luster and full of golden details. A must visit in Hurghada City!
Holidays in Egypt
Our first impression of Egypt was one not to forget. Literally, because with a lot of back pain we went back to Belgium. But also full of beautiful memories of a beautiful holiday in Egypt.