Egypt was an adventure, mainly because it was a learning experience. It was my first time in a third-world country, and the differences were more striking than I had expected.
Open air market in Dahar, Red Sea, Egypt.
We spent a few weeks in Hurghada, which is on the coast along the Red Sea. Normally a bustling tourist hub, it was more like a ghost town when we arrived. The area is usually filled with Russian tourists, but since flight MH17 was shot down last year over Sinai, Russia has banned all flights to Egypt. This has devastated the tourism industry throughout the country. Everywhere you look, there are partially-built buildings and abandoned businesses. It was a depressing place to be!
From the main resort road in Hurghada, Red Sea, Egypt.
Early in our stay, we took a day trip to Luxor to see the Valley of the Kings and Queens. We arrived at peak heat, around noon, and the heat was overwhelming. We both ended up with heat exhaustion, and spent the following day with a 102 degree fever. Luxor is a sight to be seen, but the presence of aggressive souvenir salesmen ruined it for us. We couldn’t get a moment of peace to just BE together in Luxor and take photos without someone approaching us and trying to sell us something!
Valley of the Queens, Luxor, Egypt.
Karnak Temple, Luxor, Egypt.
It made us sad, because we could see how badly the economy was suffering, but it wasn’t our place as tourists to fix it either.
We took a detour for a few days to Sharm El-Sheikh, a resort town on the Sinai Peninsula. We thought this would be a nice reprieve from Hurghada and the depressing dustiness, but it was just as bad, if not worse. Normally a popular tourist destination, all of the resorts here were totally deserted. We had heard that Sinai is safer than the media makes it seem, but the marked level of desertion made us question that notion.
While in Hurghada, we were able to snag a good deal on a day trip on the Red Sea to go scuba diving for the first time. The condition of the equipment and the methods of instruction were definitely questionable, but this wasn’t a trip that required a PADI cert – an instructor basically held our hands the whole time. It was cool to be able to try it out. We definitely want to do another dive soon!
Cairo was our favorite place in Egypt, but definitely not the safest, cleanest, or easiest to navigate.
Traffic jam in Giza.
Near El Maadi, Cairo.
The main purpose of visiting Cairo, is, of course, to visit the Great Pyramids of Giza. You can’t come to Cairo without visiting the last remaining ancient wonder of the world. I was nervous at first, because I read that this site is full of shady sales people targeting tourists with overpriced scams, and sneaky pickpockets. Others wrote that it was being treated as a trash dump in recent years. Some folks on TripAdvisor even described graffiti on the base of the pyramids themselves!
I wanted to go, but part of me didn’t even want to hand over my money to a government that was obviously not concerned with properly preserving such a vital piece of world history.
Despite these horrible accounts by other travelers who complained that their “lifelong dream” to visit the pyramids was ruined by the sad state of the site, on we went to see for ourselves. We’re glad we did. It wasn’t as badly abused as everyone said, I’m guessing it’s been cleaned up recently, thank goodness.
There were pushy sales people, but nothing we couldn’t handle after experiencing the horrors of Luxor. The population of locals selling goods and services was quite thin compared to what we expected, probably because tourism has taken such a hit, and since we were visiting during the low (read: hot) season.
Bottom line – an entire month in Egypt is overkill. We would have been satisfied with a few days in Cairo to explore Tahrir Square and the pyramids, plus a few days along the Red Sea. We flew EgyptAir domestically 3 times, and each flight made us a bit more concerned about safety. Due to recent events, we’d avoid EgyptAir in the future. We probably won’t be back, but if we were to do it over, we’d take the GoBus between upper and middle Egypt instead. We were disappointed that we didn’t make it up to Alexandria, but I understand that that’s another worthwhile coastal destination along the Mediterranean Sea. Alexandria is also served by GoBus.
Open air market in Cairo.