Showdown: Turkey or Egypt?

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The Showdown is a new feature here on Aussie on the Road, but it’s one I’m quite excited about. Every so often I’m going to pick two countries or cities in similar areas and pit them against one another in a head to head battle for my love.

While it’s true that Egypt was perhaps my first travel day-dream, Turkey is not a country without its siren song. Ever since my friend started trying to lure me there to teach, Turkey has been growing in my estimation. The history of a place like Constantinople/Istanbul, the fantastic food, and the significance of the place to Australian history is a real draw for me.

I was recently challenged to compare the two and so it’s time for Turkey and Egypt to go to war. Which one will win out?

Troy, Ephesus, and The Hagia Sophia v The Pyramids, Karnak, and The Valley of the Kings

Let’s face it, both countries have incredible histories and there’s no shortage of historic sites and beautiful architecture to explore in either country.

Egypt obviously has a big edge in the form of the legendary pyramids and the enigmatic Sphinx, but you can’t completely discount Turkey’s own rich history. The site of ancient Troy and the ruins of ancient Greek settlements such as Ephesus are definitely something I’d be interested in seeing.

Hot air balloon over Luxor
A hot air balloon ride over Luxor. Photo courtesy of Marcos Leal.
karnak
The ancient beauty of Karnak really speaks to me. Photo courtesy of DJ McCrady

With both countries having been under the yoke of medieval imperialism at some point, they’ve also had a melting pot of cultures to provide a vast array of different styles and stories.

But while the Hagia Sofia’s beauty is legendary, it may not be able to measure up to the legend of temples such as Luxor and Karnak, nor does it quite have the history of the Valley of the Kings.

Haga Sophia
The Haga Sophia is arguably Turkey’s most iconic building. Photo courtesy of Sauvageone.

When it comes out to a battle over history and stunning architecture, it’s Egypt by a fair length in the end.

Egypt: 1 Turkey: 0

The Bosphorus v The Nile

Nile River
In the battle of rivers, the Nile reigns supreme

Both Turkey and Egypt have rivers that could be considered the veins of a nation, and the Bosphorus is no less impressive or important to Turkish history than the lengthy Nile. And while Egypt’s only well known river is the Nile, Turkey also boasts rivers such as the Tiber to appeal to the water loving set.

Much like the Pyramids and the ancient temples of Egypt, the Nile just has a fantastic allure for me. The history of the tributary and its role in sustaining one of the world’s most fascinating cultures can’t be overlooked.

Neither river is lacking in options when it comes to river boat cruises, but I’m still enchanted by the idea of sailing down (and sleeping on) the Nile. It’s another one where Egypt’s rich history edges out Turkey’s.

Things are looking one sided in the Turkey or Egypt debate…

Egypt: 2 Turkey: 0

Istanbul v Cairo

Now, here is where Turkey starts to come into its own. While there is no denying Cairo is a city with no shortage of history – there’s something gripping about Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) and its role as one of the great crossroad cities in human history. The former seat of the East Roman Empire and a key city in the 4th Crusade, you just can’t look past Istanbul’s epic history and its role as one of the most prominent city’s in medieval Europe.

cairo
The built up slums of Cairo make for a unique cultural experience
istanbul
Beautiful Istanbul – the jewel of Turkey

Modern day Istanbul and Cairo are bustling cities with rich cultures, delicious food, and no shortage of places to drink a coffee or smoke some sheesha, but it’s Istanbul’s role in European history that edges it ahead for me. In the battle of Turkey or Egypt; Turkey wins its first point.

Egypt: 2 Turkey: 1

Gallipoli v Western Desert

This one may seem a bit of a mismatch, but both areas were the sites of much bloodshed during the World Wars. The Western Desert saw plenty of action and is notable for being the graveyard of the Lady Be Good, while Gallipoli is often described as the place where Australian was truly born as a nation.

anzac cove, Turkey
Gallipoli’s role in defining Australia’s cultural identity gives it the edge for me

The Western Desert is a runaway winner when it comes to scenery and the cultural experience on offer, but it’s hard for me as a patriotic Aussie to overlook the opportunity to commemorate ANZAC Day by attending the dawn service on the beach where so many Australian and New Zealand soldiers lost their lives.

If you’re not interested in Australian wartime history, your obvious choice would be the Western (Libyan) Desert, but for me, Gallipoli gets through on cultural significance.

Egypt: 2 Turkey: 2

Ras Mohammed National Park v Goreme National Park

Both Egypt and Turkey are places perhaps best known for desert, but there’s beauty of other kinds to be found in both countries.

I talked at length about the stunning Red Sea park that is Ras Mohammed in my recent 5 Different Things to do in Egypt post, but I’ll reiterate here. The mostly marine park offers crystal clear waters and stunning scuba diving, and that’s a big thing for me.

Ras Mohammed National Park
Ras Mohammed’s crystal clear waters are a real winner in my eyes

Goreme National Park in Cappadocia is a park of an entirely different kind. Recognisable for its ‘fairy chimney’ style rock formations, the dry and dusty park offers stunning sunset and sunrise views and no shortage of unique rock formations to photograph.

Goreme National Park
Goreme’s unusual rock formations make it a truly unique park

It’s a tough call, but the opportunity to scuba dive gives Egypt the edge for me. Turkey or Egypt? Egypt.

Egypt: 3 Turkey: 2

Battle of the Beaches

I wouldn’t be an Aussie if I didn’t take into account the quality of the beaches in a place I was going to visit. Hell, it’s been my own point of disappointment in China and South Korea.

Butterfly Valley, Turkey
The majestic surrounds of Butterfly Valley make it a truly remarkable beach destination in Turkey. Photo property of Turkish Travel Blog.com

I touched on Sharm el Sheikh’s beauty in my previous entry on Egypt. Its proximity to Ras Mohammed National Park is obviously a big selling point as well. But you can’t overlook some of the many stunning Turkish beaches including Ova Buku, Butterfly Valley, Kaputus, and Cirali. In fact, Turkey wins this solely on the fact that it has so many notable beaches. Some may be too crowded, but there’s an abundance of fantastic places to sunbathe, swim, or soak in the serenity.

Egypt: 3 Turkey: 3

Cost

Egypt is one of the world’s more popular tourist destinations, so it stands to reason that the locals are onto it and that costs are higher for the average tourist. Turkey, while not without its tourists, has yet to catch on to the ‘rob a foreigner blind’ mentality that seems inevitable wherever tourism is booming.

This holds more true to areas of Turkey outside of Istanbul, but Turkey still remains a generally cheaper option than Egypt.

Egypt: 3 Turkey: 4

Food

The geographical closeness the two nations share does lead to a fair amount of similarity when it comes to the foods and drinks of the two countries. Both, for example, are big drinkers of coffee and tea. Both have kebabs and both have dough based desert treats.

Egyptian food is perhaps preferable for those with a vegetarian diet – with much of the diet based around vegetables and legumes.

Turkish Kebab
The Turkish Kebab is a staple in Australian post drinks culture

Turkish cuisine boasts a great deal more variety than Egyptian food largely because the former Ottoman Empire enveloped areas of Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Balkan regions of Europe. Turkish cuisine is perhaps more famous around the world than Egyptian cuisine. Hell, I’ve had Turkish food here in China but have yet to sample Egyptian fare anywhere.

Egyptian food
A delicious Egyptian spread. Falafel makes my heart smile.

It’s going to hand Turkey the win, but I can’t go past the variety of food that constitutes Turkish cuisine. Having tried it already also helps.

Egypt: 3 Turkey: 5

The Verdict

While Turkey picks up a 5-3 win in this showdown, it’s worth noting that sentimentality when it comes to Gallipoli and my love of a good beach gives Turkey a somewhat unfair advantage. The battle of Turkey or Egypt is a hard one to call.

Truth be told, if you were to offer me a ticket to my choice of Turkey or Egypt tomorrow, I’d be touching down in Egypt a few days from now. From a strictly sight-seeing and historic standpoint, Egypt is a runaway winner. But when you factor in cost and food, Turkey does look a mighty tempting option.

Shit, I’d consider myself lucky to visit either. You can’t go wrong with either destination in my eyes.

Your Thoughts?

Ever been to Turkey and/or Egypt? What did you think of my analysis? Did I miss anything that might tip the scale?

And what should the next showdown be? I’d love your thoughts!

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9 comments

  1. First up, Troy SUCKS. There’s nothing there and the nearest town, Canakkale, is a dump. Ephesus, however, is sublime – I loved the place! And no no NO to Turkey’s beaches. Apart from Pattara, you’re pretty much looking at pebbles and rocks and not soft, soft sand. Korea’s beaches are better than Turkey’s. Unless you like sunbathing on rocks or being surrounded by overweight, drunken, obnoxious Brits and British pubs.

    Now food – FOOD. Kebabs, Ayvalik toast (seriously, look that beast up), fried mussel sandwiches, sublimely sour cherries, incredible ice cream and thick muddy coffee. Turkish food is to die for.

    Just realised like I’m sounding a bit of a Debbie Downer on Turkey but seriously, I LOVE the country. It’s just that Troy and the beaches pretty much blow.

  2. Gosh, I’ve been to both – Egypt in ’09 and Turkey last year… I did pretty comprehensive tours of both countries and there’s still more to see in Turkey for me, at this point. Both were trips of a lifetime and wonderful places with so much history! I’m obsessed with Turkish food and am cooking it all the time…. Yet the love of Egyptian history is strong too.

  3. As much as Turkey also holds a large attraction for me, my love of Egyptian history would see me choose Egypt first every time! Also, I just finished a hieroglyphics course at uni – I have to go before I forget it all!

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