Travel back in time and you’ll find a CWB with entirely different daydreams. Eight year old Chris daydreamed about virtual reality. Ten year old Chris daydreamed about Hero Quest and Crossbows & Catapults and other such fantasy themed board games. Chris aged twelve through twenty three daydreamed about boobs, kisses, and sappy notions of soul-mates and true love.
But while travel is a love I came by relatively late in life, that isn’t to say I haven’t fostered fantasies about certain countries along the way. One of them – the United States – I’ve been lucky enough to visit twice in the past few years.
The other – Egypt – remains a travel daydream, and it is this daydream I share with you today. It’s a warm and sunny Wednesday in provincial Lianyungang (more on that later) and I’m contemplating just what to do with my month long Spring Festival vacation in January. Egypt is fast firming as a real contender and below you’ll find why.
Before any interest in travel had formed, my young mind was utterly fascinated with history. While my peers were gawking at Golden Books or Mr. Man picture books, I was leafing through my father’s dusty collection of atlases and books of unsolved mysteries.
While there was allure in the Incan ruins and the ancient mystery of Stone Henge, it was the vastness of the Egyptian pyramids that grabbed me. Their funerary rites, their animal headed gods, and their vast monuments really spoke to me as well.
The day I stand in front of the pyramids at Giza or visit the Valley of the Kings, I’ll feel a real sense of accomplishment at having fulfilled my very first travel dream. And while it may not compare with the dizzying feeling of over-awed realization I experienced when I first arrived in South Korea back in 2007, I am sure it will be a close second and make for a much more memorable travel tale.
Travellers the world around are drawn to Egypt each year to see the ancient wonders, and while the Pyramids are obviously the top attraction – there’s a lot to be said for the Valley of the Kings and the startling beauty of the temples of Karnak as well. It’s remarkably affordable to take a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings, and the temple complex at Karnak is perhaps even more representative of Egyptian culture than the pyramids or the sphinx could ever hope to be. For lovers of history, the temple complex at Karnak is a must.
Tourist traps they may be, but you’re no true traveller if the Egyptian historic sites don’t hold some appeal for you.
But to say Egypt starts and ends at its historic sites would be doing the country a great disservice. There is more to Egypt than its history, although much of it is often overshadowed by talk of Pharoahs and dynasties and ancient wars.
While Cairo obviously stands out as the obvious choice, don’t neglect to visit beautiful Alexandria. It may not boast the same depth of Egyptian history that its more famed cousin does, but Roman history mixes in with Egyptian history in Alexandria in a way you won’t find anywhere else. Pay a visit to the ancient Catacombs of Kom el-Shugafa beneath the city or one of its many museums or coliseums and you’ll be treated to an entirely different kind of cultural experience.
Cairo itself boasts all manner of attractions ranging from museums to massive open air bazaars to complement its close proximity to the legendary pyramids and the enigmatic sphinx. Islamic Cairo is another draw for me, giving an insight into modern Cairo that provides a fascinating contrast to the ancient world we’re more familiar with from history books and documentaries.
The Natural Beauty
It’s perhaps Egypt’s natural beauty that is most often overlooked. Picture Egypt and you’re likely to imagine sand dunes, camels, and ancient ruins; and while that’s technically a correct representation of the north African nation, it doesn’t paint the full picture. Egypt’s coast is a stunning departure from its interior – a dazzling playground of coral reefs and picturesque beaches awaits along the shores of the red sea.
Holidays to Sharm el Sheikh are fast becoming a poorly kept secret, but there’s still plenty of reasons to visit the southern tip of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Boasting some of Egypt and the world’s most stunning dive sites, the region is also laden with five star resorts and a rapidly evolving night life that makes it a logical choice for those wanting a more ‘conventional’ break from reality.
One of my readers also speaks glowingly on the subject of paying a visit to Dahab in the country’s north. Another Red Sea location, Louise swears that Dahab has even better scuba diving than its more famous southern neighbor. That’s a pretty ringing endorsement and one I’d like to investigate. Boasting a less touristy feel, it’s possible to spend a day diving and a night enjoying traditional Egyptian foods and experiencing Bedouin culture. A perfect compromise for those wanting a beach vacation without all of the trappings that come with tourism hot-spots.
If diving isn’t your thing, there’s also this little known body of water called The Nile. I wrote at length about my fascination with the world’s most famous river in the past, and a river cruise down the Nile offers a wonderfully memorable way to see the country.
Mention must also go to the deserts of Egypt as well. Tours of Egypt’s Western Desert are a welcome escape from the crowds that flood into Cairo and its surrounds every year, and let you see a world mostly untouched by man. Experiencing nomadic life up close and personal should be an experience every traveler worth their salt has at some point, and the Western Desert has no shortage of tours offering just that.
If this article didn’t make it clear to you, you may notice that I’ve written in the past about my fascination with Egypt as well. Check out my comparison of Egypt vs Turkey sometime if you’re keen to learn more about different things to do in Egypt.
What was your very first travel dream? Is Egypt on your bucket list like it is mine? Or is there another country that holds first place in your daydreams?