For as long as people have been travelling the world, they’ve been travelling to Egypt. And although there was a minor slump in tourism following the Arab Spring, Egypt is back among the safest and best places to visit in the Middle East. However, the current tourism numbers don’t reflect the return to stability in the country, so you’ll be beating the crowds if you decide to visit in 2019. If you need even more reasons to finally book that trip to Egypt, we’ve highlighted some of the best reasons here.
Why you should travel to Egypt
Egypt is once again the most popular country in the Middle East
Tourism in Egypt never went away, but during the early and mid 2010s, it wasn’t the same must-see destination that it was in the past. The Arab Spring made the whole Middle East an area of political instability, and tourist numbers predictably plummeted. But the clock has turned back and once again, Egypt is becoming the definitive place to visit in the Middle East. Tourism is returning and numbers will likely grow bigger than ever before in the next few years. So take advantage of 2019 as a great time to reconsider that dream vacation to Egypt.
Egypt is safe
Political turmoil has passed and Egypt has regained stability. American, Canadian, and British government travel advisories all say the same thing: avoid the Western Desert and the border with Libya (where there is no tourism anyway) and the Sinai Peninsula, with the exception of Sharm el-Sheikh, but feel confident in travelling anywhere else. Most importantly, this includes Cairo and the Nile River Valley, which are as safe as they’ve ever been. Goway’s first-hand travel experiences agree with the popular assessment: Cairo and the Nile are safe.
Take advantage of the lull in tourism
In 2019, travellers are in the unique position of being able to enjoy Egypt tours without the crowds that are usually commonplace at the pyramids and other historical landmarks. This lull in tourism makes it an unprecedented time to see Egypt. It’s hard to overstate how unique it’ll be to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx without the usual crowds. If you went back 10 years ago and asked a traveller about visiting Egypt, likely the only negative comment they might have had would be about the large crowd. Now you have a chance to forego the crowds, so take advantage.
Highlights of a trip to Egypt
You can visit the pyramids in Egypt. We could leave the article at that, as it’s more than enough reason to travel to Egypt in your lifetime. You may think that they’re cliché as bucket-list items, but there’s no overstating how impressive the pyramids really are. Standing for over 4,000 years, these ancient structures are among the greatest attractions ever built. Chief among them all is the Great Pyramid of Giza, which is the last remaining of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Nearby you’ll find the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure, and the Great Sphinx, which is missing a nose, but no less impressive for it.
Not far from Giza, you’ll also find Memphis, the former ancient capital of Egypt, as well as Saqqara, Memphis’s ancient cemetery. To delve further into all these ancient sites, head to the Egyptian Museum, where you can see the mummies taken from the tombs as well as the treasures of King Tutankhamun himself. The Grand Egyptian Museum is also expected to have a soft opening by the end of the year, eventually replacing the Egyptian Museum as the primary home for Egypt’s greatest treasures. The massive museum sits a mere two kilometres from the Giza plateau and cost over $1 billion to build. It’ll end up being the world’s largest museum devoted to a single civilization. It sounds like a world-class attraction in its own right – as if you needed more reason to head to Cairo.
Medieval Landmarks in Cairo
The pyramids may be Cairo’s chief attractions, but they’re not its only ones. As the largest city in Africa and the Middle East, Cairo has plenty of cultural wonders to behold beyond the world of the pharaohs. Chief among them are the many Islamic landmarks built during the Middle Ages, when the Islamic Empire ruled Cairo.
Al-Azhar Mosque, Cairo’s oldest mosque, first constructed in 970AD, is among the city’s greatest Islamic treasures. It has the most impressive spires in a city known as “the city of a thousand minarets.” It also houses the world’s first or second oldest continuously-run university (depending on whom you ask). In fact, apparently the black gowns worn by graduates today trace back to the black gowns worn by scholars at the university. The mosque is an ideal spot to begin an exploration of Islamic Cairo, which should take you to the Museum of Islamic Art, where you can look at literal treasures among the thousands of priceless artifacts from the past. Salah al-Din Citadel is another historical landmark you need to include in your itinerary.
Cairo’s Cultural Appeal
Combine the aforementioned historical treasures with some of the cultural highlights like the marketplace of Khan el-Khalili and the delicious food to be had in the city, and you’ve got a recipe for an incredible Egypt vacation. Spend a few hours in Khan el-Khalili, the city’s largest souk, to barter for rugs, spices, and trinkets and get a taste of what life would’ve been like in centuries past. Recharge with a coffee or tea in a nearby café and continue your sightseeing. Then retire for the evening in one of the city’s enviable restaurants. Be sure to try an Egyptian staple like ful medames, a dish of mashed fava beans served with pita bread, or kushari, a spiced lentil pasta, to get the full experience.
A Nile Cruise
There are few better things to do on a trip to Egypt than go on a cruise taking you from Luxor to Aswan (or vice versa) along the world’s longest river, the Nile. In Luxor, you’ll venture to the city of ancient Thebes, visit the mighty Temple of Karnak, and explore the Valley of the Kings, home to tombs of the pharaohs. The city is essentially an open-air museum. You can marvel at the elaborate construction of Luxor Temple and ponder whether Alexander the Great was truly crowned here as he claimed in the history books. In the Valley of the Kings, you can also feel a little of what Howard Carter felt when he first discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.
In Edfu, you’ll see the Temple of Horus, the base reliefs of which helped Egyptologists unlock the secrets of Egyptian daily life, as well as the Temple of Kom Ombo, dedicated to the crocodile god, Sobek. And in Aswan, you’ll see the Philae Temple and stroll through the stone quarries that supplied the stone that built the pyramids, comprehending the long journey of workers in the past transporting the stone from Aswan to Giza. Best of all, you’ll head on this journey while enjoying comforts aboard a luxury cruise vessel, which is premium hotel, gourmet restaurant, and gorgeous bar all in one.
The Library of Alexandria
Alexandria does not attract nearly the number of visitors as Cairo, but it too is known around the world as one of the centres of ancient civilization. It was home to the famed Library of Alexandria, which was destroyed during antiquity, but which is recreated today in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a stunning disc-shaped structure that attempts to preserve the ancient library’s legacy of knowledge. In addition to the library, Alexandria is home to the El Montazah Palace and the Qaitbay Citadel, worthy landmarks in their own right. The city itself has a charming Mediterranean atmosphere with gorgeous views of the water and an attractive restaurant scene. It’s also an easy base from which to visit the World War II battlefield of El Alamein on a day trip, adding even more reason to visit if you’re a history buff.
Last but not least is Abu Simbel, which is tucked away along the southern borders of Egypt, to the south of Lake Nasser. It is home to some of the greatest temples of Ancient Egypt, most notably the Great Temple of Ramses II, with massive statues of the pharaoh himself and his Queen Nefertari among the temple reliefs. You’ll have to fly south to see Abu Simbel, but the splendour of the temples and the enormity of the statues make it worth the journey. You can’t find these sites of overwhelming beauty and history anywhere else.
Whether next year or 100 years from now, travellers will still venture on Egypt tours to see the historical wonders like the pyramids. Odds are, however, that in the future, you’ll find yourself travelling alongside the tourist crowds that have become commonplace in Egypt. So take advantage of this unique opportunity to visit Egypt and have the country all to yourself.
How to visit Egypt
Travel Egypt with Goway
If you’re interested in travelling to Egypt, Goway has over 20 trips to choose from, including Egypt introductory itineraries, Nile cruises, and stays in world-class resort towns.
9-Day Classic Egypt
5-Day Sanctuary Sun Boat IV Nile Cruise from Luxor to Aswan
4-Day Sharm El Sheik