“Routine and prejudice distort vision. Each man thinks his own horizon is the limit of the world.”
– Egyptian proverb
Each one of us has studied about this place in the history books. One of the oldest sophisticated civilizations in the world! Luckily for us, we had a chance to make a short visit to this historically significant place, which left us in awe.
Egypt is on almost everyone’s bucket list, due to its fascinating history. We have all grown up hearing about the mummies, their wealth and the gigantic pyramids, which are nothing short of an architectural marvel even in present times.
The Egyptians had a strong opinion about life after death, and they made sure their leaders had “enough” to sail through in their afterlife. Even today, science does not give any narration about the afterlife, but some of the greatest architects and mathematicians of their time believed in a realm beyond the worldly powers. Visiting Egypt, made us believe too!
Best time to visit
Egypt has a hot, dry desert climate for almost most part of the year. Hence, visiting in the summer months from May to September may not be a good idea. We visited in January, which was still too cold and dry. We would suggest that the months of February to April and October / November should be chosen to visit.
With an Indian passport, you need a prior visa from the Egyptian embassy to visit, as Indian passport holders are not eligible for e-visa. However, if you are visiting as a part of a Group of 10 or more, your travel agent could get you a visa on arrival arranged. We would suggest to get a prior visa, as the process is the simplest of all that we have experienced till date.
We applied for the visa from the Egypt embassy in Dubai. You can go to the embassy in person, or appoint an agent. Keep the following documents ready:
- Original passport and a copy
- 2 passport photos
- Residence visa copy, if any
- Return flight tickets and accommodation booking(s)
- No objection letter from employer / trade license, if applicable
Once you are at the embassy, you will be provided with a single page application form. Submit the filled form, along with the passport and other documents and collect the visa within around 3 days. The visa fees was AED 140.
Based on our research, we understand that a similar process is required while applying from Egyptian embassy in India.
We used the flight aggregator https://www.skyscanner.net/ to search for the best available flights. However, once we selected our flight, we booked directly from the carrier’s website. Egypt Air and Emirates fly directly to Cairo from Dubai. Considering little difference in fare, we booked the Emirates flight, as the timing was also more convenient.
Tip – you need to strike a balance between your flight cost and convenience, to optimize your expenditure. E.g. A flight which reaches the destination at 12 in the night is generally cheaper than the one which reaches at 10 in the morning. As a result, you end up paying for one extra night at the hotel. Thus, in case the fare difference is less than the cost of an additional night, go for the higher priced flight.
We had three nights and three days to explore Egypt. We did not rush, and rather than trying to see as much as possible, we decided to stay near the Pyramids, in Giza, and admire the beauty of these marvelous structures. While selecting the stay, our aim is to minimize the local conveyance, as it consumes a lot of time.
There are a lot of bed and breakfast options around the Pyramids, from where you can admire them with the sun on the move. The options are fairly cheap. We stayed at the newly opened Pyramids Valley Boutique Hotel. We prefer https://www.booking.com/ to book our hotels.
The staff at our hotel was very courteous and always happy to help. We booked a room with a private terrace, from where we had an amazing view of the Pyramids and the Great Sphinx.
In case you do not mind splurging, then you can try the Marriott Mena House near the Pyramids.
We had two full days to explore the City. Considering the limited time available, we decided to take it slowly and explore only the two main things – the Giza Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum.
On our first day, we explored the Giza Pyramids Complex. It includes the three Great Pyramids of Egypt (Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure) and the Great Sphinx. It is still a mystery on how these Pyramids were built. There are many theories coming up everyday describing the construction of the Great Pyramids. According to one, it is believed that the huge blocks, which were assembled to build the pyramids, were transported through River Nile, which flows near the Pyramids. The water of the Nile was diverted to the construction site, enabling easy transportation of blocks.
The complex is huge. You will end up walking six to seven kilometers to see the entire complex. The locals can give a camel / horse ride for some cash, however, the way we saw the animals being treated, we decided to give animal ride a miss. Beware of the locals roaming around in the complex, pretending to be official guides. They even have fake badges! They are always seeking money in exchange of small favours such as clicking photographs for you, showing you around, etc. Keep a strong voice against those pestering continuously. Our suggestion is to best ignore them, otherwise you will end up spoiling your mood and the trip.
In the evening, there is a light and sound show at the Pyramids. The show was visible from our room’s terrace. If you are not staying around the Pyramids, we would suggest not to travel to the Pyramids in the evening specially for the show for two reasons – (i) the show is not very fascinating and (ii) we did not find the area safe at night.
We started late on our second day. Until afternoon, we relaxed on our terrace,and the cold winds with the sun making the Pyramids shine like gold.
We then went to see the Egyptian Museum. If you remember reading about Tutankhamun and his extra royal life during your school days, seeing his preserved remains will leave you astonished. A special mention to his grand coffins and the his mask.
They have a few mummies preserved for display too. The two royal mummy rooms located inside the museum are a must visit, hence we suggest buying a combined ticket at the museum’s entrance, which will give you access to the royal mummy rooms and is cheaper as well.
The museum has a mind boggling collection of over 120,000 artifacts and is a must visit while in Cairo.
If you have one more day, you can visit the Cairo Salah El Din Citadel and Khan el-Khalili market.
Islam is the state religion of Egypt and the same is reflected in the clothing of the country. Though not as strict as other Islamic countries, dressing conservatively is suggested. If you ask us if a sleeveless top for a woman would be okay, our answer would be a yes and a no both. We would recommend conservative clothing, while in the Giza Pyramids complex, if you want to avoid unwanted attention from the locals. A wedding ring also helps. The area around the Museum, which is located in the heart of the Cairo City, is more liberal, where a sleeveless top and shorts for women may just be fine.
It goes without saying – pack according to the weather. The winter months of December and January can be fairly cold and windy.
Also, wear comfortable shoes, as you end up walking a lot.
In our hotel’s in-house restaurant, though limited, some decent vegetarian options were available. You can get dishes made from potatoes anywhere.
Don’t miss eating at the Pizza Hut located right in front of the entrance to the Giza Pyramids complex. You must be wondering what is so fascinating about a Pizza hut? This Pizza hut has an uninterrupted view of the Sphinx and the Pyramids.
Also, special mention to try the traditional Egyptian dessert – the Umm Ali. You can find it almost at any restaurant in Egypt, which serves local food. We tried it at the Abou Shakra restaurant located next to the Pizza Hut. The dish was so delicious, that we visited the restaurant twice in two days.
The La Poire Cafe has many branches in Cairo. We visited the one in front of the Egyptian museum. A great place to have a coffee and watch city pass by.
An Indian restaurant, Sofra, was also located near the Pyramids Complex and our hotel. As we are Indians, it is always satisfying when you find Indian food when travelling. Another Indian restaurant to try, if you are staying near the Airport, is Indira at Holiday Inn.
The best way to get around in Giza and Cairo is using taxi booking apps such as Uber and Careem. These are reasonably cheaper than the local taxis, as the local taxis are not metered. It is better to have a mobile data connection in order to book taxis, as public wifi is quite limited and available only at malls and very few restaurants.
However, while getting around, there might be language issues as the drivers are not well versed with English. A few of them have speech translation application installed on their phones, which help. You may want to install one beforehand to avoid confusions.
Currency and costs
Egyptian Pound is the official currency in Egypt. (1 AED ~ 4.8 EGP, 1 USD ~ 17.5 USD, 1 INR ~ 0.25 EGP as on February 2019). We recommend carrying USD from home country and exchange for EGP, while in Egypt, for much better rates, rather than exchanging INR / AED to EGP in home country.
The costs depend on the type of accommodation and flights. A tentative budget for two persons is given below:
- Accommodation – bed and breakfast for 3 nights – 3,500 EGP
- Round trip flights from Dubai – 22,000 EGP
- Food per meal average – 200 EGP
- Entry tickets to attractions (per head) – Giza Pyramids Complex (160 EGP), Egyptian Museum, including mummy room (300 EGP)
- Local transport by Careem – 2.5 EGP per km on an average
We had a very short visit to Egypt, where we saw the two main attractions – The Great Pyramids of Giza and The Egyptian Museum. We would definitely like to come back and experience more of the vast amount of culture and the history which this country has to offer.
Stay away from the pesters and explore this country, which is the home to the only surviving Ancient Wonder of the World.
Egypt is truly an explorer’s dream and a history enthusiast’s love.