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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Posts in ‘Things to do in Egypt’

Ten Reasons To Visit Cairo

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Cairo is a bustling, vigorous city and touring it feels like a journey through time.   A modern city with ancient roots, it straddles the River Nile, blending the old and modern in exhilarating and surprising ways.  With so much to see and do, we thought a few helpful suggestions would come in handy.  Here are just some of Cairo’s exciting attractions.

The Great Pyramids
Great Sphinx and iconic Pyramids of Giza are the foremost reason people come to Cairo.   Those huge and amazing stone constructions, which are the only surviving wonders of the Ancient World, put you in awe of what the ancient ones achieved!  They are not very far from the city centre.  Go early in the day to avoid the crowds and the heat cause you want to have time to explore the chambers within the pyramids without being jostled.

GIZ6

Arabic Roots
Cairo wasn’t built in a day!  It took many centuries to come together and Fustat, founded in the 7th century AD, was the first Arab settlement in Egypt.  The remnants are on display in the Museum of Islamic Art.  They reveal just how influential that period was on today’s Cairo.

The Nile – Life-giver
For all its wonderful sights and monuments, nothing defines Cairo like the mighty Nile.  For thousands of years this waterway shaped and nourished civilizations and people; created a history and culture that is absolutely unique.  Herodotus called Egypt ‘the gift of the Nile.’  The river attracts romantic lovers to its banks every evening while visitors from far and close drift down on it in modern ferries, brightly lit cruisers or ageless feluccas.   A sunset viewed from a vessel on this timeless river; the soft glowing lights from countless minarets; a quiet time just drifting or enjoying a lovely dinner will give you a sense of what the Nile means and has meant to countless generations of Egyptians.  A generous giver indeed!

NILE4

Mosques & Minarets
You just cannot miss out on the Al-Azhar Mosque.  This magnificent complex with a vast marble paved interior courtyard and several iconic minarets exemplifies the very best in Islamic art and culture.  It also houses the Al-Azhar University of Cairo, the second oldest university in the world and an influential Islamic institution.  Islamic Cairo has the greatest concentration of historical monuments of Islamic architecture in the world. The hundreds of mosques are the reason why it is nicknamed “the city of a thousand minarets.”

Treasure Chest of History
Everything about The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, commonly known as the Egyptian Museum is incredible.  It is the largest treasure house of ancient Egyptian antiquities in the world.  No visit to Cairo and Egypt is complete if you have not been to the Museum and gazed on the priceless, haunting golden face mask of Tutankhamen and other relics of a glorious past.

TUTANKAMON MASK
The Living Dead
This is like no housing colony you have ever seen!  Qarafa or the City of the Dead, a Necropolis is an amazing four mile area of tombs and mausoleums in Cairo.  Uniquely, the area is inhabited by a sizeable community of people.  It is not a creepy place to explore; rather it is quite an eye-opener.

Old Cairo – Really Old!
The Romans came, saw and made their mark.  Inveterate builders they left behind the Fortress of Babylon, the oldest structure in the city.  The Fortress sits in Coptic Cairo, which is at the very core and most intriguing part of Cairo providing a distinctly different environment that contributes and enhances Cairo’s diversity.

Symbol of Power
First built by Saladin between 1176 and 1183, the Cairo Citadel is a massive and imposing structure. Originally it was the site for a pavilion to catch the cool breezes.  The Citadel has gone through numerous changes, improvements and renovations – each one adding to its splendour and glory.  Its walls that once enclosed Cairo and Fustat, still dominate the Cairo skyline.  It is the most visited and impressive non-pharaonic monument.  A half day spent in its massive corridors and passages is well worth the time and effort.

Islamic Cairo1.jpg

Shop the Traditional way
Khan el-Khalili is an ancient bazaar dating back to 1385.  It is the most well-known and historic market in Africa and the Middle-East.  The intricate network of streets, lanes and alleyways are the romantic template of what a souq should look like.  Khan el-Khalili had such a stranglehold on the spice markets, that circumnavigators like Columbus were motivated to find alternate routes for goods from the East.  You will find everything from jeans and essential oils to expensive and cheap jewellery made of gold and silver.  You can pick up traditional Egyptian glass, accessories, T-shirts and unique souvenirs.  Remember to bargain and you will come away a very satisfied shopper.

Food
Cairo is not just about pharaohs, tombs, pyramids and mosques.  There is a tasty side to the city.  The cuisine, a product of geography, relies heavily on vegetables, legumes and grain grown in and around the Nile.  Egyptian food is justly famous because it incorporates contributions from all the different peoples and civilizations that came here.  It was then made it deliciously Egyptian.

For example Kushari, considered to be Egypt’s national dish is made from pasta, tomato sauce, rice, lentils, caramelized onions, garlic and chickpeas.  For over a hundred years, it has been the most popular food in Egypt.  However, it was brought in by the British army and relies on pasta from Italy, tomatoes from South America and rice from Asia.  The Egyptians mixed them all together into one amazing dish.  Similarly there are many, many such combinations and permutations.  Oh, the deserts, sweets and cakes are to die for.

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Saint Simeon Monastery Tour

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St Simeon Monastery

The Saint Simeon Monastery is now an abandoned site that is located on the west bank of the Aswan. It is a remarkable collection of ancient buildings that sit in the middle of nowhere. The stone and mud-brick of the surviving walls and buildings blend in with the surrounding dramatic landscape.

The Saint Simeon Monastery is known locally as Anba Hatre and the Arabic name for the saint is Deir Anba Sim’an. The best way (and the generally accepted mode) to get there is on the back of a camel, which takes about 25 minutes. Slogging it out on foot is unadvisable because of the heat and the effort of trudging through the sand.

The monastery is named after a fourth century ascetic who, the legend goes, on the day of his wedding witnessed a passing funeral procession. Inspired by this chance encounter, he decided not to lose his virginity. He thereupon undertook a frugal and abstinent lifestyle and removed himself to Anba Hatre. He was just eighteen and I wonder what his ditched bride thought of those decisions.  

Whether the monastery dates from his time is still unclear but by the sixth and seventh centuries there was an established settlement as evidenced by some remarkably well-preserved wall paintings on the rock caves from that time. More additions and building took place in the first part of the eleventh century.

It became one of the largest Coptic Monasteries in Egypt housing over a thousand inhabitants. However, by the end of the thirteenth century it was abandoned and the reasons have never been properly determined. Despite some depredations and raids by various marauders much of the structures still remain remarkably intact.

The archetypal domed Christian church and tower is the best architectural example of its type. There are a large number of tombstones and rock cells with stone beds for the monks.  There are numerous living and working quarters and walled lookout towers. The lower levels are marked by covered arched walkways acting as ventilation systems making for a cool environment.

In addition there are pottery and brick making kilns providing insights into Aswan techniques. A small number of wall paintings survive from the eleventh and twelfth centuries with evidence of even older paintings that behind them.

Your tour of the Saint Simeon Monastery (Anba Hatre) usually lasts for about two hours. It is time well spent yet too short to fully appreciate the long, colourful and still barely understood history of the place. The peace, quiet and lovely views of the river do give you some inkling why the monastery was a great place to meditate, study the scriptures and look for the meaning to life…
 

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Best places in the world to go scuba diving

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Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef (Flickr by Simon Starr)

Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef (Flickr by Simon Starr)

During the summer months a holiday to a tropical destination is quite popular.  There are several things to do while on holiday in paradise and one exciting activity to partake in in scuba diving.  Scuba diving is a wonderful way to see all that the ocean has to offer up close.  If scuba diving isn’t up your alley then perhaps just snorkeling would be better suited for you.  But one this is for certain; with these scuba destinations you are sure to see the ocean at its finest. continue reading

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Dubai explores the world of art

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Dubai tours will give travellers the opportunity to expand their cultural horizons later this year when one of the emirate’s major venues presents two exhibitions of art from around the world.

The unfamiliar Korean art scene will be the first to be explored at a show opening at the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre on May 29th.

Scheduled for a short run to June 3rd, this exhibition will feature a number of works by renowned Korean artists, including colourful and vibrant pieces that represent a dynamic and thriving art scene.

The focus will then move to the southern hemisphere with a showcase of paintings by two female artists from South Africa.

Opening on June 9th and running to June 18th, this display will consist of a series of rich paintings that offer a new take on the urban landscape and explore the environments in which we live and work as "desert gardens".

The Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre is one of Dubai’s major cultural venues and in the past has hosted the Gulf Film Festival and runs of High School Musical, The Importance of Being Earnest and other shows.

Dubai – A true modern metropolis, Dubai boasts a fine range of tourist facilities including the refined Burj al Arab hotel.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19112384-ADNFCR

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Discover Easter Traditions on the Red Sea

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Those looking for a break from their traditional Easter this year can find refuge on the Red Sea Coast. Ethiopia and Egypt are celebrating Easter and the arrival of spring with their own traditions. While the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s Fasika focuses on the solemn and religious nature of the season, Egypt’s Sham el Nessim relies more on tradition, making it accessible to all religions in the region.

Ethiopia Rejoices During Fasika

Travellers to Ethiopia during Fasika, which takes place based on the Eastern Christian calendar, will find people in a state of reflection and fasting. The 55 days leading up to Easter have strict dietary guidelines which limit food intake. When Easter Sunday arrives, mass is held in the local church. All of the followers can not usually fit inside the church and sometimes it must be held outside under a large tent. Decorative Vitenge and Kanga (cloth made to look like trees or butterflies) are hung from the ceiling. Long after light is gone the priest announces that Christ has risen. It is now 3am and the celebration shall begin.
Christian hymns are sung with the beating of drums and the high-pitched Kigelegele cries of the women. Dancing and feasting brings the fast to a close as the Ethiopians celebrate life. Formal dress of stark white robes dance against the jewel tone robes of the priests. Sequined umbrellas add to the mesmerizing spectacle before you. The celebration continues through the day with great feasting and family. continue reading

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Mozart evoked at the Cairo Opera House

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An oasis of calm and high culture in Egypt’s bustling capital will host one of Mozart’s most famous operas this spring.

The Cairo Opera House will stage Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) from April 14th to 17th.

Written by the Austrian composer in 1786, the opera follows on directly from the events of the Barber of Seville and takes place in the court of Countess Rosina, where the Count’s valet, Figaro, is set to be married to his beloved Susanna.

The Cairo Opera House should be a key stop for visitors on Egypt tours as it is one of the most impressive cultural venues in the entire country.

In addition to its rich and varied performance schedule it also co-ordinates educational programmes and workshops under the auspices of the National Cultural Centre.

As a unique opportunity to see a production of this classic work against the backdrop of one of the most richly historic and culturally unique countries in the world, this should not be missed.

Why not book the Full day Museum, Citadel & Bazaar tour in advance?ADNFCR-1652-ID-19024435-ADNFCR

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St Patrick’s Night at the Camel Bar

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While Egypt is a land rich with its own culture spanning thousands of years it, like most others, isn’t immune to the odd import.

With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that there will be a little corner of Sharm El Sheikh celebrating St Patrick’s Night on March 17th.

Quite how the Guinness will taste is anybody’s guess but there’s no doubt that the place to be for visitors on Egypt tours is the Camel Bar, a key nightspot in this popular tourist destination and part of the Camel Hotel which boasts its own dive school.

In keeping with the season the bar will become a repository for all things Irish. A good time can be had on any night of the year but on Paddy’s Day there’s an extra special party mood, replete with the obligatory shamrocks, fiddle music and ill-conceived over-sized headgear.

Dressing up is pretty much de rigueur so those planning to pay a visit on this particular night had better pack a few extra items in their suitcases.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19022543-ADNFCR

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Egypt shows off its indigenous art at Al Nitaq

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The visually-arresting styles of modern Egytian art are given a fantastic showcase at the Al Nitaq festival in Cairo, held in February or March each year.

Galleries and exhibition spaces all over the city participate in this superb event, which incorporates everything from traditional mediums like painting and sculpture to contemporary work involving natural materials and technology.

As well as the visual arts, literature and performances are key parts of the festival too, with theatre events, workshops, poetry readings and many more highlights on the schedule, making this is well-rounded and comprehensive look at modern Egypt and its relationship with the world through art.

The festival began in 2000 and ran in 2001, but political difficulties meant that it was abandoned for several years, before making its reappearance in 2007 – much to the relief of the strong Egyptian art scene and both its young and established figures.

Visitors on Egypt tours should make a point of including some of the shows or openings into their sightseeing, particularly at the famous and historic Townhouse Gallery, in order to gain an insight into the modern face of Egyptian art and culture.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19022539-ADNFCR

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Egyptians prepare to celebrate the birth of the prophet

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As a predominantly Islamic country, religious festivals and memorials have an important role to play in Egypt’s society.

The celebration of Mohammed’s birthday, sometimes known as Mawlid, is to be held on March 9th in 2009 and is a major event in public life.

Visitors on Egypt tours should look out for the colourful and sometimes spectacular celebrations going on across the nation.

Parades and special decorations abound throughout Egypt at this time and whole communities gather together for this important religious and social festival.

Children receive special sweets for the occasion and carnival-like events abound in towns and cities, with local mosques forming the focal points for this significant occasion.

Thought to have originated in Egypt, Mawlid celebrations vary the world over and from country to country each observance is unique.

Egypt’s is unlike any other and travellers would be well-advised to take time out of their Egypt tour to witness this special and unique occasion.

Why not book the Full day Memphis, Sakkara & Pyramids tour in advance?ADNFCR-1652-ID-19020933-ADNFCR

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Cairo sets sail for the International Boat Show

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The city of Cairo is gearing up to host the 3rd annual Egypt International Boat Show from February 19th to 22nd.

Located in the Cairo International Convention and Exhibition Centre, this major event will bring together exhibitors from all over the world to show off their wares, which will include some of the most beautiful and majestic craft currently in production.

As a country with a lengthy coastline and the added advantage of the huge Lake Nasser to the south, this is a land with plenty of time for aquatic craft, not to mention a strong historical association with seafarers and maritime adventure.

Mindful of this rich heritage, visitors on Egypt tours can witness the kind of beautiful vessels now being made and marvel at the quality of workmanship, not to mention the kind of design which blends classic elements with modern technology.

Having begun in 2007, this show has increased in scale year on year and 2009′s event promises to be the biggest and best yet.

Why not book the Full day Museum & Pyramids tour before you travel?ADNFCR-1652-ID-19020215-ADNFCR

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