Egypt Adventure Travel Guide: Ideas and Inspiration
PureTravel says: “Egypt is home to some of the greatest historical monuments in the world. The Pyramids, Valley of the Dead and Temple at Luxor are all breath-taking and only the start of the many, many ancient wonders. But don't forget desert safaris to the western desert, to camp under the stars in the Black or White deserts, their surfaces littered with fossils. Or the great diving on the Red Sea coast, the monasteries of the Sinai or the great fishing.”
Walking & Trekking - There are several options for the keen trekker. A hike through the Black Desert offers up some of the best and unusual peculiarities of any so-called desert; different terrains, different landscapes and a variety of rocks and minerals. The White Desert, on the other hand, is a geographical anomaly second only to Mount Sinai, where hiking the 2,644 metered mountain will leave you breathless but blessed with a great view. The Santa Catherine Region near Dehab gives trekkers a chance to hike through some of the best mountain scenery in Egypt, where palm frond oasis, Bedouin gardens and secluded villages are commonplace.
History & Culture - The culture of Egypt is as ancient as any in the world. The recorded culture and history has been around for over 5,000 years and the buildings and artifacts continue to amaze and draw crowds from around the world. It is home to some of the most iconic structures, temples and items in the world, with the pyramids being the most recognisable structure in the world. No trip would be complete without a visit to the Pyramids, Luxor Temple or the Valley of the Kings, the graveyard for some of Egypt's greatest ancient kings.
Rafting - One of the best (and only) places to raft (kayak, cruise or white water) is on the river Nile. Going at it alone is against the law and, if apprehended, expect a visit from the local marine police. The best way to get on the water legally is to join a sanctioned tour group, booking through a tour operator pre-departure. Many of the tours start after the Aswan Dam, where the crocs end and the river fun begins.
Diving and Snorkelling - Egypt offers several large resorts and many private hotels offering diving holidays. The Red Sea coast is regarded as one of the finest diving areas in the world and whether you are a beginner or a PASI-certified expert, there is plenty to keep everybody happy. For those who want to stay on the surface, the snorkelling is also excellent.
Desert Safaris - A few hours drive from Cairo takes you into the Western desert and the chance to see some strange and unique landscapes. The White, desert, the Black desert, dunes and oasis are all there to be explored and enjoyed, with camping trips taking you to the heart of these landscapes.
Mountain Biking - Mountain biking is probably the newest addition to the sports that have been introduced to the country over the last few years. One of the best itineraries people enjoy is a trip to and from Mount Sinai. Moreover, a tour operator is the best way to take trails up, down, and around the mountains. Though most mountain biking trails are not yet marked, experienced guides can get you around to some of the neatest tracks this side of the Mediterranean. Some trips, too, combine cycle tours around Cairo, with visits to the pyramids, museums, Nile and some smaller village back roads.
When To Go
The best time to visit Egypt is in the autumn (fall) time. If you can find time to travel between September and November, you’ll find that the summer numbers have dwindled. If the fall time is not possible, it may be wise to come in spring, which is from February to April. If you can only come during the winter, then try to plan your trip in the south, where the day time weather is both agreeable and pleasing, with cool nights to snuggle up to. The summer is very hot and humid with high daytime temperatures.
- Book your bike, trekking, rafting and wildlife tours through a knowledgeable local tour operator who know how to handle situations.
- Be sure to ask people before you take pictures. Many people here do not like to have their picture taken. Some, however, may let you—for small fee.
- Egypt is a land welcoming to visitors. However, be sure to read up on the cultural traditions that may give you heat on the street. Learn to eat appropriately and wear the correct clothing. Often, however, those engaging in sport are allowed more revealing clothes. Once off the bike or raft or trail, be sure to dress humbly and secrete.
Tours In Focus
Walking and Trekking - Walking and trekking around Egypt has developed a great deal in the last few years and there are now several established trekking routes and areas. It is not advisable to hike independently because of the rough terrain, climate and altitudes which may get you into some trouble if you’re not well prepared. Egypt is a large country and you will need to combine walking and trekking tours with driving and public transport. If you’ve got some time on your hands and want to see Egypt up close, then a trekking tour is the way to go: easily one of the ultimate ways to see the places, people, customs and traditions of such a diverse country.
One of the optimum places for a walking tour is the vast Black Desert, which is right out of the Bahariyya Oasis. Here, you’ll wonder how the massifs of black broken-up stones came to be stacked so high — with some reaching hundreds of feet tall. If you’re looking for sand, you won’t find it here! The White Desert, on the other hand, is about 50 km from Farafra may leave you in more awe than its Black counterpart. There are large chalk rock formations, looking like a landscape from another planet. A trek in and around these sandstorm created anomalies will keep your camera clicking for hours. The walking around here is not as difficult as, say, climbing a mountain. But the inspiring surrounding will give you plenty to talk about when you return home.
If you are into trekking or tackling mountains on your adventures, then you’ll have to pay a visit to the mighty Sinai Mountains. If you haven’t heard of the other two hikes, surely you know the Biblical story of Mount Sinai—the mountains where God passed the Laws to the Israelites. These mountains are one of the world’s oldest, formed some ten million years ago created by volcanoes, rains, rivers, snow and time. The highest peak is Mount Katherine at 2644 meters. These mountains attract thousands of hikers a year, with most tour operators commencing at El-Milga, at the St. Katherine Monastery.
Other great trekking opportunities lie in and around the Santa Catherine Region, with a start in Dahab, where you can visit the Santa Catherine monastery and trek up Jebel (Mount) El Fria. From here, you’ll get to walk to Wadi Nugra and climb Jebel El Banaat, which offers incredible vistas of the South Sinai Mountains. Throughout this trek, you’ll see various landscapes—from Bedouin gardens and palm frond oasis to undulating hills and mountains. Most trekkers hike up the “Moses Mountain” to see the sunset at Jebel Safsafa. You’ll need a tour operator to connect you with the proper guides, who can load and unload your backpacks from the following camels.
It’s quite possible to centralize your whole trip around trekking and walking tours. However, walking to all of these said places could take a long time. The best way is to combine walking or day-walking tours with 4x4 rides and trips down the Nile. A combination tour allows you to see all that this very large country offers without sacrificing all your vacation time in any one area. Trekking tours are becoming very popular in this part of the world. A trip to The Black or White Desert and hiking in the Sinai Mountains is sure to stir up adrenaline, giving you the time of your life.
History and Culture - No visit to Egypt would be complete without visits to the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza and the Cairo Museum, home to 1,000's of artifacts from ancient times. The most famous amongst these is the death mask of King Tutankhamun and the other items found in his tomb. Further south is the huge Temple of Luxor and the Valley of the Dead, where the pharaohs (including Tutankhamun) were buried. To the south again is Abu Simbel, a mighty temple build by Ramses II and now restored to its full glory after being relocated when the Nassir Dam was built. There are to mention but o few of the many classic wonders, the list is nearly endless and for the serious Egyptologist a year would not be enough.
The local culture would itself take millennia to describe in detail but here’s a brief introduction as to what has formed this culturally rich group of people. It seems that every city and town that you visit, you’ll experience something different, either rooted in the west or from way back when Pharaohs ruled the land and a melange of each. Though there are various customs and ways things are done, one frequent gesture that befalls all visitors is the Egyptian people’s kindness towards strangers. The customs and acts were sowed long ago and still harvested to outsiders and visitors today.
Egypt has almost 68 million people, with a belief system of about 57 million Sunni Muslims and around 10 million Coptic Christians. Religious practices are easily noticed in the daily lives of Egyptians, from daily prayers to the abstinence of pork and alcohol and the annual month-long exercise in Ramadan—a month long fast, taking place from sunrise to sunset. Family ties and classes are very important to Egyptian culture, with family integrity and trust at the forefront of family thought.
The language, literature, religion and art dominated the surrounding lands for some 5,000 years — the recorded history of Egypt goes back this far as one of the longest ever archived. The Egyptians of long ago wrote in hieroglyphics and today use mainly Arabic. Various other outlying areas speak Berber, Greek and others. Literature focused on religion, with life and death as common themes. Before Islam and Christian influences, Ancient Egyptian religion focused on a many-God system, with death representing a resurrection to another life with focus on the god Osiris.
Rafting - Rafting is a growing sport in Egypt and is almost as popular as mountain biking and trekking. And there’s only one real place to do it for the ultimate in bragging rights — on the mighty Nile River! By law, moreover, a traveller must be accompanied with a tour leader and part of a legit tour group. Though people have travelled solo, they are always stopped and turned around by the local marine police. The Nile and some of the offshoots make for some impressive attacks on the river. With most itineraries under eight days, you’ll start at Memphis (the initial capital of ancient Egypt) near Sakkara (pyramid of King Zoser) or the three pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Some of the trips are simple “cruise” style aboard a sleeper, a kayak or raft.
Diving - The Red Sea is one of the world's greatest diving destinations. Warm waters, great corals and a teeming sealife ensure that there is plenty to see. You can undertake a PADI course to qualify as a trained scuba diver; here you'll undertake 'house' dives where you are accompanied by an instructor.
Wildlife - There is more wildlife to Egypt than you may have initially thought. A combination tour, including wildlife and rafting or hiking, for example, may be a more realistic means to experiencing all that Egypt has to offer. Given that, the endemic wildlife can be categorized as those animals near the Nile (Nile Animals), those away from the Nile (Land Animals) and those in the Red Sea (Sea Animals).
One of the most famous Nile Animals is the Nile crocodile. The crocodiles here are not alligators because they have a longer and narrower snout with a tiny fourth tooth that protrudes from the jaw. These big boys can reach over 10 feet in length and weigh almost a ton (+1500 pounds). These are often spotted near the Aswan Dam. The baby crocs eat small fish and some bugs. The bigger adults go for a treat of wildebeest, baboons, turtles and even each other. There are all kinds of birds and fish that thrive on the Nile’s sweet drink.
The Land Animals vary in size, weight and diet of any other animals the world over. The little Desert Fox (Fennec) are found habitually in desert landscapes. In fact, they are a crumb bigger than a small dog and are classified as the world’s smallest fox. They have very large ears and eyes, capable of sensing, hearing and seeing prey a long way off. The less cute and more aggressive variety of wildlife in Egypt is the scorpion and snake—the Palestinian Yellow Scorpion and Saw-Scaled Viper, respectively. The former has enough venom in its sting to kill a grown person while the latter is vicious enough to give you a warning similar to a rattlesnake. The Sand Cat and Camels are also desert dwellers, easily seen and harder to know.
Animals of the Sea, or Sea Animals, in Egypt are wild and free, living under the cool water rather than the harsh sun found in the desert or above the Nile. The Dugong (a.k.a. the Sea Cow) is a mammal in fact, and is closer related to the elephant than a fish. These guys are now protected the world over. Moreover, the sea here houses the Royal and Emperor Angelfish, the Masked, Striped and Crowned Butterfly fish, the Sergeant Major, the Coral Grouper and various Hawk and Parrot Fish. There are even Manta Rays and Barracudas lurking deep below the Sea.
- The Black Desert jeep safari
- The White Desert jeep safari
- The Sinai Mountains trek
- Santa Catherine Region
- Nile River felucca holiday
- Archaeology tour of the key historical sights
By Julie Bowman