| Travel,

11 Things You Didn’t Know About Egypt

Beatrice Lessi

Last month my husband and I booked a holiday in Egypt, and then had to cancel it because of new covid rules. One week later we booked it again – the rules changed once more. One certainly needs to be flexible, these days, to travel. But if you do wish to go somewhere, don’t be discouraged. Personally I’ve had an incredible 2021 full of traveling highlights, in the middle of masks, tests and constantly changing rules. The biggest gift this year gave me was Egypt. I fell in love and, even though I had high expectations, Egypt surpassed itself.

Here are some things I learnt and some images of this incredible trip. For videos, you can check the stories highlights on my Instagram, @beatricelessi

1- Egypt is not dangerous

“Are you really going to Egypt? Are you not scared? Don’t go there with the kids!”….and so on. We’ve heard so many of these comments, that we postponed our trip for many years. Finally we decided to go and found that, when you really visit a place (obviously I am not talking about countries in war), in general the situation is much better than people and media describe. In Cairo, our first part of the trip, we often walked alone and went to random places or restaurants. Some old people told us: “welcome to Egypt!” in a cheerful tone, without trying to get anything from us, it’s just a traditional thing to say to tourists. A beautiful young lady asked to take a picture with me, for no reason. Yes, kids wanted to sell us things, sometimes. But they backed up when we raised our hand to stop them. In two weeks we never had a problem and felt extremely welcome.

2- The Legendary Hotel Of the Movie “Death On The Nile” Is Indeed Worth A Visit

The iconic Old Cataract Hotel, where the Agatha Christie movie was shot, is way better than you imagine. Its website doesn’t really represent well the calm, charm, exoticism and history that one feels when entering. Security is really high and you get checked outside of the hotel even if you are just going to the restaurant. Photos of celebrities who stayed here welcome you in the corridor: Lady Diana, Rania of Jordan, movie stars, and many many more. Views are breath taking. The pool is pure oriental grandeur and the restaurant, with its huge arches, would impress even the most seasoned traveler. If I had to write a book about the 100 things to see before you die, I would certainly include the Old Cataract.

 

3- A Nile Cruise is Better Than Therapy

Sailing on the calm waters of the Nile is better than a psychotherapy session. Not only is the main cruise mesmerising, but also the small trips with local boats, to reach different places when leaving the main ship, are unforgettable. The Nile is what makes Egypt what it is, and everything revolves around it.  Did you know that when you land on Aswan – for the cruise – your plane is not allowed on the dam? A single damage to it, and the whole country would be flooded in 17 days! The best boats I’ve seen so far, pure classic charm,  is the Nour El Nile – thanks to my friend Tanja for pointing it to me

4- Hieroglyphics Are Quite Clear

…If you have someone explaining them to you! When we first went to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, we didn’t prepare and saw a lot of beautiful things we didn’t understand. That didn’t take the fun away: seeing the golden Tutankhamun mask, the mummies and countless treasures was a highlight. But when we flew to Aswan and got a guide who is also an Egyptologist, a world opened to us. First of all, this person (in our case it was Mohammad Badawy and you can contact him on his Instagram) will point you the highlights, so you’ll go straight to the best. Then he/she will explain some basics that will help you to understand the stories told on the walls. Artists used to be what social media are today, and were always included to update the community about what was going on. You’ll see surgery tools, fabulous fashion, Nilometers to measure the Nile tide, shopping trips, love stories, wars, daily life, passions and battles like you would have never imagined. Details are awe-inspiring, stories are timeless. A lot of food for thought, and some real mysteries too.

5- Sarcophagi were up to 125 Tons Heavy And Their Transportation Remains A Mystery

The Great Pyramid of Giza  is the oldest and largest of the pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex bordering present-day Giza in Greater Cairo. Getting in is not easy. How is possible that such a heavy stone was transported there remains a mystery. You can prepare online or by reading books as long as you wish: going there and seeing it feels totally different. Really amazing.

6- Ramesses II had more  about 100 Children

The Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II had a large number of children: between 48 to 50 sons, and 40 to 53 daughters[1] – whom he had depicted on several monuments. His two principal wives were Nefertiti and Isetnofret. Ramesses apparently made no distinctions between the offspring of his first two principal wives, Nefertari and Isetnofret. Both queens’ firstborn sons and first few daughters had statues at the entrance of the Greater Abu Simbel temple, which is one of the most beautiful places on earth (in my personal opinion, of course).

7- Luxor Is A Feminist Place

The Valley of the King is perhaps the best/most impressive place in the whole Egypt. The tombs are so spacious, airy, colorful, well preserved and pretty that everybody marvels at them – I certainly did. But the Valley of the Queens is equally outstanding. Its sheer size is amazing, and we had the luck to see it also from high up, with the air balloon. This place is dedicated to the female Pharaohs, female rules of Antique Egypt.

8- Hot Air Ballooning In Luxor Is A Real Highlight

You’ll need to get up at 4:30 to be able to see the sunrise on a Hot Air Balloon. You will also risk to get up for no reason, because flights do get canceled according to weather, even last minute (the day we went was after a bad weather day, so the place was packed with all visitors from the day before who tried once more). It is also not cheap (about 75 $ per person), and you’ll be stuck in a tight basket, where kneeling down to land really isn’t easy if you are not reasonably flexible. But once you are up there, Luxor appears, and the sun shines on the pink sky, you will have one of the most beautiful experiences of your life.

9- The Red Sea In Winter In Rather Cold – But You Can Always Enjoy it in the Warm Hours

Wind and winter are also effecting the usually hot Red Sea Coast, so bring warm clothes for morning and evening, and look for a place protected from the wind, if you want to sunbathe. However, a bikini is always a good idea, and in the warm hours lying on a sun chair is a delight.

10- The Most Instagrammable Place Is A Nubian Village

A Nubian Village is like falling into a rainbow. Every house, wall, staircase and coffee shop is painted in bright colors and murales. Camels are adorned by colored blankets and colored powders grace market stalls. Spiced Tea is a speciality and the tea pots a delight (and extremely clean – you can examine them inside out). I was even given a crocodile to play with! Another highlight of a wonderful trip.

10- The Sky Is Magic

I don’t know if I was very lucky, or if Egypt always gives you breath taking sunrises and sunsets. But every day I’ve enjoyed magic colors I haven’t seen anywhere else. I think I will be back!