Egypt has more to offer than the Pyramids of Giza! I spent a month traversing deserts and oases, exploring remote cities and temples, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Here are some of my favorite places, places I did not even know existed until my arrival! In these places, you can get to know some of the lesser-known minority cultures and lifestyles of Egypt, the Amazigh Berbers, the Nubians, and the Arab Bedouins.
Do not be put off by the 12-hour bus ride from Cairo: Siwa, an oasis town in the Sahara near the Libyan border, is a charming place with dozens of natural hot and cold springs and archaeological sites. Climb to the top of the hill ruin in ancient Siwa for a glimpse of the surrounding countryside, or head straight for a dune and desert exploration tour with a local Berber guide. If you look closely, you will discover small crystal blue lakes that are even saltier than the Dead Sea. The Temple of the Ancient Oracle, in which Alexander the Great was crowned King of Egypt over 2,200 years ago, is one of the many historical sites near this city that make a two- or three-day trip to Siwa worthwhile!
Drop the hostels and camp with a semi-nomadic Bedouin tribe instead! The Sinai Peninsula is full of beautiful beaches, dive sites, party towns and quiet villages, perfect for New Year's Eve in Sharm el-Sheikh or a peaceful retreat in Nuweiba or Dahab. Prices for Bedouin camps range from $ 3 for bedding and mosquito nets up to $ 20 for beachfront thatched cottages with mattresses and Wi-Fi.
Feeling adventurous? Take a 1-3-day hike to the heart of Sinai, visiting famous Abrahamic sites such as Mt. Sinai and St. Catherine's Monastery.
The White Desert
Deep in the Egyptian Sahara near Farafra, bizarre white rock formations are scattered across an area known as the "White Desert." While these rock formations are cool to see during the daytime, true magic happens during sunset and sunrise when some of the white rocks appear blue in low light. To observe this unusual phenomenon, you can hire a local guide and pitch a tent for the night. You'll find that temperatures drop, but do not worry, there's always plenty of hot, sweet tea to go.
Aswan, nicknamed The Gateway to Africa, charms its visitors with its slow, colorful villages on the Nile. Kitchner and Elephantine Island are full of picturesque, traditional Nubian houses, beautiful gardens and ancient ruins from the time of the Pharaohs, Hellenists, Coptic and Islam. Sail across the river to West Aswan with a felucca boat to explore the ancient "tombs of the nobles" and sample Nubian food. Near the majestic temples of Philae and Abu Simbel are impressive hieroglyphs and larger than life statues of Egyptian gods. There is no shortage of activities in Aswan. I spent a week exploring the many sights and still have not seen everything!
Egypt is full of culture and history. After feeling full with mummies and pyramids, get out of your comfort zone. Get on a local bus, stop in any city on the Nile and you'll definitely find something old, friendly and tasty. This list contains some of my favorite places in Egypt, but remember that the best part of traveling is going out and finding your own!