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10 Activities to Do in Egypt: A Must-Read Guide for Travelers

July 1, 2024

Embarking on a journey through Egypt is akin to walking through the pages of history, with each monument and ruin whispering tales of ancient civilizations. This land of pharaohs and pyramids brings the past to life, offering a kaleidoscope of experiences that fascinate and inspire. For travelers seeking to dive deep into the heart of Egypt's rich heritage and breathtaking landscapes, identifying the top 10 activities to do in Egypt is the key to unlocking a treasure trove of cultural and adventure-filled experiences. Whether it's standing in the shadow of the Great Pyramids, cruising down the Nile, or exploring bustling bazaars, Egypt promises an unforgettable adventure that tantalizes the senses and enriches the mind.

This must-read guide for travelers highlights not just the iconic monuments but also hidden gems and experiences beyond the usual tourist trails. From the architectural prowess displayed in the construction of the Step Pyramid of Djoser to the serene beauty and underwater marvels of Hurghada, the list navigates through Egypt's best offerings. Among these coveted experiences, visitors can also find themselves exploring the vast collection of the Luxor Museum, marveling at the colossal statues of Abu Simbel, or taking a felucca ride to witness Cairo's skyline at sunset, incorporating those essential 10 things to do in Cairo. Each activity selected provides a unique window into Egypt's soul, promising memories that linger long after the journey ends.

 

Visit the Step Pyramid of Djoser

Step Pyramid History

The Step Pyramid of Djoser, a marvel of ancient engineering, stands as the oldest significant stone structure in Egypt, nestled in the Ṣaqqārah necropolis. Conceived by Imhotep, the world's first named architect, this pyramid was not just a monumental tomb but a bold statement of immortality and royal power. Constructed around 2667 to 2648 BC, it marked a transformative era in architectural history, being the very first pyramid ever built.

 

Step Pyramid Architecture

This architectural gem features six mastaba-like tiers that diminish as they ascend, reaching a height of approximately 204 feet. Originally encased in gleaming white limestone, the pyramid's design intentionally aligns with the cardinal points, symbolizing a stairway to heaven. Inside, a vast network of tunnels and chambers, intricately adorned with carvings and blue-glazed tiles, extends beneath the structure, showcasing an unprecedented scale of construction and artistic detail.

Step Pyramid Visiting Tips

Visitors to the Step Pyramid can enter through the Southern Passage, a less claustrophobic route compared to other Egyptian pyramids. The complex includes the Heb Sed Court and various chapels, reflecting the site's historical significance in royal ceremonial traditions. While exploring, it's crucial to stay hydrated and respectful of the site's cultural heritage. The recent reopening in 2020 after extensive restoration invites tourists to delve deep into the pyramid's corridors and discover the legacy of Pharaoh Djoser.

 

Explore the Temple of Edfu

The Temple of Edfu, dedicated to the falcon god Horus, stands as a magnificent example of Ptolemaic architecture, intricately blending Egyptian and Greek styles. This temple, one of the most complete and best-preserved in Egypt, offers a profound glimpse into ancient rituals and architectural mastery.

Temple of Edfu Highlights

Visitors to the Temple of Edfu are greeted by the grandiose entrance pylon, standing 36 meters tall and adorned with reliefs depicting Ptolemy XII's triumphs. Inside, the courtyard showcases a feast of the gods, surrounded by a colonnade of thirty-two columns. The Great Outer Hall and the Inner Hall further display exquisite astronomical and mythological carvings, leading to the Naos, the oldest part of the temple, which houses a replica of a sacred boat.

Temple of Edfu Mythology

The temple walls narrate the legendary battle between Horus and Seth, encapsulating the themes of good versus evil. This sacred drama, depicted in the reliefs, underscores the temple's role in the religious life of the Ptolemaic period, serving as a center for rituals and offerings to Horus.

Temple of Edfu Preservation

Remarkably preserved under sand for centuries, the Temple of Edfu owes much of its current state to the conservation effects initiated in the 19th century. Its intact roof and well-preserved carvings provide a rare, unaltered view of Ptolemaic artistry, making it a pivotal site for understanding ancient Egyptian religion and architecture.

This temple not only highlights the architectural ingenuity of its time but also serves as a cultural beacon, offering insights into the religious practices and societal structures of ancient Egypt.

 

 

See the Unfinished Obelisk

Unfinished Obelisk History

The Unfinished Obelisk, located in the stone quarries of ancient Egypt in Aswan, is a monumental testament to the architectural ambitions of the ancient Egyptians. Believed to have been commissioned by Queen Hatshepsut around 1508–1458 BC, this colossal structure was intended to stand alongside the Lateran Obelisk at Karnak. However, due to visible cracks in the granite during its extraction, the project was abandoned, leaving it attached to the bedrock.

 

Unfinished Obelisk Size

If completed, the Unfinished Obelisk would have been the largest monolithic structure in the world, standing at approximately 41.75 meters (137 feet) tall and weighing about 1,090 tonnes (1,200 short tons). This would have made it one-third larger than any other ancient Egyptian obelisk.

 

Unfinished Obelisk Quarry

The quarry in Aswan, where the Unfinished Obelisk lies, is a site of significant historical importance. It was here that the Egyptians carved their obelisks directly from the bedrock. The site, now an open-air museum, includes not only the Unfinished Obelisk but also other partially worked obelisk bases and rock carvings, offering a glimpse into the stone-working techniques of ancient Egypt. The entire area is protected by the Egyptian government, highlighting its cultural and archaeological significance.

 

Tour the Luxor Museum

Luxor Museum Top Exhibits

The Luxor Museum, a beacon of cultural heritage along the Nile River, showcases a stunning array of artifacts from the Theban region. Notable exhibits include the majestic statue of Tutankhamun and the extensive collection of Amenhotep III, which together paint a vivid picture of ancient Egyptian royalty and craftsmanship.

Luxor Museum Mummies

Visitors are also treated to the rare sight of royal mummies, including those of two ancient Egyptian pharaohs. These well-preserved mummies offer a direct link to Egypt's storied past, providing insights into the burial practices and beliefs in the afterlife that were central to ancient Egyptian culture.

Luxor Museum Visiting Tips

Planning a visit to the Luxor Museum is essential for anyone exploring Luxor's rich historical tapestry. Allocate at least 1-2 hours to fully engage with the exhibits. The museum's location on the west bank of the Nile River makes it a convenient stop for those visiting nearby ancient sites.

 

Visit Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel Temples

The Abu Simbel temples, a testament to ancient ingenuity and a beacon of cultural heritage, stand majestically on the banks of Lake Nasser. Constructed by Pharaoh Ramses II, these temples not only celebrate his reign but also honor the gods Amun, Ptah, and Re-Harakhty, along with his beloved wife Nefertari 567. Carved directly into the mountainside, the grandeur of the colossal statues and intricate reliefs continue to draw visitors from around the world, symbolizing the eternal legacy of ancient Egyptian civilization.

 

Abu Simbel Sun Festival

Twice a year, on February 22 and October 22, the Abu Simbel Sun Festival captivates spectators as the sun illuminates the inner sanctum of the temple, a phenomenon precisely engineered over three millennia ago. This alignment highlights statues of Ramses II, Ra, and Amun, leaving the god of darkness, Ptah, in the shadows. This event not only showcases the architectural precision of the ancient Egyptians but also their deep understanding of astronomy.

 

Abu Simbel History

The historical significance of Abu Simbel extends beyond its architectural marvels. Originally endangered by the rising waters of Lake Nasser due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, the temples were relocated in a monumental feat of modern engineering. This relocation involved cutting the temples into large blocks and reassembling them at a higher location, ensuring their preservation and continuing legacy as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The effort not only saved the temples but also demonstrated unprecedented international cooperation for cultural preservation.

 

Explore Hurghada

Hurghada, a vibrant resort town on Egypt's Red Sea coast, is renowned for its stunning beaches, diverse water activities, and luxurious resorts. This destination caters to both adventure seekers and those looking to unwind on its sun-soaked shores.

Hurghada Beaches

The town boasts a variety of beaches, from bustling public spots to serene private stretches connected to upscale resorts. Popular beaches like Mamsha Beach, Sahl Hasheesh Beach, and Soma Bay Beach offer visitors golden sands and crystal-clear waters, perfect for sunbathing and relaxation 111213. Private beaches often feature amenities such as cabanas and beach bars, enhancing the exclusive seaside experience.

Hurghada Water Activities

Hurghada is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. The area is famous for its snorkeling and scuba diving, with numerous dive sites that display vibrant coral reefs and intriguing shipwrecks. For those who prefer above-water adventures, windsurfing, and kiteboarding are readily available, providing thrilling experiences powered by the Red Sea breezes.

Hurghada Resorts

Accommodations in Hurghada range from budget-friendly hotels to opulent resorts that offer all-inclusive packages. Many resorts boast their own private beaches, multiple swimming pools, and a variety of dining options, ensuring a comfortable and convenient stay for all guests. Notable resorts like SUNRISE Crystal Bay and Steigenberger Pure Lifestyle cater to luxury seekers with their sophisticated amenities and stunning sea views.

 

See the Philae Temple

Philae Temple Relocation

The Philae Temple, initially endangered by the construction of the Aswan Low Dam in 1902, faced further threats with the Aswan High Dam's completion in the 1960s, leading to its submersion. This prompted UNESCO to initiate a monumental rescue mission, relocating the temple to Agilkia Island. The complex was meticulously dismantled into approximately 40,000 units and reassembled, preserving its architectural and historical integrity on higher ground.

 

Philae Temple Mythology

Philae, revered as one of the burial sites of Osiris, holds immense spiritual significance. The temple's walls narrate the poignant myths of Osiris and Isis, embodying themes of resurrection and eternal love. This sacred site served as a religious beacon, attracting pilgrims from both Egypt and Nubia, who regarded the island as sacred, accessible only to priests.

Philae Temple Sound and Light Show

The Philae Temple comes alive at night with its enchanting Sound and Light Show, offering a mesmerizing experience under the starlit sky. Narratives of ancient gods and goddesses are woven through light projections on the temple’s walls, illustrating the legendary stories of Isis and Osiris. This show not only enhances the beauty of the temple but also educates visitors about its rich mythological past.

 

Visit the Bibliotheca Alexandrina

Bibliotheca Alexandrina Architecture

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, a revival of the legendary ancient library, stands as a beacon of knowledge on Egypt's Mediterranean Coast. Its design, featuring a vast circular form that tilts towards the sea, symbolizes the cyclical nature of knowledge and is reminiscent of the ancient Alexandrian lighthouse. The building's exterior is clad in gray Aswan granite, inscribed with characters from 120 different scripts, representing the universality of human culture.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina Collections

The library's extensive collections, which were generously donated from around the world, include documents from the Spanish detailing their period of Moorish rule and from the French concerning the construction of the Suez Canal. With shelf space for eight million books, the main reading room sprawls over 20,000 square meters across several terraced levels, ensuring that the oldest materials form a metaphorical foundation for newer works.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina History

The concept of resurrecting the ancient library was first proposed in 1972 and gained significant support, including from former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and UNESCO. The construction of this $200 million structure began in 1995, culminating in its inauguration in 2002. This modern edifice not only serves as a library but also houses a planetarium, various museums, and a center for the dialogue of cultures, aiming to rekindle the intellectual energy that once defined Alexandria.

 

Explore the Temple of Kom Ombo

Kom Ombo Temple Unique Features

The Temple of Kom Ombo, located in Aswan Governorate, is a remarkable double temple constructed during the Ptolemaic dynasty, 180–47 BC. Its architectural design is unique, featuring symmetrical twin sanctuaries dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek and the falcon god Haroeris (Horus the Elder). This dual dedication is reflected in every aspect of the temple’s structure, including its courts, halls, and sanctuaries, making it one of the most unusual temples in Egypt.

Kom Ombo Temple Crocodile Mummies

Adjacent to the Temple of Kom Ombo is the intriguing Crocodile Museum, which houses an array of mummified crocodiles. These mummies provide a glimpse into the ancient Egyptian reverence for Sobek, reflecting their beliefs in power, fertility, and protection. The museum displays about 300 crocodile mummies, offering insights into the crocodile cult that was prevalent in ancient Egypt, particularly in Fayoum.

Kom Ombo Temple History

The construction of the Temple of Kom Ombo began under Ptolemy VI Philometor and was later enhanced by Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator. The temple not only served as a place of worship but also stood as a symbol of Ptolemaic sovereignty. Over the centuries, despite suffering from natural wear and historical changes, including the spread of Christianity which led to the defacing of many relics, the temple remains a significant historical site, restored in parts to preserve its heritage.

 

Take a felucca ride

Embarking on a felucca ride along the Nile is an enchanting experience that transports travelers back to the ancient times of Egypt. These traditional wooden sailboats, powered solely by the breeze, offer a serene and intimate connection with the river's timeless flow.

Felucca Sailing Experience

The felucca's simple structure and the skill of local sailors ensure a smooth sail, making it a peaceful way to observe the lush landscapes and the vibrant life along the Nile's banks. The absence of a motor means the only sounds are the water and the wind, enhancing the tranquility of the journey.

Felucca Sunset Views

Sunsets aboard a felucca are particularly magical. As the sun dips below the horizon, its rays illuminate the river, creating a spectrum of colors that reflect off the water. This moment, coupled with the gentle rocking of the boat, offers an unforgettable visual and sensory experience.

 

Felucca Trip Planning

Planning a felucca trip can vary greatly in duration and style. From short sunset cruises to multi-day journeys, options cater to different schedules and budgets. It's often more advantageous to book through reputable sources like hotels, which can provide quality experiences at reasonable rates, ensuring a hassle-free adventure.

 

Conclusion

Venturing through Egypt undoubtedly presents an unparalleled blend of historic magnificence and contemporary allure, offering a vivid tableau of activities that encompass the heart of this ancient land. From the majesty of the Great Pyramids and the serene grandeur of a Nile cruise to the vibrant life in its bustling markets and the tranquil beauty of its sun-drenched beaches, Egypt encapsulates an extraordinary mix of experiences that cater to every type of traveler. The journey through its landmarks, as highlighted in this guide, not only enriches one's understanding of Egypt's storied past but also ignites the imagination, making each visit a deeply personal encounter with history.

 

 

The thorough exploration of Egypt's top destinations, as detailed in this article, affords visitors a unique glimpse into the soul of this ancient civilization. The architectural genius of the Step Pyramid of Djoser, the spiritual reverence at the temples of Abu Simbel, and the modern-day wonder of navigating the Nile on a felucca, each experience contributes to a richer appreciation of Egypt's multifaceted heritage. As we conclude our guide, we are reminded that Egypt's beauty lies not only in its physical monuments but in the enduring spirit and legacy that these structures symbolize, inviting travelers to return, discover, and experience time and again.

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