Tuesday, April 2, 2013

19 Things To Do In Egypt

Egypt is a gorgeous country with an amazing history. It is an amazing place to visit. (Though don't go now- wait until it's safe!) I didn't manage to put down ALL the temples and tombs we got to see, mostly because I'm already listing 19 things and it'll start to blend together if I put too much more!

1. Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel!
Abu Simbel is amazing. Located in the southern part of Egypt, it is next to Lake Nasser.
Actually, Abu Simbel is not in its original location. They knew that when Aswan Dam was built, it would flood the area where Abu Simbel was. People from around the world tried to find ways to save Abu Simbel. Eventually they decided to chop it all up into blocks and relocate it. Abu Simbel was built for Pharaoh Ramses II. (When you think big-shot pharaohs with a lot of wives and children, you're thinking Ramses II.) Sorry that there are no photos of inside the temples, it was strictly prohibited, and I had no desire to tour Egyptian jails.

2. Pyramids of Giza

When you think Egypt, this is probably what you think of- the Pyramids of Giza. They are located just outside of Cairo. The pyramids are huge, HUGE! Movies and photos can't show the massive size of these pyramids.
See those small things in front of the pyramid- those are people and camels- 2 blocks are the height of a person or a camel. Crazy huge pyramids!

If you are planning on a camel ride in Egypt, I recommend doing it here- you get amazing views!
The Great Sphinx is right by the Pyramids of Giza. It is incredible to walk up towards it then stand by its massive head.
Visit the museum nearby. Normally I'm not a huge fan of museums (which is why I haven't included the Cairo Museum or the Museum of Alexandria,) but this one is really cool because you can see a replica of a huge boat that was probably used to bring the stones over the Nile and to the building site.
Holy cow that's a huge boat!

3. Temple of Isis

The Temple of Isis on an island in the Nile.
The Temple of Isis is not nearly as well known as it should be. The temple is dedicated to Isis. (Isis was a goddess known as being a strong mother and an unwavering wife. She represented the power of the throne.) My goodness, it is gorgeous!
Gorgeous pink flowers by the beautiful Temple of Isis.
Since it is located on an island you need a boat to get there. It is fantastic to ride along the river and see a beautiful temple appear. The temple itself is smaller than many of the others on this list, but it is beautiful. Flowers bloom all around it.

4. Temple of Hatshepsut and Valley of the Queens

Temple of Hatshepsut.
Valley of the Queens holds the tombs of the queens of the pharaohs. The history and artwork is stunning.

The Temple of Hatshepsut is out of this world. It is located just below the Mountain of Thebes. The temple is epic.

5. The Step Pyramid of Djoser

Step Pyramid of Djoser.
The early pyramids weren't the same, smooth shape that we think of when we hear the word 'pyramid.' Visit the Step Pyramid of Djoser to see how the pyramids first started. You can see a wonderful temple by it as well- it's beautiful to explore.

6. Valley of the Kings and Mountain of Thebes

View of the Valley of the Kings from Mt. Thebes.
Valley of the Kings is more famous and popular than Valley of the Queens. It lies on the other side of the Mountain of Thebes. There you can go down winding tombs to see where the pharaohs were buried. It is utterly stunning. Here you can also see the tomb of Tutankhamen. If you're feeling strong and brave, take a hike from Mountain of Thebes back into the Valley of the Queens. It is very intense in the sun and well, well, over 100 degree weather, so make sure you're in tip-top shape before you do so.

7. Kitchener's Island

Boat on the Nile viewed from Kitchener's Island with pretty pink flowers.
Kitchener's Island is a gorgeous island paradise that rests in the Nile. Explore the beautiful island with beautiful flowers and gorgeous views of the Nile and the desert that surrounds it.

8. The North Pyramid (The Red Pyramid) and The Bent Pyramid

View of the North Pyramid from the Bent Pyramid.
Both the North Pyramid and The Bent Pyramid were built by Sneferu. The North Pyramid, also known as The Red Pyramid, is very different from the other pyramids. How? You can go in it! Climb up many, many stairs and then descend into the ancient Egyptian underworld. It is a very unique treat and I highly recommend it! (It does smell a little funny though, as the group unanimously decided, it smells like basement.)
Climb up the Red Pyramid.
The inside of a pyramid! Talk about vaulted ceilings!

The Bent Pyramid is interesting because of its unique shape. While no one is entirely sure why it's built this way, what most people see as most likely was that the Egyptions were still trying to figure out the transition from step pyramids to the smooth ones. They began building the Bent Pyramid, but it was too steep and started showing signs of weakness, so they continued building, but changed the angle- giving it a pretty, bell-like shape.

9. Library of Alexandria

While the ancient Library of Alexandria was sadly burned to the ground, there is a modern one. The outside is beautiful and lovely to see.

Inside there is an incredible amount of books.
The library has decided to become even more modern by housing an online library, Bibliotheca Alexandria, which houses many digital books. It also takes copies of pages online so that even after the page is removed or changed, there is still a copy. It's pretty darn cool.

10. The Nile

Obviously if you go to Egypt, you have to see the Nile. The river is wonderfully unique in that it is the only major river in the world that flows north! It is truly a gorgeous river. In ancient times hippos, crocodiles, and alligators. After the Aswan Dam was built, there aren't any north of the dam. While you don't have to worry about the dangers anymore, it is disappointing to not be able to see them. You can still see papyrus and Ibis, gorgeous white birds.

Nothing is quite like viewing a sunset on the Nile.
The only thing that blows it away is the sunrise on the Nile.
Gorgeous sunrise on the Nile.
There were cruises you could take down the Nile with stops off at cities, temples, and souks (Egyptian open-air markets.) Hopefully it will be possible again soon.

11. Luxor Temple and Karnak

The Luxor Temple and Karnak are two incredible temples to visit.

A slatted window where the women could look out over the goings on.

They are gorgeous to visit in the day or night!
Plus there's a great isle leading from one to the other lined by rams. They're massive and incredible!

12. Unfinished Obelisk

The Unfinished Obelisk would have been the largest obelisk in the world, if it had been finished. Holy cow, it was HUGE! The problem was that it was so big, that before they could even finish it, it cracked. There was no way to get it out or finish it without destroying it. It is so cool to see how obelisks were made and what could have been!

13. Mosque of Muhammad Ali

The Mosque of Muhammad Ali is located in Cairo. It is a gorgeous mosque- truly beautiful to see.

If you are a woman visiting, please cover your hair and as much skin as possible to show respect. Luckily, if you don't have your own hair cover, they have ones you can borrow. (Fortunately I had a gorgeous shawl I bought from a souk.)
The dome is not only beautiful on the outside, it also is on the inside.
The view from the mosque is incredible- you can see all of Cairo. On a good day, (about 6 times a year,) you can even see the Pyramids of Giza!
View of Cairo from the Mosque of Muhammad Ali.
View of the Pyramids of Giza from the Mosque of Muhammad Ali.

14. Colossi of Memnon

The Colossi of Memnon.
The Colossi of Memnon are incredible. They are HUGE statues out in the desert. What are they doing there? Amenhotep III was planing to build the largest temple ever. It would have been visible by the naked eye from outer space. Sadly, he never got to finish the temple, and all you can see is the Colossi of Memnon. Ancient Greek tourists swore that the statues sung. Some think it's a tall tail, while others think it's the morning dew evaporating, but the closest thing I saw to them singing was the dozens and dozens of birds flying around them.

15. Fort Qaitbey

Fort Qaitbey.
Fort Qaitbey is located in Alexandria. It is huge and gorgeous! It looks like a massive castle with a garden and a stellar view of the Mediterranean Sea. It's a real treat.

16. Cairo Souk

Cairo Souk.
The Cairo Souk is a huge, open-air market in the heart of Cairo. It is a bustling sea of life. It's amazing to explore the shops. Often times the shop owners will invite you in for a lovely cup of tea. Be careful though! Cairo has more kidnappings than anywhere else in the world, so keep your eyes peeled. I got separated from my group when a nice guy wanted a picture with me and his harem of 3 wives. Luckily I managed to run into our bodyguard a couple minutes after and got back to my group.

17. Medinet Habu

Medinet Habu is a temple built by Ramses III. It is another gigantic temple. Most of the carvings focus on Ramses III's battle and triumph over the sea peoples.
I love this- ancient Roman graffiti in Latin- B. Mure; is stupid. |D 

18. Hanging Church (Al-Muallaqah)

The Hanging Church is a gorgeous christian church in Cairo.
The mosaics are gorgeous. It celebrates Jesus's childhood journey in Egypt.

19. The Roman Amphitheater of Alexandria

The Roman Amphitheater of Alexandria- gorgeous!
Alexandria has an amazing Roman amphitheater. It absolutely gorgeous and epic. If you stand in the right spot you can see how the actor's voices would have carried and reached the audience. It is a really fun and cool place to see!

Thanks to Dr. and Dr. Redford for the information about Egypt. Note, all this information is based off of my memories of their lectures from 6 years ago- while I've left out any information I'm not entirely certain of, feel free to google and double-check. After all, this is mostly so you know the cool places to go, not to give a huge history lesson.

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  1. Great list! I did all of these locations plus more when I visited, except for Kitchener Island. We went to a small island just outside of Luxor, but the name escapes me at the moment...

    I would like to point out, however, that the camels at the pyramids of Giza are poorly treated and you should hold off and try a ride elsewhere. In the smaller towns or less tourist-y areas, the camels are taken care of much better.

    Also - even if you are not a fan of museums, I HIGHLY recommend the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo. It is chaotic and unorganized (much like the country itself), but some of the pieces they house are just jaw-dropping. Perhaps this is because I'm an archaeologist...but truly, they are amazing!

    So, us four young aspiring female archaeologists in 2008 spent a month traveling through the country north to south. It is an incredible experience. I definitely recommend it, and this list is a great way to get started in your trip research!

    (P.S., in August, the Red Pyramid doesn't smell like basement...it smells worse... a nose-burning pee-fest ...gross...lol)

  2. Thanks a bunch for this information! I didn't know about the poor treatment of the camels. That's terrible. :(

    You are right, the Museum of Cairo is really cool and much more interesting than most, thanks for pointing that out! (I also left out a ton of temples and tombs and only included my favorites so it would be more friendly for people who might not be as interested in the history, mythology, and archaeology.) That's so cool though- hope you're having fun as an archeologist- that would be a fun job!

    Haha- thanks for the information on the Red Pyramid- I'll be sure to avoid it in that season!