The mighty Nile and magnificent monuments. Egypt welcomes you with the beguiling desert and lush delta. With it’s long past and story-loving people, sand-covered tombs and austere pyramids, Egypt is a must-visit place. For tourists, there are a lot of things to do in Egypt. From desert safaris to camel rides to knowing in-depth about Egyptian culture. It’s hard to find such an ancient culture steeped with such exciting stories. Egypt brings out the explorer in everyone. It is home to some of the most beautiful tourist destinations on earth – earthy, rust and raw. Pretty much sums up what Egypt is all about.
In this article, we would cover all the things a tourist can do in Egypt. Hop off a Nile boat to visit Dendara, Edfu or one of the other waterside temples, cross Lake Nasser to see Ramses II’s masterpiece at Abu Simbel, or trek into the desert to find the traces of Roman trading outposts. And above all of this, there are places which are yet unexplored and undiscovered. Who knows your donkey might stumble upon one such magical place. Oh yes! Egypt does have it’s a share of donkeys to carry goods all over the place. So, let’s see what is in store for you.
Top 10 things to do in Egypt
- Visit the Abu Simbel temples
- Take a tour of the lost city of Heracleion
- Trip to Al-Azhar Park
- Head towards the spooky City of the Dead
- Visit the White Desert
- Buy papyrus in Giza
- Take a tour of the Cairo Citadel
- Visit the Hathor Temple
- Colossi of Memnon
1. Visit the Abu Simbel Temples
The temples at Abu Simbel are gigantic rock-cut temples and one of the most impressive sites in Egypt. Planning a tour there is one of the best things to do in Egypt. The rock-cut temples are of Egyptian Pharaohs to be precise. It was originally built to mark the Egyptian border with Nubia. And, Nubia was meant to display the power and strength of Egypt’s rulers to any who might think to threaten it. Until 1813, Abu Simbel was buried underneath sand and lay forgotten.
But that has changed today. Rediscovered by a Swiss explorer, the imposing carvings stand as a facade for visitors to walk past on their way into the temples. There are certain days during the year when they will see the sunbeam through these cavern-like spaces, illuminating statues of the gods it was built for.
Also See: Top 13 Places To Visit In Egypt
2. Take a tour of the lost city of Heracleion
Taking a tour of the city of Thonis-Heracleion is one of the top things to do in Egypt. Barely more than a legend, it appeared in a few rare inscriptions and ancient texts. For more than a thousand years, it was hidden away, submerged deep under the sea. For years, it had been searched by screening the vast area of the Abu Qir Bay off the coast of Egypt. French archaeologist Frank Goddio and his team saw a colossal face emerge from the watery shadows. And, they understood that finally, they had encountered the Thonis Heracleion.
The city was completely submerged 6.5 km off Alexandria’s coast. 64 ships, 700 anchors, a treasure trove of gold coins and statues standing at 16 feet. It was an amazing discovery for sure.
Did you know during the ancient times in Egypt, the behaviour of the Nile could mean life or death each harvest season? Egyptians had invented an instrument to measure the waters to predict the Nile’s behaviour. And, it was long before the Aswan Dam was constructed to manage the flooding of the great river. The instrument was: Nilometer. There were three kinds of nilometers. Examples of all three can be seen around in Egypt. Among them the simplest one was a tall column which was housed in a submerged stone structure called a stilling well. One of these nilometers can be seen on Rhoda Island in Cairo.
Most of the times these nilometers are used for measuring water levels as early as 5000 years ago. The one on Rhoda Island dates back to 861. It was built where an older nilometer had been, based on a design by Afraganus. He was a famous astronomer. The nilometers could only be monitored by priests and rulers, whether pharaohs or later, Roman or Arab leaders.
4. Trip to Al-Azhar Park
A beautiful oasis located in the centre of Cairo, it’s one of the must things to do in Egypt. Taking a trip to this park. If you are wondering what to do in Egypt then here’s where you can start from. Egypt is a lot more than pharaohs and pyramids. With the most ancient culture it has innumerable stories to tell. The green space in the park is full of walking paths and gardens. But, what it is especially noted for is it’s proximity to most of the famous Egypt attractions. Its strategic central location makes it one of the easiest places from where you can travel everywhere.
Mosques of Darb Al Ahmar, the old Fatimid city, the City of the Dead, and the Ayyubid Citadel. All these places are located nearby to this park. Visitors can also get a 360-degree view of the city of Cairo from some of the green hills there. You can also find the remains of a 12th-century wall which was discovered while the park was being developed. It also contains some stones covered in hieroglyphics.
5. Head towards the spooky City of the Dead
You can very well say even after being spooky, it’s one of the fun things to do in Egypt. The location is just outside the central Egyptian city of Minya which lies in the cemetery Zawiyyet al-Mayyiteen. Considered as one of the world’s largest cemeteries it is dubbed as the “City of the Dead”. A truly huge necropolis, what is more significant is it’s thought-provoking beauty. Innumerable white conical domes stretch out across a wide plain. That makes the necropolis appear almost similar to the waves of the sea.
The several hundred mud-brick mausolea is topped with a dome. Every single one of them. The cemetery stretches for over several kilometers and had been used by Muslims and Coptic Christians alike. If you would like to enjoy the true essence of this place, visit during sunrise or sunset. It’s a different world altogether. But, please note that visitors should be modestly dressed while entering this cemetery to keep the respect.
6. Visit the White Desert
Located just a few hours away from Cairo lies a desert that would make you feel as if you have landed on the moon. Needless to say taking a tour here is one of the fun things to do in Egypt. The desert has been formed by centuries of erosion and sandstorms. These unique calcium rock formations crop up across the whole landscape like beautiful abstract statues. For first-timers, the sight can be quite breathtaking and scary at the same time. A land of whites to be precise. Make sure to wear dark goggles as you might get blinded by too much brightness.
Many of the structures there resemble food and have been given names like “mushroom” and “ice-cream cone”. While others have inspired more grandiose designations like “Monolith” and the “Inselberg”. But, what you should look out for is the famed “chicken and tree” set. It’s also called the “chicken and mushroom”. It’s arguably the most weird structure formed there.
7. Buy papyrus in Giza
Egyptians did invent and discover a lot of things. Among these their greatest achievement was the invention of paper. Papyrus as is called. And buying papyrus from Egypt is one of the best activities in Egypt. Exploring, gathering knowledge and getting hands one some of the best. What Egyptians did specifically was, they made writing material out of pulp derived from the papyrus tree that still grows along the Nile. Isn’t that cool? Visitors are enthralled with a demo of the way Egyptians made paper. The demo is given at the Papyrus Institute in Giza.
Interestingly, papyrus is one of the best things to purchase when in Egypt. Original and speaks of true Egyptian culture. To remember your trip well, you can get papyrus souvenirs from Egypt.
8. Take a tour of the Cairo Citadel
Visit the Eastern district of Old Cairo to take a look at this ancient citadel. One of the best things to do in Egypt is to go there and explore the whole place taking good amount of time in hand. Built in the 12th century, it acted as a defence against the crusaders. This beautiful region was home to the ruling parties of Egypt for over seven long centuries. The ruling parties included the Ayyubbid Dynasty, the Mamluks, the Ottoman Empire and even the forces of Napolean Bonaparte.
Characterized by three iconic mosques and amazingly beautiful places, the citadel is a must visit if you are in Egypt. It also consists of a handful of museums and terraces that afford beautiful views of the Pyramids of Giza on the border of Cairo.
9. Visit the Hathor Temple
Heard about the Dendera Light Bulb? Probably yes, probably no. Whatever it may be, if you wish to see the famed relief up, close and personal you will have to visit the underground crypt of Hathor Temple. It’s located at the Dendera Temple Complex in qena, Egypt. It would surely be a jaw-dropping experience which is beautifully intricate. Visiting this temple is one of the must required things to do in Egypt.
Did you know even after so many years, it’s one of the well-preserved temples in Egypt? Three temples namely the birthing temple, temple of Isis and the main one dedicated to Hathor form this place. There is also a sacred pool that you can still explore. It’s empty though; sorry, no swimming. The colours you get to see throughout this temple are quite original and vibrant.
10. Colossi of Memnon
When in Egypt, you can’t afford to miss this. One of the main things to do in Egypt is to take a tour of the Colossi of Memnon. Ever heard about it? If not, let’s elaborate. These are mainly Egyptian statues that have survived for over 3,400 years and were an acoustic wonder of the ancient world. Looming over the Theban Necropolis, they have been able to captivate the imaginations of curious travellers for millennia. Although the twin colossi doesn’t resemble twins anymore, it depicts the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, who ruled during the 18th Dynasty.
Once upon a time, they had flanked the entrance to his lost mortuary temple. One of the most lavish temples in all of Egypt, their faded side panels depict Hapy, god of River Nile. Floods caused by the Nile have reduced the temple to ruins since centuries but the statues have withstood the disasters all along. When the first ray of desert sun spilled over the baked horizon at the crack of dawn, the shattered statue would sing. A tune which is more powerful than pleasant; fleeting and otherworldly. Now, tell us, can you afford to miss going to this place?
Even if you are not a globetrotter, Egypt should be in your list. And, if you are planning on your first international trip, you now know where to go first. For experienced as well as amateur travellers, Egypt is equally adventurous for all.