Wow! The stories you’ll be able to tell when you return home of your adventures backpacking across Egypt – lonely desert sunsets, towering pyramids, ancient temples, bustling Cairo bazaars, cruising the River Nile in a felucca, swimming in the Red Sea, walking in the steps of Moses. Unforgettable. Life-changing experiences. And the Egyptian people. Friendly, welcoming, trusting. Timeless memories. Enough to fill a travel book or two.
Egypt’s capital city and usually the start of most backpacking journeys. A frenetic city filled with the old and the new, ancient architecture and brightly-lit steel and concrete office tower blocks. A city that never seems to sleep. Coffee shops, classy restaurants and down-market eating places at every turn. Sleek 21st century malls with designer stores and all the latest gadgets sitting easily with ancient souks filled with market stalls laden with aromatic spices, exotic fruits and brightly coloured fabrics. Watch artisans at work plying trades as ancient as the pyramids themselves. Cairo is a city like no other.
Cost of living
On the low side if you’re careful, but beware. Tipping is a way of life and can easily eat into the daily budget without you realising. Use the Metro to get across Cairo and local bus services to travel further afield. Both are relatively cheap but can be a bit on the crowded side. With a suitable international bank account at your disposal, accessing money shouldn’t be a problem either given the number of ATMs springing up across Cairo and other major cities and towns in Egypt.
It’s always nice to rest in a comfortable bed and to clean up after a few days on the road. There are plenty of cheap hostels available in Cairo, Luxor and elsewhere. Prices in Cairo should set you back about $8 (£5) per night, give or take. For that you’ll get a comfortable bed, shower and hot water, a tidy room, laundry facilities, Internet access and a good breakfast. Well worth the money. There are also a number of cheap hostels in Luxor, ranging from about $3.50 (just over £2) a night to about $11 (£7). Alexandria and Sharm El Sheikh tend to be a bit more expensive.
Iconic. Must see. Touristy – yes, but don’t let that put you off. No backpacker worth his or her salt can say they’ve seen Egypt in all its glory unless they’ve included a visit to this last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World. You’ll walk away from The Great Pyramid and its two stone companions with a pile of memories and an increased sense of wonder.
Valley of the Kings
Tutankhamen and Howard Carter. We all know the story. However, nothing beats a visit to the Valley of the Kings where the hapless young pharaoh was laid to rest. Nearby Luxor makes an ideal exploration base. And while you’re there, naturally you’ll be visiting the Karnak Temple Complex, the largest ancient religious site in the world and the second most-visited historical site in Egypt after Giza. Karnak lies about a mile-and-half north of Luxor and covers an area of some 200 acres. It simply takes the breath away.