Egypt, the origin of civilization, is primarily identified for the Nile River, the mysterious Pyramids and the Great Sphinx that date back to the ancient Pharoahs. If you are more of an Egyptophile, you have more knowledge about the mummies, the temples, the archaeology and early Egyptian royalty. But if you are like me, a bucket lister who wants to experience Egypt, wants more than a popular guidebook experience, where do you visit for some of the lesser known secrets of Egypt, while also seeing the key sites?
The country of Egypt is known for its relations to the Middle East however physically, it is located in northeast Africa. Cairo, the capital sits on the Nile river, today a very modern and luxurious city, is the perfect introduction to the culture and history of the Egyptian antiquities.
When planning your Egypt agenda, you will no doubt have the highlights of visiting the Nile River Valley, the city of Luxor’s Valley of the Kings and the 4500 year old limestone monuments of Giza. Here are 5 lesser known experiences throughout the region that you can add to your must see list for an unforgettable experience.
- The Pyramid of Djoser – is an archaeological site northwest of the ancient capital city of Memphis, home of the Sphinx. Serving as the necropolis (cemetary) for the ancient Egyptian capital. The Djoser Pyramid was built for the burial of the early Egyptian Pharaoh Djoser in the 27th Century BC. The Step Pyramid is part of a large necropolis site (Saqqara) of many tombs of court officials and lesser royalty known as the “tombs of the nobles”. Built using stone and clay, the Step Pyramid was the first pyramid that the Egyptians ever built. Originally designed as a house of eternity with a flat roof and sloping sides in the standard for the time, mastaba style, the tomb evolved into a 200 foot six-layer pyramid. Within the structure, the limestone walls still contain images that were painted approximately 4,500 years ago. Underneath the pyramid are a labyrinth of tunnels almost 3.5 miles long. The pyramid and the complex are an amazing representation of early Egyptian architecture and with about 7 other structures in the area was one of the largest complexes ever built at the time. Saqqara is approximately 30 minutes outside of Cairo and 10 minutes from Old Memphis.
- Khan el-Khalili – during a visit to Old Cairo, visiting a bazaar or suq market as it is referred to in Egypt is a must to physically transport yourself back in time. The main trade area established by the Muslims in the 14th century is now a standard part of the Cairenes lifestyle and a must see attraction. Khan el-Khalili, the largest and most popular of the bazaar’s is made up of many historic structures that combined offer more than just a place to bring home fun souvenirs. You will find handmade items, antiques, spices, gold & copper artifacts and jewelry. Visiting is truly a scavenger hunt of exotic local merchandise scattered throughout a maze of shops and alleyways. In addition to the shopping experience, there are many old cafes throughout to round out your visit. If you are looking for a great spot to sit, and sip some local tea or try a hookah while you people watch, El-Fishawi is the oldest cafe in the bazaar, for a full Egyptian dining experience, head over to Naguib Mahfouz Cafe near the Khan-el-Khalili compound.
- Temples of Philae – located near Aswan, a historic city on the river Nile, is an island where a significant number of Egyptian archeological sites can be found. One of Nubia’s major monuments, the sacred former temple site is an astonishing experience to add to your agenda. Started in Egypt’s Pharaonic era and completed in the Greek-Roman period between 332 BC – 395 AD are the majority of ancient structures that were relocated brick by brick to a Agilkia island for their protection from flooding. You will arrive by rowboat to the temple complex as you explore the area you will journey through well preserved temples and structures of ancient Egypt where you will see first hand the original hieroglyphic reliefs that are still in the process of being translated. To fully understand the story and history of the complex from erection to conversion as a Christian pilgrimage site, you can also visit the site at night for an amazing Sound and Light Show.
- Temple of Edfu – One of the best preserved temples in Egypt, can be found within the lesser visited Edfu region along the West Bank of the Nile Valley. Built in honor of the Egyptian God Horus, the first national god of Egypt, also known as Apollo by the Romans, represented kingship and the sky. Horus, depicted in drawings as a falcon was worshiped from late prehistoric Egypt through Roman Egyptian occupation. The temple’s building started in 237 BC and was completed in 57 BC. The structure originated during Pharaoh rule under Ptolemy III and was completed by Ptolemy XII. The inscriptions on the walls describe life during the Hellenistic period including the language, religion and culture with scenes of the mythical conflict between Horus and Seth for the claim to the throne. Edfu can be reached within 2 hours from Luxor and the Valley of the Kings.
- Bucket list worthy experiences – the last experiences if not already on your to do list, may be one’s that you may not have known about or thought about, but highly recommended for the region:
- Take a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings and Queens. This unique experience offers you views of the temples and monuments as you glide over Luxor and Karnak on the West Bank of the Nile while the sun rises and illuminates them by the light of the sunrise. A once in a lifetime view of the ancient sites that even the Pharaohs themselves did not have.
- We also recommend discovering the view of Cairo from a Felucca. Experience traveling by ancient river vessel used by royalty as you watch the sunset and sail the Nile river as many of Egypts Pharaohs and Queens did thousands of years ago.
Egypt is a bucket list experience. If you would like to discover the extended history and culture of Egypt starting in Cairo and then traveling from Luxor on a 7 day river journey, to visit the most important sites and some of the lesser known secrets of the region, discover more about river cruising from our website.