Sitting at a rooftop bar on our first night in central Cairo, we enjoy our drinks with views of the Nile river, which is turning pink as the sun sets. The view feels dreamy, that is until I happen to glance over my shoulder to see the pyramids are right behind us, silhouetted against a hazy sky, and I realise we have been missing the main attraction all along. That first night was a lesson for us. In Cairo you’re never too far away from an atmospheric view of the world’s most ancient and most famous wonder.
The pyramids have captured the imagination for millennia. Almost unimaginably old, around 4,500 years to be more accurate, they serve as a constant physical connection to a world that feels both distant and remarkably familiar. Built by the pharaohs as their tombs and final resting place, they have come to represent the very beginnings of the civilisation we enjoy today. Seeing them must be on everybody’s bucket list, and we were more than excited to get our first glimpse.
The following morning we drove through the hectic streets of Cairo to Giza, following the pyramids as they peaked out from between tower blocks. We arrived early in the morning, and felt like we had them to ourselves. It was magical.
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Of course, there is more to the Egyptian capital, from museums, to markets, to mosques. But one thing that cannot be missed is the local favourite, a hot bowl of koshary. This carb-laden dish features pasta, chickpeas, rice, and lentils, smothered in a tangy tomato sauce with chilli, vinegar and crispy onions. It may sound dense, but it was deceptively moreish. The place to go for koshary is Abou Tarek, which with its green neon lights and chrome furniture felt like stepping into the 80s, but the struggle to get a table shows just how popular this restaurant is.
Luxor: a historical stop
Next on our Egyptian adventure was Luxor, a short one-hour hop away from Cairo by plane, and we stayed at the historic Sofitel Winter Palace, a property that was once home to Agatha Christie as she explored Egypt, and was the location where Sir Howard Carter announced the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb to the world’s press 100 years ago. Speaking of the boy king, we visited his final resting place at the West Bank’s Valley of the Kings, which dates back more than 3,500 years, and features some of the most spectacular archeological discoveries ever found.
Of course, Tutankhamun is so famous that actually seeing him in the (mummified) flesh feels rather surreal, but the best examples of tombs are for some of the lesser known kings. Seti I’s is the most vast and vivid, with murals adorning every inch of the corridors and chambers, so well preserved that you can see the brush strokes and chisel marks made by craftsmen all those years ago.
On the East Bank and inside the city of Luxor itself, are the spectacular Karnak and Luxor temples, which have recently been connected by a newly-discovered 2.7km-long avenue of ancient sphinxes. The city celebrated its opening in November, so it is the perfect time to walk its length and visit the two temples at either end.
Hurghada: time to relax
Next, we dust off the Saharan sand and head to Hurghada to cool down in the Red Sea. Even here there is the chance to experience Egyptian culture in the newly-opened Hurghada Museum, which is filled with locally-found artefacts dating back thousands of years. However, most tourists come to enjoy the clear blue waters and pristine golden beaches. We opted to stay in the five-star Rixos Premium Magawish Suites & Villas Resort, which since opening in 2021 has quickly established itself as the most upmarket hotel in the area.
The suites are beautifully equipped, many with private pools and gardens, and it features six restaurants, the stunning Anjana Spa, stables, and private cabanas to ensure a luxurious beach break. As I gaze out to sea on my final evening I’m reminded of our first night overlooking bustling Cairo and nothing could feel further from where we are now. But the Red Sea is as part of the fabric of Egypt as any tombs or monuments and it was widely explored by the ancients, providing the food and access to trade that helped build the Egyptian empire. For me, however, it is the perfect relaxing end for my Egyptian adventure.
How to get there
To travel internally between Luxor and Cairo you can take a one-hour flight on Egypt Air, prices starting at £46 one way. British Airways flies between Cairo and London Heathrow. Prices start at £230 one way.
Where to stay
Sofitel Winter Palace in Luxor is £225 for a superior room on a room-only basis, and the winter rate is £205. Rixos Premium Magawish in Hurghada is £496 for a double garden suite per night and £745 for a double pool villa per night. Sheraton Cairo Hotel & Casino is situated on the West Bank of the River Nile, and contains a complex of restaurants and bars. Rooms start at £124 per room per night room only.
Activities and things to do
A sunset felucca boat ride starts at £25 per person. Entry to The Egyptian Museum costs 200 Egyptian pounds (£9). Entry to the Pyramids of Giza costs 200 Egyptian pounds (£9). Snorkelling in Hurghada starts at £25 per person including lunch with Happy Dolphin diving company. Hurghada Museum entry starts at £15 for adults. For more information about visiting Egypt see egypt.travel
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